Dave Barry

Classic 96: Flat tax guy Steve Forbes: Right man, wrong planet


NOTE: This classic column was published Friday, February 9, 1996, and is about the 1996 presidential election. To read columns from Dave Barry's recent visits to Iowa & New Hampshire, please see http://www.miamiherald.com/dave-barry/

As promised, I have used investigative journalism techniques to determine the names of the leading Republican presidential timbers currently barging around Iowa. It turns out that there are nine of them: Keyes, Lugar, Alexander, Forbes, Buchanan, Taylor, Dole, Dornan and Gramm.

To help you, the voter, remember these names, I have developed a handy mnemonic device. All you have to do is memorize the following sentence, in which each word begins with a letter corresponding to a candidate's name: "Kurt Licked A Frog, But Thankfully Didn't Develop Gonorrhea." I will be revising this mnemonic device as various leading timbers bite the electoral dust.

The big story out here at the moment is Steve Forbes, who has skyrocketed in the polls despite the fact that he always appears to be talking to invisible beings in another dimension. Watch him talk (just turn on your TV, he'll be there) and you'll see what I mean: His eyes are definitely not focusing on anybody on this immediate planet.

Also, he never stops smiling the kind of intense smile that is caused by either (a) tremendous optimism about the future of our nation, or (b) nitrous oxide.

But the voters have definitely taken a shine to Forbes, because he wants to establish a flat tax system that humans could actually comprehend, as well as abolish the Internal Revenue Service. Americans hate the IRS, and if the only way they can get rid of it is to elect somebody who is communicating directly with the Planet Xorgon, then so be it.

Forbes has been getting his message out by spending the gross national product of Sweden per day on TV commercials, which were produced by the public relations firm of Darth and Vader and which appear constantly on Iowa TV sets, even if they are  turned off. Critics have charged that some of these ads contain statements that are not technically 100 percent accurate ("Bob Dole is a Washington politician who will come to your house and EAT YOUR CHILDREN!").

But Forbes continues to gain strength, which is why we here in the news media have started writing probing, critical stories designed to prove that he is -- and let me stress that this is not personal; we perform the same service for everybody who has even a remote chance of getting elected -- pond scum. So far we have unearthed the following alarming facts about the person who has been going around representing himself as "Steve Forbes":

* His real name is "Malcolm."

* He is rich.

* He has a big house.

* He has been known to wear kilts.

* His campaign organization refused (really) to tell Newsweek magazine how many, and what kinds, of dogs he has.

You may rest assured that we in the media will keep informing you, the voter, on "Steve Forbes" and all the other leading contenders until you are so thoroughly informed that you apply for Canadian citizenship. Don't thank us: We're just doing our job.

WEATHER UPDATE: The weather in Iowa has turned unseasonably warm, causing a major thaw; one large snowbank melted completely away to reveal former GOP contender Alexander Haig, who has not been seen here since his mysterious disappearance during  the 1988 campaign. After rescue workers thawed him out, he immediately resumed shaking hands and is expected to finish ahead of Phil Gramm. I'll have more details on this story later if I can think of any.