Nobody is President of the United States

'This analysis of the American election will contain no reference to the American election'
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All America held its breath yesterday as an attempt was made to separate the two identical twins, Bush and Gore. The likelihood is that when the separation is completed, one twin will be prospering and the other one will be in decline, perhaps terminal decline.

All America held its breath yesterday as an attempt was made to separate the two identical twins, Bush and Gore. The likelihood is that when the separation is completed, one twin will be prospering and the other one will be in decline, perhaps terminal decline.

This sort of presidential separation, as the operation is technically known, has been tried before, and almost always, the losing twin fails to recover. Who now remembers the fate of Walter Mondale? Whatever happened to Senator Eugene McCarthy? Whatever became of the guy with glasses who was separated from the other guy whose name I can't remember either...?

This time round, the twins are even more identical than usual. Bush and Gore seem to have the same sort of opinions on everything, the same sort of unquestioning belief in America. They are both male twins, they are both white, they are both middle-aged and they both wear boring, if well-cut, suits. People are starting to ask: if we have two such fine specimens of the same species, does it really matter if one survives and the other doesn't?

A reader writes: Dear Mr Kington, this parallel between the US election and the Siamese-twin drama may be very clever and all that, but aren't you courting a terrible risk of appallingly bad taste? Perhaps you should change tack while you have time...

Miles Kington writes: Point taken...

"We have a saying in this country, that anyone can become President of the United States," says the veteran observer Jay McNulty, "and it is certainly true this time round, as both candidates seem to be a pretty prime example of being anybody. Indeed, I think we may have a classic example of nobody becoming President of the United States, as both candidates seem to be a pretty prime example of being nobody."

Are there any previous examples of nobody becoming President of the US?

"Oh, sure," says Jay McNulty. "Remember Ronald Reagan? He was an actor, that is to say a nobody, and he became President twice. Remember Jimmy Carter? Gerald Ford?"

No, I don't think I do remember Gerald Ford...

"No, nor do I," says Jay McNulty, "which I think proves my point. But it doesn't really matter who becomes President, as the whole thing is governed by big business anyway. That's precisely why Ralph Nader is standing as a presidential candidate, to stand up against big business."

Is Ralph Nader standing as a presidential candidate?

"Oh, sure, there are more than two candidates for the White House," says McNulty. "But because the whole thing is governed by big business anyway, only the two main candidates are ever reported in the media. The fact that they are both nonentities doesn't help... "

An American reader writes: I have had enough of this snide little European sniping! What gives you the right to sneer at our elections? Twice a century we come and bail you Limeys out against the Germans and save your goddam country from being wiped out, and this is all the thanks we get! All you can do is sit around saying that we Americans have no irony. Well, at least we've got a lot of get-up-and-go! You keep your irony and the euro - we've got a booming economy and the almighty dollar!

Miles Kington writes: OK, OK! The remainder of this analysis of the American election will contain no reference to the American election...

I was interested to hear Charles Wheeler, the veteran BBC man in America, pouring praise recently (on Radio 4) on Norman Mailer's caustic view of America, a country Mailer said he loved for many things but hated for its greed, selfishness, ignorance and so on. What a refreshing change from all those letters from America by Alistair Cooke, said Wheeler, which just licked Uncle Sam's boots...

I myself have worried about Cooke in the past, and I think now that I have worked out why. He is in the wrong job. He should have been a star panellist on Just a Minute all these years. He is the only man alive who speaks even more slowly than Clement Freud, yet he never really hesitates. He is always more or less on the subject and hardly goes fast enough to repeat himself. The next time you hear Cooke talking, imagine to yourself that he is competing on Just a Minute...

A reader writes: As a paid-up member of the Alistair Cooke fan club, may I say how offended I am...?

Miles Kington writes: No, you may not.

Normal service will be resumed tomorrow.

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