STOP ME if you've heard this one. Jerry Brown, the ex-governor of California, went into this bar, see --
L -- and there were these two good-looking women at the bar --
-- and so Jerry says to the bartender, "I think I'll try to pick one of them up" --
-- and the bartender says, "You don't want to pick them up. They're lesbians. They --
-- [deleted], see and, heh heh heh, Jerry says, "I [deleted], does that make me a lesbian?"
Of course you've heard it. Everybody's heard it. It was all over the news after Sen. Bob Kerrey of Nebraska told it to Gov. Bill Clinton of Arkansas in earshot of a microphone at a meeting of Democratic presidential candidates.
I didn't stop because I wanted to lay the foundation for explaining to you the joke's real meaning. There are three points, two in the joke itself and one in the fact that it was told:
1. Categorizing people on the basis of sexual inclination is stupid.
2. Jerry Brown knows this.
3. Bob Kerrey doesn't.
Another interesting thing about Kerrey, insofar as voters are concerned, is not that he told the joke, but that he then apologized for telling it when it became public knowledge and Patricia Ireland of the National Organization for Women and Harriet Woods of the National Women's Political Caucus criticized him.
(Clinton semi-apologized for listening and said he didn't laugh.)
In so doing Kerrey created an image of a man who is so fearful of one of the small, narrowly-based special interest groups that the Democratic Party has become an alliance of, that he knuckles under to their any and every complaint.
I like what Suzanne Fields said about all this in the Washington Times. She said:
"Are they telling us that feminists like Patricia Ireland and Harriet Woods never listen to dirty jokes that make fun of men? And if they tell us that, should we believe them? Bob Kerrey did what easily intimidated men do in this dreary era of downsized men. Confronted with outraged feminists, he surrendered meekly with abject apologies."
The real problem for Senator Kerrey is that in an era of downsized and barely known presidential candidates, you become known by the headlines you make -- good or bad. Now, political junkies know more about Kerrey than just that he told a joke and apologized; they know he was a war hero in Vietnam and has dated Debra Winger. Really responsible citizens, like readers of this page, know also that he has an interesting national health plan.
But most voters are neither junkies nor really responsible citizens.
I would bet Kerrey's joke and his presidential candidacy will end up in trivia quiz books, alongside Joe Biden's plagiarized ancestors and Gary Hart's romantic escapades.