Saturday, May 29, 2004

When average won't cut the ketchup

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Quinnipiac University in Connecticut recently took a poll so vital to our nation's health, so ground-breaking in scope, so shocking, that I didn't believe it at first--the human mind is uncomfortable processing such staggering information as you are about to read. Steel yourselves. The loud crashing you will hear will be the thud of thousands of jaws striking the ground simultaneously.

The Associated Press wrote, "Half of the registered voters surveyed [by Quinnipiac] said they would rather have a barbecue with Bush, while 39 percent chose Kerry."

Yes, this is where we are now, as a culture: imaginary barbecues with the president. Worse, imaginary non-barbecues with Sen. John Kerry.

Quinnipiac also asked 1,160 voters nationwide which presidential candidate voters would trust to run the family business. This vote was closer: If we had our druthers, Bush would be selling scratch tickets and Fritos at the corner store instead of Kerry, 46 to 41 percent. "But voters," the story said, "were evenly split on whether they would rather have Kerry or Bush teach their children."

Why these inane questions, when neither guy would even think about balancing your checkbook or teaching your kids--when neither one is expected any time soon to show up in your back yard with a homemade apple brown betty as dessert for the burgers and bratwursts you're grilling out on the back porch?

According to the story, "Mickey Carroll, the director of the Quinnipiac Polling Institute, said these offbeat questions were asked to try to get a peek at the personal, regular-guy qualities of each candidate."

I have a few problems with this study. For one, Kerry's the better choice to operate your family business. Before entering politics, the high point of Bush's working life was owning the Texas Rangers--what have they done lately?

Also, Kerry's the better barbecue guest. His wife is Teresa Heinz. Yes, that Heinz. If you hinted around, Kerry would probably set up your barbecue with complimentary ketchup, mustard, relish, mayo and pickles.

Thirdly, I take issue with the whole idea of the president being a "regular guy." He's a multimillionaire who comes from a family of Texas oil barons. Also, I know many regular guys and, frankly, I don't urge any of those assholes to run for leader of the free world, either.

I want my president as close as possible to being an inconceivably intelligent, invincible superbeing who cares deeply for regular people and uses his or her powers to fight for good on a scale that regular people can't. I don't want someone average--I want somebody who's way above average. Whether the guy would make a good Scrabble partner is moot.

Incidentally, Kerry would be my Scrabble partner, too. Bush's "misunderestimate" would have the kind of score records are made of--but, alas.

Too many people don't vote on the issues, instead focusing on how a candidate combs his hair or how well he smiles or how tasty the coleslaw is that he brings to your barbecue or other asinine details.

For these people, I enclose the following asinine poll.

I recently asked 20 people in this paper's newsroom to fill out a survey I wrote, determining which presidential candidate is the most regular guy. The hypothetical questions aren't quite up to Quinnipiackian standards--but it's my first poll, so bear with me.

It's got no margin of error, as far as I can tell. I calculated it all very carefully on Post-It notes:

(1) I asked which presidential candidate takes his car to a quick-lube place when he's perfectly capable of changing his oil himself. No surprise: 40 percent of those polled said Kerry does it. Bush was second at 35 percent, and Ralph Nader was third with 25 percent.

(2) Which candidate puts bacon bits on his salad? Bush, 65 percent. When also asked which guy puts ketchup on his salad, 100 percent of voters picked Kerry. When also asked which candidate uses them so much it's more like he puts salad in his bacon bits, 100 percent picked Bush.

(3) Which candidate reads on the toilet? It's a tie, with Kerry and Nader, 40 percent each. That was an easy one--Bush can't read.

(4) Which candidate secretly liked "The Love Boat," and still does--in fact, knows most of the words (except for the middle) to the theme song? Bush ran away with this one, 75 percent. For some reason I can't quite explain, it feels so right.

For the record--ahem: "The Love Boat! Soon we'll be making another run! The Love Boat! Promises something for ev'ryone! Set a course for adventure, your mind on a new RO-mance!"

(5) The candidate who uses Febreze to give his shirts a clean, fresh smell instead of doing laundry more often is Nader, 55 percent. It feels true. Nader's a nice guy, but he always looks like he's living out of his car.

(6) One candidate has no idea why people even bother with curtains. Nader won this one, too--70 percent. No need for curtains if you live out of your car.

(7) Which candidate could eat, like, six chourico rolls right now? Half of those polled picked Kerry, the man with the Portuguese wife. Bush was close: 40 percent.

(8) Which one actually knows the difference between off-white and eggshell, because he painted eggshell in the kitchen but found it was too dark for the garage? Kerry came out on top, 55 percent. I have no idea why.

(9) Which guy sees no need to fix that hole in the side of the porch when some kid's just going to chuck another rock through it someday anyway? Bush edged out Nader for this one, 45 to 35 percent. When asked which one would patch the hole with ketchup, all voters picked Kerry.

(10) Lastly, one guy would love to get his hands on that Verizon "Can you hear me now?" jerk, just once. That man is Kerry, with 46 percent of the vote. Somebody picked all three ("Everybody wants to kill that guy," she said), and a man named Eric voted for himself.

Nowhere did I ask which candidate would be the best president. People will figure that out soon enough, I guess. But if he's so above average that he can pack away a half-dozen chourico rolls and make the Verizon doofus disappear, I say vote Kerry and vote often.

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