The whole cigar thing has sent enough shivers marching up and down our collective spines to last a lifetime. We, as a nation, are tired of wanting to take a shower. We'll settle for pretty much anybody these days -- druggies, felons, people from Texas -- just, please, nobody creepy.
Which is, of course, why Steve Forbes -- publisher, multi-millionaire, candidate for the Republican nomination -- doesn't stand a chance.
The man emanates Strange Neighbor rays. He's probably got his windows covered with tinfoil. I'd bet five bucks that stray cats have learned not to hang around his house. If you catch my drift. Creepy, near as I can tell, is just about the only thing Forbes does well.
And creepy, unfortunately for Forbes, comes across very, very well on television.
TV may not be able to pick up the subtler qualities that go into leadership -- moral character, a vision for the future, that crap -- but it loves the superficial gloss. Majestic backdrops and snappy soundbites have overwhelmed American politics because they come across so well on the tube. If TV can effectively communicate anything about potential leaders of the free world -- aside from the fact that they have wildly inappropriate ideas about what constitutes an effective humidor -- it's basically this:
For instance, the man blinks too much.
I mean, way too much. It's unnerving. And even if you don't consciously notice it, it will set you on edge. In the age of televised everything, a candidate who can't look into the camera and not make his audience shiver had better start making lecture tour arrangements with Michael Dukakis, because he's not going to be getting a promotion any time soon.
Recently, Forbes was interviewed on Party Down with Sam and Cokie and managed to put any epileptics in the audience in seizures. He looked like he was trying to get a Morse code message out past his captors. He could have given nervous tic lessons to people suffering through heroin withdrawal.
Of course, there's a perfectly logical explanation for Forbes' behavior: he's suffering through heroin withdrawal.
Ha ha! Just a little joke. To my knowledge, Mr. Forbes has never taken illegal drugs, save walking into his bank vault and inhaling deeply. No, Forbes' behavior has a much more sensible explanation, one that's not only backed up by facts but makes an eerie amount of sense when you think about it:
He's a robot controlled by a pack of squirrels.
And squirrels that don't quite have the controls down yet. Forbes was talking to Sam and/or Cokie -- I've stopped being able to tell them apart -- and blinking up a storm and yet he managed to seem oddly disconnected. Not only were the words that came out of his mouth totally pre-packaged -- it's well-known that squirrels can't think on their feet -- but he would occasionally list slightly to the side when the squirrel responsible for his inner-ear would become distracted by George Stephanopolous' thick head of nesting hair.
This theory also explains why he always looks like he's got nuts hidden in his cheeks.
Not that I'm unsympathetic. Squirrel-controlled robot or no, the ability to calmly stare into the eerie, unblinking eye of national television coverage would leave me a nervous wreck, too. But I'm not running for president. I'm not trying to convince anybody to let me keep my sweaty, twitching finger on the nuclear button. I, basically, am not trying to talk enough people in to trusting me long enough for me to get into office and start the Glorious Squirrel Revolution.
Unlike Forbes, I'm not failing at it, either.
The best strategy for Forbes at this point is probably to simply admit the truth and come out of the, um, little hole in the tree. He should play it up, even -- hold a nationally televised press conference wherein his head opens up and Napoleon and Snowball, the two head squirrels, emerge to greet a phalanx of cameras. They could wave, say they want to get on with the business of the country, then duck back inside.
And that would be the end of it. Poof! The American people have had much worse things inhabit the Oval Office than a pack of squirrels and we would undoubtedly find the honesty refreshing.
Plus, squirrels are cute. Spaced-out multi-millionaires with delusions of global domination are creepy. Guess which comes across better on TV?
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