Oh no, the campaigning has already begun


POLITICIANS make declarations all the time. That so, why not ordinary citizens? Accordingly, though financial markets may plummet, I publicly declare my intention to vote for Messrs. Clinton and Gore in the November 1996 presidential election. If ambulatory, I will amblethree blocks to the library at O'Donnell Street and Ellwood Avenue and pull the lever; if infirmed, I'll cast a write-in ballot. I haven't done that since I voted for another Democrat (by the name of Roosevelt) from a troopship in 1944.

Disagree if you wish, but grant me high marks for consistency. Yes, in the past I strayed to support Teddy McKeldin and Mac Mathias, Marylanders of quality, albeit Republican. But never -- in a 52-year span -- have I voted for the GOP candidates for president. Some were attractive, especially when compared to thisyear's doleful lot -- pun intended. I'm not saying that abstention is impossible, understand. Let the president deliver a prime-time speech extolling Clarence Thomas as a beacon of enlightened legal reasoning, announce conversion to the National Rifle Association's view that assault weapons add to tranquillity in the nation's neighborhoods, or belatedly discover merit in the Republican clamor for dirtier air and water, and I could go fishing next November. One thing for sure, though, if I didn't vote for Ike, ain't no way any of the current crop of clowns and charlatans (exclude Senators Arlen Spector, R-Pa., and Richard Lugar, R-Ind.,) will garner my support.

Tell me, for example, how a Phil Gramm, touted in the never ending media sweepstakes as second in the early going, can be seriously considered. Dealt a poor hand at birth with an unfortunate face and voice to match, this chap almost appears the statesman when clustered with the likes of Pat Buchanan and Rep. Robert Dornan, R-Calif. Hell, the jockeying for the Republican nomination started eight minutes after the polls closed in 1992. And this is the best they can do? The field is weaker than the American League East.

However, however . . . My faith has been put to the test by something that recently arrived in the mail. There, amid the welter of bills and word of not-to-be believed sales, was an impressive envelope containing the "Official 1996 Campaign Kit" for the Clinton/Gore team. Fine, yet in the upper left, in smaller print above the candidates' names is the name James Carville. And, below, not only my personal eight-digit "Registered Campaign Kit Number" but also my state code -- sporting seven more numerals.

Mr. Carville, I have come to understand, did yeoman work in the Clinton win of '92, and perhaps his high-profile services are needed again. I attempt to put from my mind his much publicized marriage to Mary Matalin, the waspish, serpent-tongued GOP hit lady. I try not to conjure up their pillow talk, but they seem the most unlikely couple since Aristotle Onassis and Jackie Kennedy. Troubled, I open the envelope.

True, the gennulman from Looziann is preaching to the choir and moolah is the mother's milk of politics, but unction oozes. This voter does not have to be cajoled into believing that "President Clinton's 1996 campaign begins in Baltimore with you -- the minute you publicly display your window poster . . ." If that were true, it would never get off the ground in Charm City. Since I live in a fourth-floor condominium, it would be visible only to helicopter cops scanning the darkness for thieves. And, if it were hung on the front door, I'd get in trouble for defacing a common area.

The tone of puffery and condescension is unremitting. There is the official offer to become a "member of the National Steering Committee," as well as the plea to "double-check your campaign materials -- to makecertain you received them in good condition -- and return your Delivery Verification Form right away." (No shortage of Capital Letters in The Carville Arsenal). Try to hold together, chum, but the bumper sticker arrived a tad rumpled. All that, I am expected to believe, is "very important." James, my man, I hustled storm doors to feed my family long years ago and I know that what's "very important" is the cash.

So hold the "certificate recognizing [my] membership." Save the dough. Tell Bill and Al that there are two votes locked up tight here. Pauline, my wise wife, concurs. We well know that if the voters are so benighted as to turn over both Congress and the White House to the other party next year, there'll be even bigger trouble down the road. But stop with the patronizing, already. Oh, the check? It's in the mail.


Milton Bates writes from Baltimore.

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