Setting fire to a series of $100 bills last week for the benefit of a largely indifferent gathering of reporters, real estate mogul Donald Trump suddenly announced that he is "a big asshole." The announcement came as no surprise to longtime supporters, but reaction in other quarters was mixed. Reached for comment, an unusually thoughtful Jesse Ventura remarked, "Give the guy credit. He's upped the ante. Being a simple boor, or oaf, was once all one needed to run for public office. Not anymore."
The rest of the Reform Party was thrown into turmoil by the announcement. Presidential hopeful Pat Buchanan issued a statement from his bunker: "Some say Hitler was an asshole. But why should we be confined by these paltry human definitions?" Ross Perot himself elbowed his way through his spokesmen to declare, "An egg ain't an omelet, see. A sandwich ain't a sandwich without two pieces of bread. But you need something else too. And what is that? Cheese maybe. Little romaine. Put 'em together, what have you got? Bibbety-bobbety is what. I gotta go."
Among the two mainstream parties, reactions were a little more predictable. When asked, Republican front-runner George W. Bush refused to speculate on Donald Trump's assholism, except to deny his own, or affirm it. Asked to expand, Bush only grimaced toothlessly as advisors whispered mysterious somethings in his ear. Steve Forbes proclaimed, "Being an asshole in pursuit of a flat tax is no vice." Alan Keyes said something as well, but nobody wrote it down. The cameras were not on him at the time. John McCain would not comment on assholism one way or another, but did blurt out tenuously, "I have a temper." When asked to show evidence of his rage, however, McCain declined. Instead he passed out fliers about campaign finance reform, which fluttered to the press room floor like large identical snowflakes.
On the Democratic side, Bill Bradley denied that he was an asshole, insisting that he was merely supercilious. "That's c-i-l-i-o-u-s," he cautiously spelled out for the benefit of those reporters who don't bother to spell-check their documents. "I used to play basketball," he added.
Al Gore was more thoughtful in his response. "I, too, am an asshole," he admitted in what he thought was a whisper. "We're all assholes." He then proceeded to attempt to give ungainly hugs to unwilling senior citizens.
Mrs. Samuel Gold of Santa Monica, Calif., a longtime Democrat, asked by Gore whether she thought she was an asshole, responded, "A what? Can you say that on teevee?" Before she could respond fully, Gore embraced her, cutting off her breath. President Clinton, asked for a response, merely chuckled, then launched into a 30-minute discourse on health care that put the media to sleep.
The media reacts
Among the television pundits, reaction was wildly varied. Every show on MSNBC was devoted to the issue. John Gibson devoted his entire program to a discussion of his hair, compared to Donald Trump's. An impromptu poll revealed that Gibson's hair was preferred by those who chose to prefer one's hair over another, 54 percent to 37 percent, and 3 percent undecided.
On Sunday, Cokie Roberts and George Will smirked at each other. Bill Kristol was not available for comment. George Stephanopoulos had something to say, but again, nobody bothered to write it down, and the cameras were not on him at the time. Andy Rooney on "60 Minutes" encouraged us all to expand our vocabularies, and read labels closely. Time and Newsweek were bemused by the flap, and put Donald Trump on their covers, with the identical caption: "Asshole of the Year?"
The stock market, predictably, faltered when the story broke, then rallied. A hastily assembled Harris poll shows that Trump's approval ratings plummeted among those who think of themselves as "nice, decent folk," and also slid with those who describe themselves as "Joe and Jane Normal." Among the so-called "self-absorbed" demographic, however, Trump's approval ratings soared. His heartfelt confession is apparently also the cause of a rise in voter registration, most notably among dickheads, pompous asses, self-important jerks and "scum-sucking shit-heel billionaires."
Yesterday, it was announced that a new political party has formed. Spokesman Douglas "Don't Call Me Doug" Answorth proclaimed that this new party, as yet unnamed, would sweep the elections, "or some fucking heads will roll capisce?"
Asked if this fourth party had a name yet, Answorth shrugged elaborately. "Haven't got a name yet. Neo-Assholes? A-Holes? A-Team? What do you guys think? Not that we care."
Answorth displayed a series of hastily scrawled posters outlining the platform positions of this fourth party.
One reporter ventured to suggest that this wasn't much of a platform, to which Answorth responded, "What's it to you?" He went on to explain how he'd fired the person who'd made the posters, making sure that the person had fled his presence in tears. When asked the point of that anecdote, Answorth replied, "The pride is back, OK? Grab our coattails or get out of the way." Then he screamed, "We're good to go! Now get out!"
In related news, AOL Time Warner announced that it was partnering with Disney, Microsoft and AT&T to form a new network tentatively called "Watch!" A hastily assembled spokesman for the venture, who refused to be identified, said the new network is based on a new business model -- viewers can watch "Watch!" for free, but if they don't watch they have to pay.
Asked about the content of this new network, the spokesman said it would feature "worthless dweebs in ill-fitting suits with an inflated sense of self-worth commenting on the comments of others. There will also be golf highlights."
What would differentiate this network from, say, MSNBC would be broadband delivery, and appearance on a number of different platforms -- from television to PC to Palm Pilot. It would even place prerecorded commentaries to cell phones selected at random. Donald Trump was named to head this new venture, and to host a game show being developed for "Watch!" -- "Who Wants to Be an Asshole?"
Asked how he could run for president and still host a game show, Trump responded, "Who are you to tell me what I can or can't do?" "Look at this babe here," Trump continued, indicating with a toss of his head a bored beauty at his side, twirling her hair and gazing off. "When you get a babe like this, then you can come whining to me. Until then, shut the pie hole, OK?"
Asked if he still considered himself "an asshole," Trump responded with a grin, "I'm still running. And I'll keep running until I get bored. Bottom line: I have a private jet. I can do whatever I want." Then he lifted both hands in the air, formed V's with his fingers and shouted, "One jet! One vote!" Before anybody could respond, he was gone, leaving behind only a disembodied voice over a loudspeaker, "Ladies and gentlemen, the Donald has left the building."