Dave Barry

Classic '97: Follow me


This Dave Barry column was originally published Sunday, April 20, 1997 with the headline "Follow me"

I recently received some very exciting mail. And I'm not talking about a sleazy letter from some magazine-selling outfit claiming I won a sweepstakes. I'm talking about a sleazy letter from the Majority Leader of the U.S. Senate, Trent Lott.

Trent -- I call him ``Trent''; he calls me ``David'' -- informs me that I ``have been nominated as one of Florida's 15 representatives on the Republican Presidential Roundtable.'' Trent explains that the Roundtable is ``a unique group of only 400 Americans,'' and that ``recently, a vacancy occurred''; he's hoping I will ``consider stepping forward to fill it.''

``It's not often in life that one is called upon to lead,'' notes Trent.

This is true. The last time I was called upon to lead was when I was a counselor at Camp Sharparoon, and I led a cabin of 12-year-olds on a nature hike directly into the heart of what had to be North America's largest bee colony. That was in 1966, and the swelling is just now subsiding on some of those campers.

Of course the Republican Presidential Roundtable is not interested in a nature hike. It is interested, according to Trent's letter, in obtaining my ``personal help and assistance in shaping and driving our Republican national agenda.''

I do have some thoughts on that. I think that Item No. 1 on the Republican national agenda would be to introduce a bill that would enable the Senate Majority Leader to change his first name from ``Trent'' to something that makes him sound more like the kind of strong legislative stud we want running our Senate, such as ``Dirk,'' or ``Buck,'' or -- this would make me very proud to be an American -- ``Mojo.''

My other suggestion for the national agenda occurred to me recently when I read about a plan by the federal government to pay hospitals NOT to train doctors. According to a New York Times article that I swear I am not making up, the federal government is going to pay 41 teaching hospitals in New York State $400 million of your tax dollars to stop training so many doctors, thereby stemming ``a growing surplus of doctors.''

Perhaps your reaction to this program is: ``Hey, if there's such a surplus of doctors, how come whenever I try to see one, I have to sit in the waiting room long enough to watch Rocky and all 14 sequels?'' This shows why you are an ordinary dirtball taxpayer, as opposed to a health-care expert. The Times says that health-care experts greeted this plan as ``brilliant.'' Bear in mind that, in their field, they spend a lot of time around drugs.

My own reaction to the plan is that it would be perfect with one minor modification: Instead of paying the $400 million to teaching hospitals, we should pay it to law schools, on the condition that they promise to stop producing lawyers, which already outnumber humans in some cities. Naturally, because this is a free country, any given law school would always have the option not to participate, in which case Army tanks would reduce it to smoking rubble.

So those are my feelings on the national agenda. Unfortunately, I may not be sharing them with Sen. Mojo Lott and the other members of the Republican Presidential Roundtable, because when you get to page two of Trent's letter it turns out that, in addition to my personal help and assistance in shaping and driving the national agenda, they want 5,000 of my personal dollars. And before I spend that kind of money, I want to consider what kind of deal I can get from the Democrats.

As I understand it, the Democrats have a whole menu of options for contributors. If you pay so much, you get coffee with the president; if you pay more, you get to stay overnight in the Lincoln Bedroom; if you pay still more, you get to use the Jefferson Bidet; and so on up the donor scale until you reach the level of your major supporters such as Indonesia or Barbra Streisand; at this level, you get the Executive Package, in which you get to appoint an ambassador, veto a bill and launch a nuclear attack against the city of your choice. Another plus with the Democrats is, it will probably turn out that your donation is illegal, which means they have to give it back.

The downside is, if you give money to the Democrats, reporters will snoop around and eventually link you to ``Whitewater'' -- there is no activity on Earth, including erosion, that is not ultimately connected to ``Whitewater'' -- and President Clinton will issue a statement about you making these points:

1. He doesn't know you.

2. Well, OK, he does know you, but he didn't promise you anything.

3. Well, OK, he did promise you something, but it was not technically illegal.

4. But if it WAS illegal, the Republicans do the same thing all the time, and we need to put a stop to it.

5. It was Chelsea's idea.

I don't need that kind of hassle. So I'm frankly thinking that maybe I won't be donating to either political party. Bill and Dirk will just have to call on somebody else to help them lead, somebody more in tune with the ethical concepts involved in modern political fund raising. I hear O.J. is available.