HILL OF BEANS: Revolt Against Boredom
You'd think politics would be like, say, classical music -- that the more you know about it, the less interested you would be in the obvious stuff. Just as no real classical music maven ever seems to talk about Vivaldi or Beethoven or Tchaikovsky, it would seem that no real Washington insider would want to talk about big national races. But that's not the way it works. From about this point in the election cycle, Washington becomes one interminable discussion of the presidential race. There are half a dozen newsletters and a dozen websites devoted to tracking every nebbish and every minor endorsement and campaign proposal. There are people in town who can give you the names and addresses of everyone in New Hampshire who's endorsed John Kasich, tell you the middle name of Lamar Alexander's South Carolina field director and fax you Bob Smith's schedule in Iowa for two weeks from now.The problem is that usually the candidates have something to talk about, and this year they don't. Who is going to be able to stand 16 months of George Bush talking about "helping those left behind" and Al Gore talking about "building a more vital democracy" and "good strong, livable communities with green spaces." Or, for that matter, Bill Bradley. Bradley was on a 10-day swing through California, a state that Gore has cultivated more assiduously than any other. Bradley sought to get to Gore's left by holding meetings with gay, feminist and union activists. No one was more puzzled at this than Margaret Carlson of Time magazine, who quipped that, to get to the left of Al Gore on gays, Bradley would have to announce that he's gay himself. One thing Bradley can do is garner basketball endorsements. The Lakers' new coach Phil Jackson, late of the Bulls, is on board. Bradley, in fact, could score a major campaign coup if he could get Michael Jordan to do an ad alongside footage of Gore referring to the Bulls great as "Michael Jackson."But that won't happen. About the only unpredictable candidate left in American politics is Pat Buchanan, who, to his immense credit, has spent the last several weeks giving interviews about how unlikely it is he'll beat George Bush. In the process, he has been getting off some tremendous one-liners, describing the not-terribly-bright Governor as hopeless without his army of handlers and consultants. "This," said Buchanan of Bush, "is one of those quarterbacks where they call the plays from the bench."There is growing evidence of solidarity between interesting people of all persuasions, a closing of ranks against boring people. Last week, Buchanan visited Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura -- with whom he has absolutely nothing in common -- and praised him for attacking the "dismal duopoly" that Democrats and Republicans enjoy in national politics. Which he is. A stunning poll taken last week by the office of California Gov. Gray Davis found that Ventura has 80 percent name-recognition among Californians. Davis himself has name recognition of only 54 percent.