Lights out for Reform Party


COMPLETE this sentence: I would be interested in a presidential candidate who: 1) would give us a first model instead of a first lady, 2) would be dogged by old photos of himself in a Speedo and feather boa or 3) thinks -- or at any rate once thought -- the United States should annex western Canada to get more white people.

The Reform Party started out as a cracked egg laid by the cackling Ross Perot. This time around, it shows signs of frying itself.

The pity in this theater of political absurdity is that the party never really honored the many desperately earnest folks to whom it seemed to promise an alternative to the influence-peddling, money-grubbing and slick insincerities of workaday politics. How could it when, at bottom, it was always just the ego trip of a dingbat billionaire?

Now, what remains of the Reform Party is betraying even the residual hopes of its best-intentioned folks by going completely nuts in public.

Defecting Republican perennial Pat Buchanan -- like the boll weevil, just lookin' fer a home -- hints strongly he will offer himself for the party's presidential nomination. With his old plan to nick off western Canada going nowhere -- and probably moot since so many Asians have immigrated there -- the man for whom the GOP is too left wing tenders a sour stew of nativism, isolation, economic nationalism and wistfulness over the nifty might-have-beens if only the misguided democracies hadn't kept Hitler from Nazifying Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union.

The natural Reform nominee would be Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura, the party's highest -- and damn near only -- elected official. But the ex-wrestler isn't throwing his boa in, at least so far.

Instead, and sensibly aghast at the prospect of Pat the Hun, Mr. Ventura is pushing Donald Trump, New York real-estate hustler and super-model escort. Why? Who knows? Maybe because Mr. Trump is untainted by electoral politics, having limited himself instead to tainting electoral politics by contributing to the city and state candidates of both parties who have shown the most promise of being able to service him.

The Donald's take on The Issues is unknown, but so is Texas Gov. George W. Bush's so what the hey. At least we know Mr. Trump's economic policy: Borrow so much nobody dares foreclose.

And if not Mr. Trump, maybe actor Warren Beatty, for whom the Democratic Party is too right wing and who offers the nation, after eight embarrassing years of an amateur stud, at least four of a pro.

It looks as though, for real reform, we'll just have to go back to the democratic grunt work of voting the greater rascals out in favor of the lesser rascals.

Tom Teepen is national correspondent for Cox Newspapers. His e-mail address:

Pub Date: 9/28/99

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