It's time for an update on the current presidential campaign, which you older voters may recall started in approximately 1957. The next big event is the nominating conventions, at which the two major parties will try, in the grand tradition of American 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 conventions. The major parties could conduct live human sacrifices during prime time and I doubt that anybody would notice, including the TV commentators, who are so busy sitting in their skyboxes commentating that they hardly ever seem to be paying attention to the actual conventions per se.
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! Okay, 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 problem: He needs to attract moderates, but if he gets TOO moderate, he's going to tick off the Republican Loon Right, which already suspects that Bob is a communist pervert who takes orders directly from Satan. So Bob has to walk a fine line, which is why he always seems to be looking around nervously, like a gerbil 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. I'm not saying he doesn't have views; I'm just saying it's impossible, even with powerful code-breaking computers, to tell what they are. Also, despite the fact that everybody who knows Bob insists he's friendly, his natural 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. For one thing, these mysterious items keep inexplicably turning up in the White House. If you ever lost an important file or wedding ring or valuable parrot or whatever, you should definitely call the White House and ask them to please look around upstairs, because there's just NO TELLING what's going to turn up there next. Just last week a staff person opened up a filing cabinet in the library and found Jimmy Hoffa.
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 funeral or natural disaster or the conviction of a close friend. When I see Bill weeping, I want to shout: "Cheer up, Bill! 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 the song Watching Scotty Grow 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 versus Weepy. It'll be broadcast live this summer. Better get to the video store NOW.
Dave Barry is a humor columnist for the Miami Herald. Write to him c/o Tropic magazine, the Miami Herald, One Herald Plaza, Miami FL 33132.