Now that the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness are over, we have to handicap
the Belmont Stakes, which is, at a mile and a half, the longest of the
three races. Charismatic, who won the first two races and has a chance at
the legendary Triple Crown, will probably be established as the favorite if
experts think he can go the distance. Horse lovers around the world will
wish him well and watch with interest to see if he gains equine immortality
and lasting fame. All the suspense will be over in three weeks, and most of
us can take that much hoopla. There isn't too much politics in it: running
fast, winning races and setting track standards is the name of the game in
thoroughbred horse racing.
But what of the forthcoming presidential race! Not to disparage anyone,
but there seems to be no real class in the field with the exception of a
pair of longshots, Bill Bradley and John McCain. The first two races of
the circuit, Iowa's and New Hampshire's caucuses, won't be held until next
spring, and nine or ten contenders are now paying their entry fees.
Through the New Hampshire snow, Al Gore will walk quietly to the starting
gate, as will Bill Bradley, Steve Forbes, Dan Quayle, Gary Bauer, George W.
Bush, Lamar Alexander, John McCain, Pat Buchanan, and one filly, Elizabeth
Dole. There are even some aspects of presidential contests that resemble
horse racing. They are similar in the fact a lot of money is riding on
each nag, and the plug who will win over the distance is hard to determine.
Just like their track counterparts, political touts find America's
presidential races hard to handicap.
But there are also major differences between the Sport of Kings and the
making of Kings. It goes without saying that three year-old Triple Crown
winners invariably have all their molars, while presidential contenders are
often long in the tooth. Much more pertinent, though, is the fact that
prime handicapping rules for presidential races are at odds with those of
horse racing. The fastest and smartest horse doesn't always win to parade
through the Oval Office. Through a quirk of human nature, particularly
ironic this year, charisma, the noun form of the recent Kentucky Derby
winner's name, is often responsible for getting the winner to the finish
line ahead of the pack. Though they are both fleet and light on their
feet, neither Al Gore nor George W. Bush seems to have much charisma, and
that's the reason the field may still be wide-open. Persons perceived as
being charismatic can always enter the race, and I don't believe every
horse has yet reached the track.
My pick for a late entry to steal the race is a Jesse-Jesse Reform Party
ticket. You can choose which Jesse runs for president and which for
vice-president, but I suppose governor Jesse Ventura would head the slate
and Reverend Jesse Jackson would run as his Veep. The two-term limitation
would assure Reverend Jackson of getting his chance as the first black
president eight years later. Truly, they'd have a lot going for them, with
millions of wrestling fans directed by Hulk Hogan, more than 90% of the
black vote, military veterans, church-goers of all denominations, and the
man-in-the-street who appreciates and listens to candor and common sense,
enthusiastically joining hands in the voting booth to elect Jesse-Jesse.
Together, they span the political spectrum from predator to preacher, which
ought to cover about everybody. There is charisma to spare.
Jesse Ventura, former navy SEAL, pro-wrestler, movie actor, and radio talk
show host, was elected governor of Minnesota last November. He won as an
underdog over Republican and Democratic candidates in a three-way election.
Not to be outdone, Reverend Jesse Jackson, with similar earlier triumphs
under his belt, just succeeded in building a diplomatic bridge to Serbia.
In an unendorsed visit to the Balkans, he was able to convince Slobodan
Milosevic it made good sense to release the three American prisoners of war
held by Serbia. To use the conventional vernacular, they are both hot, and
they can fire people up. Al Gore and George W. Bush, the two early
favorites, have been accused of being boring. Jesse-Jesse each qualifies
in his own unique way as Mr. Excitement.
Frankly, it would seem nice to me to have a president in office who didn't
feel he had to continually demonstrate his own masculinity, or make up for
the lack of it, by bombing the citizens of some poor nation into oblivion
to prove a point or send a message. Nor would he be likely to punish a
leader like Saddam Hussein who continues to live high off the hog as Iraqi
children die by the hundreds of thousands from lack of proper nutrition and
medical care. Nope, president Jesse certainly inhaled, had sexual
relations with more than one woman, didn't dodge the draft by going to
graduate school or enlisting for six months in a stateside reserve unit,
opt out by claiming to have bad knees, or by getting married early and
having children. He just flew over to Vietnam as a navy SEAL, went out on
combat missions, did what he was told, sampled the local food and women,
learned the customs, and supported the town bars. What's more, I'll bet
there are lots of American men, and a number of women, too, willing to
overlook Jesse's juvenile conduct when he was a juvenile. And I bet
they'll vote for him because he knows the score, has pulled himself up from
a working class background, and because of his willingness to risk his own
hide supporting his SEAL buddies. This president won't have to talk in
public about compassion to underscore his sensitivity and dedication to
gender equality, as he secretly gropes women in the recesses of the Oval
Office and lies about it later. That alone, would be enough for me to pull
the lever in the voting booth. I find such honesty very refreshing, and
Presidential races are strange, costly, and exhausting events. Along with
the extravagant entry fee, reputed to be somewhere around twenty million
dollars, the thing that makes it so tough is the awareness that in every
election derby, holders of place and show tickets walk away with nothing.
Winner takes all. But Jesse-Jesse just might make a run along the rail
from way back to show that a white man and a black man who have lived among
the common people, who didn't go to Oxford as Rhodes scholars like Bill
Clinton and Bill Bradley have, can still possess the collective wisdom to
run our nation better than the hypocritical know-it-alls who presently
And to ease things in the stretch, Carly Simon has already written and sung
their campaign song, Jesse!
Sam Orr firstname.lastname@example.org