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Jewish World Review Nov. 11, 2003 / 6 Kislev, 5762

Phil Perrier

Phil Perrier
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Consumer Reports

The "Toad Factor" ---
proven yet again | It was his to lose. Walter Mondale, former Vice President of the United States, 1984 presidential contender; anointed by the Wellstone family to carry on Paul Wellstone's tragically doomed Minnesota senate campaign. In the unsteady world of bigtime politics it was as close to a sure thing as could be hoped for. Then "Fritz" Mondale fumbled the ball on the one-yard line.

Yet another victim of the "Toad Factor."

The "Toad Factor" generally applies to liberal Democrats who lose unloseable races for no apparent reason; see "Al Gore." Mondale's loss confirms him as a toad among toads; a candidate of such confirmed hackishness and mediocrity that even his home state rejects him- despite glowing credentials.

But then Mondale's ilk is a passing breed; the last holdouts of a tired, old-school, threadbare sort of liberalism. One gets the feeling that guys like Mondale and Ted Kennedy and Phil Donahue probably get together and watch old news reels of Eleanor Roosevelt and they all cry like babies. Mondale built a career on being the consummate Party man; never one to upset the apple cart with new ideas or bold innovations. Mondale's droning delivery and hypnotic, Boris Karloff eyes told voters all they needed to know.

Minnesota voters, to be sure, aren't afraid of getting a little weird --- Hence, the election of Jesse Ventura as Governor. Ventura, himself out- hustled the painfully dull Hubert Humphrey III, son of the painfully dull former Vice President and senator Hubert Humphrey.

Though the "Toad Factor" predates Al Gore, Gore certainly deserves a spot in the Toad Hall of Fame. Like Mondale in Minnesota, the 2000 presidential election was Gore's to lose. He was the sitting Vice President of a popular (if controversial) president, a respected former senator, expert on environmental issues, ect., ect. For all intents and purposes Al Gore should have beaten George W. Bush as if he had caught him stealing chickens. Gore should have won by 8 percentage points. So what does he do?

He runs dead even with Bush and loses his home state of Tennessee. And, Gore tanked two of three debates. Remember, at that point, according to the national print media, George W. Bush had the mental capacity of a gerbil. In short, Al Gore toaded out. He got soft and squishy and stupid and began listening to hired geeks who told him what tie to wear and what deskless school child to talk about, and he flat out blew it.

Say what you will about Republicans, when it comes to winning elections they seldom go toad. Republicans have the killer instinct. Bush has it, Reagan had it, Nixon had too much of it. Democrats, especially liberal Democrats, tend to look like nice guys; the kind of guys who would be good losers; guys who will happily waddle off and join law firms and teach at universities, and "spend more time" with their families. And why is it when politicians run for office they never say they are doing it to avoid their families? "Listen, I want to be your senator, and go to Washington, because frankly my wife and kids are SUCKING THE LIFE OUT OF ME!"

Clinton had the killer instinct of a Republican and the libido of a Democrat. A rare bird indeed. Democrats seem to own the franchise on the "Toad Factor."

That certain nerdy, goobishness. When Mike Dukakis put on the helmet and road a tank, it was toad city. When Paul Tsongas opened his mouth, it was a toadarama. But, like so many other vestiges of days gone by- elevator operators and civil rights leaders- the toads are an endangered species. They are gradually being replaced with slicker, tightly scripted careerists who really don't care too much about homeless people or the ozone layer.

Most Democrats running for office today look like they can't wait to make enough money to someday remove their mask revealing a Republican.

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JWR contributor Phil Perrier is a Los Angeles-based writer and stand-up comic. Comment by clicking here.


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© 2002, Phil Perrier