Inside Feature

The answer is that presidential campaigns aren't fair. Michael Nelson, a political science professor at Rhodes College in Memphis and editor of Congressional Quarterly's 1989 Guide to the Presidency, says whoever puts on a debate or campaign event can decide who it wants to recognize as "major."

"Fairness to candidates is not what the election is all about," Nelson says. "It's about helping voters choose a president by giving them a reasonable choice." Standards vary, but the point is whoever puts on a campaign event can set them - and get away with it.

Nelson, incidentally, sheds no tears for Agran. "One good rule of thumb is that to be considered presidential caliber, it probably should have occurred to someone else that you are," he says.

Agran's GOAL: To win the fight for fringe-candidate fairness.

AMERICA, George Washington. (Listed by the FEC as UNK, meaning "Unknown" party affiliation: New York, New York.) The cynical among you will suspect that the name is phony. What worried me was Mr. America's claim that he satisfies the Constitutional requirement that says presidents have to be born in the U.S.A. George says he was born in Washington, D.C., but he discloses this info in a singsong gargle that is part Latka (Andy Kaufman, in Taxi), part Ben Kingsley in Gandhi, and part O.J. Simpson underwater. He discusses his policies in similar riffs: "Bleh bletborm fltblm ithlem jeng bloshul capeetalist - " (Translated: My platform it is to socialize our capitalist system a little, like Germany.) America, like Agran, wants recognition from mainstream outlets. He claims he filed a lawsuit in federal court in Manhattan, against the State Department, demanding "admiralcy status" for his ideas on winning the Gulf War, which he mailed to the Pentagon and Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf and which they cribbed without acknowledging his contribution. His proof? "If they had ignored me," he says, "the Gulf War would have been a disastrous defeat."

GOAL: To win his lawsuit, "gaining cash-flow increases" that will allow him to spread his message like wildfire.

BLOCK, Susan. (UNK: Beverly Hills, California) Block hosts a singles talk-radio show heard in Southern California. She pops up in the news from time to time, thanks to ceaseless self-promotion efforts. In January 1990, she aired a fall-of-the-Wall show from Stuttgart, West Germany, urging East German listeners to celebrate "the aphrodisiac powers of freedom" by crossing to the West and making arrangements to engage in humpnost with the lonely hearts on her mailing list. During the Gulf War, Block taped sultry "Desert Susan" tapes for sale to the troops. The Chicago Tribune's Mike Royko obtained one and crabbily (he didn't like the for-profit part) shared a few paragraphs of Block's whack-off dialogue, "recorded live in her bedroom": "I've missed you....You are the captain of my heart....Your strong mind....Your powerful [long pause] but so fragile [long pause] bodyyyyyyy."

Block wins woman-of-contrast points with a platform that won't just appeal to the pasty-captivated crowds at strip clubs, but to the pasty-faced crowds at the Reason Foundation and the Ayn Rand Institute. Yes, the libertine is a closet Libertarian. According to her campaign chairman, Michael Lobkowicz, she would forcefully attack bureaucracies at the federal and local levels. (Hence her cutesy slogan, "Block is for government that lets you play with yourself, but doesn't play with your tax dollars.")

GOAL: To broadcast live and sizzlin' from the Lincoln Bedroom.

CARTER, Willie. (Democrat: Fort Worth, Texas) Carter is a Christian aircraft mechanic who also ran in 1988. He wasn't able to get on any state ballots that year, and this time out, his big goal is to make the ballot in California. He got involved in presidential politics in 1980, when the Lord came to him in a vision and told him "that I was being conditioned to become president. I saw myself getting out of a staff car." In 1983, Carter was shown a vision of the destruction of the U.S. by fire. Hence, his centerpiece position: preventing that. Carter's Lord is a Borkian Lord, with a rock-ribbed devotion to the U.S. Constitution as it was originally framed, without judicial "penumbra" that falsely broadens its scope. Another vision has showed him that Long Beach, his 1992 base, will slide into the sea after a massive earthquake if he doesn't prevail.

GOAL: Ballot placement in California; geographical status quo of same.

ELLSWORTH, Barry. (Independent: Salt Lake City, Utah) Ellsworth fits Moore's description of one who despairs at what he sees and decides to run - as a way to exorcise civics demons. "I find that, if nothing else, passing out fliers pricks people's consciousness and comforts me a little." His platform is more specific than many. He would abolish the CIA, audit every damned penny of the S&L scandal, set up 500,000 "yes and no" 900 numbers for instant voting on major issues, and start a mammoth civilian works project to build a national network of "bullet trains that travel in vacuum tubes." Ellsworth finances his campaign with proceeds from books he publishes, like the self-helpers And You Wonder Why Your Life Isn't Working? and Living in Love With Yourself. His next book will contain (with much else) his compelling theories on Bush's psychological problems.

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