Convention planners get ready to bore

BY DAVE BARRY


IT'S TIME for an update on the current presidential campaign, which some of you older voters may recall started in approximately 1957. The next big event on the agenda is the nominating conventions, at which the two major parties will gather together and try, in the grand historic tradition of American democratic politics, to bore the nation to death.

This is getting increasingly difficult, because the nation, which is not a total idiot, has pretty much stopped watching the political conventions. The major parties could conduct live human sacrifices on their podiums during prime time and I doubt that anybody would notice, including the TV commentators, who are so busy sitting around in their skyboxes commentating on the conventions that they hardly ever seem to be paying attention to the actual conventions.

FIRST TV COMMENTATOR: ... and so John, I'd say that the mood of these Democrats is one of concern as they ...

SECOND TV COMMENTATOR (peering down at the convention floor): I think these are the Republicans, Ted.

FIRST TV COMMENTATOR: Why do you say that?

SECOND TV COMMENTATOR: There's hardly any black ones.

FIRST TV COMMENTATOR (looking down): Hey, you're right! OK, I'd say that the mood of these Republicans is one of concern as they ...

The Republicans have reason to be concerned, because the campaign of their candidate, Bob ''Bob'' Dole, is widely believed to be in trouble, despite Bob's two-pronged effort to establish that he is Just a Regular Citizen Like You by (1) retiring from the U.S. Senate after 356 years and (2) sometimes not wearing a tie.

BOB HAS a big problem: To win the election, he needs to attract moderates; on the other hand, if gets too moderate, he's going to tick off the powerful Republican Loon Right, which already suspects that Bob is a Communist pervert who takes orders via cellular phone directly from Satan.

So Bob has to walk a very fine line, which is why he always seems to be looking around nervously, like a gerbil suddenly dropped in the middle of an air-hockey game.

Compounding this problem is the fact that Bob is apparently unable to formulate a sentence that contains both a subject and a verb. Also, despite the fact that everybody who knows Bob insists that he's friendly, his natural facial expression is that of a guy who strongly suspects that you, personally, have been stealing his newspaper.

So at the moment the polls have Bob trailing President Clinton, which is pretty amazing when you consider that the Clinton administration has more legal problems than the Unabomber.

Of course none of this is Bill Clinton's fault. He's the president! How the heck would he know what's going on in the White House? All Bill knows is, just because everybody he ever knew except Socks has been indicted, people keep saying mean things about HIM, and it makes him sad and weepy.

ACTUALLY, EVERYTHING makes Bill weepy; he's the weepiest president we've ever had. Every time you turn on the evening news, there's Bill, looking like the kid in the locker room who's trying hard to be brave after the bully gave him a really hard towel-snap in the butt, getting all choked up over some ceremony or song or funeral or natural disaster or the conviction of a close personal friend. When I see Bill weeping, I want to shout: ''Cheer up, Bill! You're the president, darn it! Do something fun! Fly to some city that voted against you in 1992 and ride around in a motorcade, screwing up traffic! Order the U.S. Department of Tense Standoffs to surround some enclave of heavily armed fanatics and play "Watching Scotty Grow' by Bobby Goldsboro at them through a powerful amplifier until they surrender!''

But apparently Bill is unable to avoid being overcome by emotion, just as Bob is unable to stop looking as though he's undergoing root canal via lawn dart. So there's your presidential lineup, America: Grumpy vs. Weepy.


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