Candidate Conan

At summer's end, after Conan the Conqueror had confounded all his foes and slain them on Leno, he came back to his fortress and was told he would have to debate.

"I crush my tormentors," snarled Conan the Victorious. "I psych them, I smash their bones. When my own people are jaded and bored, I journey to distant lands and new markets and sell my product to all who wish to feel my power."

But the people, he was told, were not bored. They wanted to know what Conan would do to restore their dream of a golden state.

"Do they not know that I will dash the bad king to the ground?" asked Conan the Taken Aback. "That I will rule with cunning and strength? That Pete Wilson has given me his staff, and I shall use it wisely? Even those who raised his treasure, though I have treasure aplenty, yet I shall use them, for who hath treasure enough? Is this not enough for the people to know?"

But it was not. Thrice had the people invited him to meet his rivals on the field of battle and answer their questions and those of the scribes.

"I have heard their questions on 'Entertainment Tonight' and 'What's-His-Name Hannity,'" said Conan the Softball-Accustomed, "and answered them so well that they anointed my brow. I spake of carousing in Oui magazine, yet all the right forgave me," Conan continued, waving a copy of the Weekly Double Standard.

But yet the people persisted, and wanted to know what Conan would cut and what Conan would tax.

"I have 23 wise men who counsel me on balancing the budget," humphed Conan the Delegater. "Eight for eliminating waste, eight for fraud, eight -- uh, seven? -- for abuse. They will shield me from details that none but scribes care about."

But still the people wanted to know what Conan himself thought.

"That Gray Davis destroys jobs," said Conan the Sound-Bite. "That we are overtaxed from the moment we awaken and ring for our orange juice."

But why was Davis a job-killer, the people wondered, and yet not a word did Conan utter on George W. Bush? Had Bush not slain more jobs than Gray? And did his deficit not dwarf Davis' by more than tenfold?

"That is a multiplication question," snapped Conan the Gotcha-Fearful. "Or division. I have 23 wise men who can do fractions."

But the people and the scribes had more questions they wished to pose. Did the staff that Pete Wilson had vouchsafed Conan still include that dunderhead Wizard who had lifted the rules on all the energy in the realm?

And how was it that the very same rich men who had given treasure to Pete Wilson and, yea, even to Gray Davis, but who were now giving treasure to Conan were no longer special interests but disinterested do-gooders?

"These are trick questions!" squealed Conan the Abruptly Apprehensive. "I have my man for trick questions, David Dreier, a public man with smooth speech and uncommonly good hair. We can send him to the debates, no?"

No, Conan was told, the hosts had demanded the Conqueror himself.

"But I have 31 fundraisers scheduled before the day the people choose," said Conan the Collection Plate. "It takes much treasure to defeat the special interests, so that I can rule beholden to no man. Yet I have been asked to set aside these labors to meet my opponents in the public square. And if I partake in these debates, I shall be interrupted and questioned. And should someone pop a question between my Hasta and my vista, I do not know but what I will do."

"I will be swiveling so, my head will be dizzy," said Conan the Strategically Vague. "I must be for gun controls and gun-owners' rights, for gays and against gay marriages, for cutting waste in general and nothing in particular. McClintock the Caveman will hit me from the right, and Arianna, who has the smoothest tongue of all the babes in Brentwood, will hit me from the left. This is why I have my David Dreier. Can he not answer these meddlesome pests?"

So Conan's counselors sent Dreier out to the political talk shows, but told Conan that if he did not appear for at least one debate in September, the people might question his fitness to govern the realm in October.

"But I am fated to rule," peeped Conan the Titmouse, and scurried down his hole.

Harold Meyerson is editor-at-large of the Prospect.

This column originally appeared in yesterday's Washington Post.

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