Dave Barry

Classic '96: Dole's message: I'm me; Clinton isn't


This Dave Barry column was originally published Wednesday, March 13, 1996, and refers to the 1996 presidential election.

It's OK, people! Super Tuesday is over! You can come out now!

Here's the situation: Bob "Bob Dole" Dole is definitely going to be the Republican nominee. Voters have finally started responding to his message, his philosophy and his vision for the future of America, all of which are so eloquently expressed by his official campaign theme:

BOB DOLE: "He's Bob Dole"

After his initial reluctance to talk in public about this theme, or any other theme, Bob Dole has finally started working on getting the message out. And his top advisers (for the names of Bob Dole's top advisers as of 6 a.m. today, call 1-800-BOB-DOLE) have pledged that by mid-fall, the Bob Dole campaign will be coming out with "several complete sentences."

The rapid rise of Bob Dole has been accompanied by the equally rapid decline of Pat Buchanan, whose credibility was badly damaged when a careful analysis of the hundreds of columns and speeches that he has written over the past two decades showed, beyond any reasonable doubt, that he is an illegal alien.

Pat clearly has no shot whatsoever at winning the nomination, but as a man of principle he plans to continue his fight against the Washington Insiders, the Wealthy Greedheads and the Media Elite all the way up to the convention, after which he will resume being a millionaire Washington-based TV commentator.

Speaking of wealthy aliens, Steve "Malcolm" Forbes Jr. is also still running, having demonstrated a powerful appeal to a small but extremely loyal segment of the public described by pollsters as "people who sell radio or TV advertising time."

Steve's vote-getting tactic in Florida was to run a whole bunch of scary ads about the fact that Cuba is attempting to finish a nuclear power plant constructed almost entirely out of parts scavenged from a 1957 DeSoto.

According to the Forbes ads, this plant could produce a "Chernobyl-like disaster" that could send a massive radioactive cloud drifting over Florida, causing untold havoc and genetically mutated people, crabs, etc., the point

being that under the  leadership of President Steve Forbes, all of these people, no matter how many fingers or legs they might have, would pay the same tax rate, and so would the crabs.

But despite the powerful appeal of this message, Forbes has no more of a chance than Buchanan: The GOP nominee is going to be Bob Dole Bob Dole Bob Dole Bob Dole. And, of course, the Democratic nominee is going to be Bill Clinton, who will campaign for the unchanging core values and ideals that have always been his solid, unflinching, bedrock political philosophy, as expressed in his official campaign theme:

BILL CLINTON: "He Stands For Whatever You Stand For, Unless You Disagree, In Which Case He Does, Too."

So there it is, your Fall Lineup: Clinton vs. Dole. The primary season is over; there's nothing left to decide.

No matter what anybody says in any speech or commercial, Clinton and Dole are going to remain  Clinton and Dole, and anybody who doesn't know who they are at this point is probably too stupid to figure out how to vote anyway. There's absolutely no point in continuing the campaign posturing, pandering, spinning, sound-biting and blathering. Why don't we just have a nationally televised debate and hold the election, say, Saturday?

Because this is America, that's why not. Overkill "R" Us. We can't plan a motorcade in less than a week, let alone hold a presidential election. No, the rules are the rules, and we're in for eight more months of posturing, pandering, spinning, sound- biting and blathering before we finally allow the voters to actually vote.

Then it'll be time to try to figure out why so few of them bothered.