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The Pundits’ Crystal Ball Says:

Nobody Will be Elected President in 1996by
J. Pierpont Pundit*

Pundittown, Inside the Beltway–There are great benefits to your reading an insider’s column like this one. Thanks to the wisdom of the pundits, you can now be told the outcome of the 1996 Presidential Election, ten months early. A preliminary hint: You voters are wasting your time.

Starting sooner than the January sales are three solid months of primary campaigns, including very early primaries, earlier-than-thou primaries and whose-on-first party caucuses, preceded by highly consequential and rigged party straw votes (they are called straw votes because of their weightiness). When all that is finished the USA will engage in five months of history’s most extensive final election orgy, until next November, when the exhausted electorate collapses into the voting booth.

You might well wonder how it all is going to come out–even if you actually plan to spend the next year following real sports, which is your inalienable right as an American citizen.

Well, here at Punditry Central, our job is to examine the predictions, polling and pandering of the nation’s most prescient and puissant pundits. (By the way, this is another insight for you mere readers: wherever possible, pundits proffer alliterations, especially with the letter “p”, because purplish prose “p’s” presuppose a purposive pursuit of power.) Anyhow, we can now reveal the winner of the 1996 Presidential elections:
Nobody. And by a landslide.

There is, however, still an outside hope that Homer P. Hickenlooper, about whom little has been heard heretofore, will be elected in a surprise election squeaker–engineered by us pundits.

Our careful analysis shows, first, that Bob Dole, the Republican front-stumbler, cannot possibly win. The reason is that Dole is too busy serving as a word (usually a verb or adjective) to campaign seriously. The word Dole has three definitions:

l. “To Dole;” to employ one’s famous bitter wit in a way that simultaneously skewers an opponent and oneself (as in, “Boy, I sure Doled him! Ooops! I Doled myself, too!”), a political knack that has been hidden recently, usually behind the handy nearby facade of Newt Gingrich.

2. “To Dole out;” to assist influential Kansas constituents with their Washington, D.C. errands (as in, “While you’re in town, can I Dole out a crop subsidy or something for you?”)

3. “Doleful;” a recent re-incarnation, wherein soporific calls to duty replace sarcasm and log-rolling, perversely causing opinion polls to sink under prospects of balanced budgets as far as the eye can see.

So ol’ Bob Dole, 73, is finished, never to be heard of again, except maybe from the inaugural stand in January, 1997.

Not much more can be said for Phil Gramm, the candidate whose style is premised on the belief that people so loved listening to Jimmy Cahtuh’s Southern accent for four years, and are so enamored of Bill Clinton’s Arkansas argot, that they pine now for a Texas drawl that is mushier than either’s. Gramm bases his substantive appeal on making Dole look feeble in his budget-slashing, constantly raising the goal on any cut-back the
Majority Leader proposes. Cheering this on is an ardent claque, mostly from Dixie, known as Gramm-crackers. Unfortunately, voters aren’t buying this bland cookie. Pundits know that Gramm couldn’t even get elected U.S. Senator. (What? He already did?)

Pat Buchanan, of course, is finished before he really begins. It is safe to say that his 1996 campaign peaked (or piqued) at the Republican Convention of 1992.

Lamar Alexander is the world’s first stuffed logging shirt. He doesn’t have a prayer either, if you will pardon the allusion to a perennial campaign issue. However, he is beginning to gain ground in New Hampshire now that cold weather has set in and he no longer looks like such a dweeb walking up and down highways in the same flannel getup day after day. (Does anybody ever wash that shirt? Inquiring minds want to know.) The former Tennessee governor, University of Tennessee president and U.S. Secretary of
Education is running–er, walking–as the consummate outsider. This is just not selling, for some reason. His only chance now is a big victory in Oregon, where he is heavily backed by the Pendleton Shirt Company.

Arlen Specter? A political specter. Bob Dornan? Dormant. Alan Keyes? Please!

Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana is no Hoosier Hooter, but a candidate painfully committed to irrelevancies like the idea that America should have a foreign policy. However, aides recently persuaded him, as Chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, to stake his presidential race on the make-or-break question of whether school lunch money should be administered through the federal government or the states. (Lugar likes the federal grub better.) Unfortunately, this masterful grab for popularity totally escaped the attention of the voting public, though it is said to be approaching 50-50 approval ratings in the crucial 3rd grade.

Much more intriguing is the candidacy of magazine publisher Malcom S. (Steve) Forbes, “The Capitalist Tool.” If you listen to Steve carefully, or even barely at all, you will realize that he is for a very flat tax, which, like a very dry martini, is smooth and seductive. Forbes is rich, though only filthy rich, not unimaginably rich (Bill Gates isn’t running this year), but unless we pass a flat tax before the campaign goes much further,
even Steve is not going to have the scratch to outspend Bob Dole. Besides, though his policies evoke Ronald Reagan, his presentation echoes Calvin Coolidge. It’s not sure that more TV exposure will help.

So, there is the consensus of the experts: No Republican can be nominated for President on the Republican ticket in 1996, let alone elected.

But then, Bill Clinton is in even worse shape, and unless the Whitewater
investigators get him, and soon, he’ll be the only Democrat in the race. Indeed, we pundits are evaluating the possibility that Clinton couldn’t even get elected in 1992, and therefore probably didn’t. That would explain why he has never stopped campaigning. The 1996 election may be the first since William Jennings Bryan and Free Silver that the very same issues that prevailed in the previous campaign will be raised all over again, just because they were so much fun. Anyhow, there is no possibility that Bill Clinton can win in 1996, and if he did become President, how would anyone know?

However, at this point, one must mention a dark horse scenario presently under discussion in the backroom booths of Beltway bistros; and that is the advent of mystery candidate Homer P. Hickenlooper. According to a caterwauling pugilist on Captiol Gang, who got it from a grating commentator on Washington Week in Review, who heard it authoritatively speculated about on Nightline, Hickenlooper is an undistinguished unknown
who has never been elected to anything. In the pundits’ view, that is the perfect election strategy this year. After all, here, at last, is a candidate without a special counsel on his trail (yet).

A stateside member of the Army’s First Armored Division, Hickenlooper’s
campaign slogan is, “I Will Go to Bosnia–if Bill Will.” Our colleagues at Time magazine already have had a cover portrait made up of Hickenlooper, resplendent in his Private First Class uniform, subtly reminiscent of Colin Powell. Bill Safire plans a series of teaser columns to announce him in the New York Times (e.g., “Can a ‘Hick’ be Elected President?”). The arrows on Newsweek’s “Conventional Wisdom” column are spinning–truly spinning–out of control.

Will the Hickenlooper balloon take off? In the new Internet political chat rooms, you can already read the enthusiastic chant, “Hickenlooper, Hickenlooper, he’s our man! If he can’t do it, nobody can!”

But that’s just the problem. Nobody can. And Nobody will.

The pundits have spoken.

*J. Pierpont Pundit is the evil alter ego of Bruce Chapman who, however, accepts no responsibility for anything written by Mr. Pundit.

Bruce Chapman

Cofounder and Chairman of the Board of Discovery Institute
Bruce Chapman has had a long career in American politics and public policy at the city, state, national, and international levels. Elected to the Seattle City Council and as Washington State's Secretary of State, he also served in several leadership posts in the Reagan administration, including ambassador. In 1991, he founded the public policy think tank Discovery Institute, where he currently serves as Chairman of the Board and director of the Chapman Center on Citizen Leadership.