Who will be the next celebrity candidate? M-I-C …
When billionaire real estate developer/celebrity Donald Trump announced last Thursday that he was forming an exploratory committee to consider a run for the presidency, I was finally convinced that the Y2K bug has infected the 2000 presidential election campaign with a bad case of kooks and nuts.
Just in case you’re not convinced, however, let me list the potential candidates: Warren “Bulworth” Beatty, Pat Buchanan, Ross Perot, Cybill Shepherd, “The Donald” (Trump), Jesse “The Body” Ventura, Lowell Weicker and (no, I’m not making this up) Oprah Winfrey.
Three of them – Buchanan, Ventura (sort of) and Weicker – are actual politicians; the rest of them are very rich people with large egos and too much time on their hands. It must be the Y2K bug. Otherwise, how else can we explain such madness?
Most of the shenanigans are taking place within the Reform Party, which has no known ideology except its distaste for the current two-party system. Nevertheless, the most ideological of all of the presidential candidates, Buchanan, is romancing Reform Party founder Perot, an eccentric Texas billionaire, in hopes of getting his hands on more than $12 billion worth of federal campaign funds.
At the same time, Minnesota Gov. Ventura, a former professional wrestler who is the party’s only elected office-holder, is urging Trump to run in order to block Buchanan. But The Donald has a major political handicap: He’s a health nut who regards shaking hands as a “barbaric” custom that transmits diseases.
It all makes perfect sense, in a weird, Y2K kind of way. And, as if all of this wasn’t crazy enough, the Hollywood loonies are coming out of the woodwork.
Exhibit A is actor Warren Beatty, who says he may be forced to enter the presidential race because Democratic contenders Bill Bradley and Al Gore aren’t liberal enough. Exhibit B is actress Cybill Shepherd, who has a big ego and lots of money, and takes herself very seriously.
And some Reform Party members have created a website to draft Oprah Winfrey. “She’s Jesse Ventura times 100,” said one of her backers. Which is a scary thought, if you stop to ponder it for a while. But she’s a celebrity and apparently, that’s what counts. And besides, she’s Trump’s first choice for vice president. Really.
Who’s next? Mickey Mouse? Don’t laugh. “Mickey’s electable in a year for celebrities,” wrote Joanne Jacobs of the San Jose Mercury-News last week. “He is considered a strong contender for the Reform Party nomination because of his strong name recognition, positive image and cheerful personality.”
Mr. Mouse refused to confirm or deny whether he’s running for president but, when interviewed by Katie Couric of NBC’s popular “Today” show, he declared in his distinctive, high-pitched voice, “America should be the happiest place on Earth!” The screaming crowd outside the “Today” studio in New York went wild. Well, OK, I made that part up, but it’s possible given the nature of celebrity politics.
The celebrity candidate craze is so serious that Newsweek magazine put some of them on its cover, headlined “The Wild Bunch.” They have “big egos and even bigger bank accounts” and “they hate The System,” wrote Newsweek’s Howard Fineman. “Their aim is to rattle the foundations of the political establishment. It’s the triumph of entertainment, and it’s one helluva show.”
The biggest (literally and figuratively) show of all is Gov. Ventura, who told Playboy magazine that organized religion is “a crutch for weak-minded people,” that the Navy’s Tailhook scandal was “much ado about nothing” and that he’d like to be reincarnated as a 38-DD bra. As Fineman observed, “Centrist political correctness is for wimps.”
Former senator and Connecticut Gov. Lowell Weicker, who is interested in running for the Reform Party’s presidential nomination, warned that the party needs to get its act together. “National third-party politics verges on the edge of becoming a joke,” he said, “and that’s exactly what the Democrats and Republicans hope for.” Do they ever!
Meanwhile, Democratic candidates Bill Bradley and Al Gore, locked in a tight race, are busy reinventing themselves. The personality-challenged Bradley is attempting to become more folksy, and Vice President Gore, the ultimate Washington insider, is now a Good Old Boy from Tennessee.
The next thing you know, he’ll be photographed plowing behind his mule team, wearing his favorite plaid shirt. On the Republican side, Texas Gov. George W. Bush, the front-runner, is doing his best to alienate the Religious Right and the GOP leadership in Congress, an unorthodox strategy that may create an opening for Elizabeth Dole, Steve Forbes or John McCain.
Some political analysts say voters are simply fed up with politics as usual. Political scientist Susan Tolchin, author of “The Angry American: How Voter Rage is Changing the Nation,” writes that “celebrities see a great opportunity to capitalize on this public anger.”
She views the appeal of celebrity candidates as a reflection of voter frustration with traditional politicians’ failure to deal with issues like gun control, health coverage and debt reduction. Others cite the way campaigns are financed and the influence of special interests backed by big money.
But I’m blaming the Y2K bug. Mickey for President!
Guy W. Farmer, a semi-retired journalist and former U.S. diplomat, resides in Carson City.