Dave Barry

Classic '95: A new contract with America


This Dave Barry column was originally published Sunday, April 2, 1995

I travel a lot throughout this great land of ours, and everywhere I go, in these politically uncertain times, people ask me the same question.

"Excuse me," they say. "Are you using that ketchup?"

Of course that's not what they really mean. What they want to know, but are too shy to ask, is: "Dave, are you going to run for president again?"

That is indeed a major question, and one that I have been pondering very seriously ever since I started writing this sentence. Having thought it over, I've decided to run.

Why am I running? For the same historic reason that motivated other top-quality U.S. presidential timbers such as Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Winston Churchill: All the other candidates are goobers.

I mean, have you seen who's running this time? One of them is named -- really -- "Lamar Alexander." I'm sorry, but the most powerful nation on Earth cannot have a president named "Lamar." How would he -- to cite just one presidential duty -- negotiate with the Serbs? The Serbs feed guys named "Lamar" to their goats. No, if Lamar hopes to be taken seriously, he's going to have to change his first name to something presidential, something that has the ring of authority and toughness. Such as "Hillary."

We also cannot, in my opinion, afford to have a president named "Arlen," as in "Arlen Specter," who is also running, despite published reports that the letters in his name can be rearranged to spell "Creep Rentals."

Arlen and Lamar are two of the approximately 257 leading declared or semi-declared Republican candidates. (In a tragedy for humor writers everywhere, Dan Quayle has announced that he will not seek the presidency, citing concerns about "the part where you have to raise your hand and talk at the same time").

The reason so many Republicans are running is that they all believe they can beat President For Now Bill Clinton (Official Motto: "My Staff Has Carefully Reviewed This Moto"). In fact, polls show that a bale of peat moss, if it were wearing a blue suit, would have a serious shot at beating Bill Clinton, especially if they had a debate. This is why, even as you read these words, leading Republicans are tromping all over Iowa and New Hampshire, fawning over voters, feigning great interest in their opinions, pretending that they actually care what some pig farmer thinks about the Mexican peso bailout.

They're doing these things because that's how we make people run for president in this country: We make them go through a lengthy and highly embarrassing process that a person with even the tiniest shred of dignity would never get involved in. It's analogous to the ice-breaking party game "Twister," wherein somebody spins a pointer, and the players have to put their hands and feet on whatever colored circles it points to, thus winding up in humiliating positions. When this game is hauled out  at a party, a self-respecting person such as yourself immediately wanders off to get a beer.

But the people who want to be president have to play. If the spinning pointer of political necessity points to "SUCK UP TO UNIONS," they have to put their left hands over on that circle; if the spinner points to "SUCK UP TO RELIGIOUS NUTS," they have to put their right feet on THAT circle; and so on, month after month, with candidates dropping out one by one as the required contortions become too difficult, until finally there's only one candidate left -- some sweaty, exhausted, dignity-free yutz in a grotesquely unnatural pose, with his tie askew and his shirt untucked and his butt crack showing.

Then the rest of us swig our beers, burp, and declare this person to be the president of the United States.

Mr. and Ms. American Voter, I am asking you to let me be that yutz. That is how much I love this great nation, and that is why I am presenting the following:


1. If I am elected, within 100 days of taking the oath of office, I will return from vacation to check the mail.

2. Unless I am winning at the slot machines.

3. I will not play golf. "ENOUGH with presidents playing golf" will be the fundamental underlying philosophical basis for my entire administration. The official recreational activity in my White House -- mandatory for all visiting dignitaries, including Queen Elizabeth II -- will be Dodge Ball.

4. If any part of this nation is, God forbid, stricken by a natural disaster, I will immediately board my official helicopter and order the crew to fly in the opposite direction until we locate a decent restaurant.

5. My Secret Service code name will be "Mr. Chuckletrousers."

An ambitious program? You bet it is, and that is why I need your moral support in the form of money. As you may recall, I ran for president in 1992; that campaign left me with a surplus of $47.09, which has been shrewdly invested in the form of loose change inside a Nerf Ping Pong box. So by my calculations, all I need, to finance my 1996 campaign, is an additional $30 million, which will be used for necessary expenses as are shown in the following detailed budget:

-- Printing bumper stickers (Dave Barry for President: "It's Time We Demanded Less"): $125.

-- Incidentals: $29,999,875.

Of course these figures are subject to change as the price of incidentals continues to rise. But the point is that this is a golden opportunity for you, the average voter, to get in on the "ground floor" of a winning campaign and possibly receive, as a token of my appreciation, a Supreme Court appointment.

If we can all set aside our differences and work together as Americans, we can make this nation a truly great place in which for me to live. Thanks for listening. Here's your ketchup.

© 1995 Dave Barry This column is protected by intellectual property laws, including U.S. copyright laws. Electronic or print reproduction, adaptation, or distribution without permission is prohibited. Ordinary links to this column at http://www.miamiherald.com may be posted or distributed without written permission.