The Candidates Talk, Therefore They Run

SECRET documents filed at the state house in Albany, N.Y., revealed that Gov. Mario Cuomo had to give up his membership in two exclusive, little-known organizations, the Professional Talkers Club (PTC) and the Forced Smile Society (FSS).

In doing so Mr. Cuomo talked for about 45 minutes, which is generally the procedure when a PTC member goes public and says no to enhanced talking opportunities. This is known as de-oathing, truly an act of public self-immolation which signifies that a politician is not willing to talk and talk in seeking office.

Cuomo violated PTC rules that state that a member never says he is turning down the optimum professional opportunity to talk endlessly as a presidential candidate. Months ago, Cuomo should never have said that he was seriously thinking about running for president. He should have said only that he was seriously thinking, and then talked seriously about what he was learning from reading encyclopedias.

But to his credit, Cuomo always seemed a little uncomfortable as a Forced Smile Society member. In fact, the other FSS members were highly suspicious of him. They wanted him out. He was too candid, too direct, too willing to glare from the sidelines while they talked artfully and smiled wonderfully.

Here was a man who not only gave the appearance of honesty, but in reality was honest. The suspicions of club members were confirmed. In 45 minutes of infamy, Cuomo de-oathed publicly and brought shame to the art of obfuscatory rhetoric. He said no clearly for 45 minutes and smiled reluctantly, but it was too late.

Two other candidates have been put on probation during the the New Hampshire primary. They are former California Gov. Jerry Brown and columnist and TV show host Pat Buchanan.

First, Mr. Brown never smiles the way Bill Clinton or Doug Wilder can melt the hearts of meter maids on the streets of New Hampshire. Sober, apocalyptic, and wolverine-like, Brown has smiled once in the last six weeks. During the recent TV debate among Democratic candidates, Brown held up a big card with his toll-free campaign number on it. He smiled and asked for donations.

Second, any politician who has the gall to say the following has to be watched: "In reality there is only one party: It's the Incumbent Party. There are, of course, two major political organizations with different names, but at the core they are the same. They share the same world view and they serve the power of the same private interests."

Any politician who would actually tell the truth isn't playing fair. No one in the PTC is supposed to tell voters the two parties are interchangeable and equally capable of increasing the deficit.

But this is Brown's third try at the presidency, and he still hasn't learned how to talk and smile according to the rules. He talks too much like a smoking gun. Pat Buchanan is not much better. Any candidate who announces a campaign for the presidency and then says, "I tell you what I won't do; I won't go to J. C. Penney's and buy four pair of socks," doesn't grasp the fundamental principle of political campaigning: Never call attention to the issues, call attention to socks, which everybody wears.

What is needed in this presidential campaign is words of few men. Although they didn't file papers in time to qualify for the New Hampshire primary, Karl Malden for president and Mr. Goodwrench for vice president are the men America needs.

Mr. Malden, of course, has been telling us for years not to leave home without an American Express card. His message is simple, direct; a political promise in one memorable capitalist phrase. Here is a man you can trust because he wears a hat (emblematic of benign authority) when he reminds us not to leave home without a credit card, which allows anyone to buy four pair of socks or anything else. Mr. Goodwrench is no Dan Quayle. He's a mature father-figure on TV, a trained expert, a working man who can f ix anything. He wears K-Mart socks and never wears a tie.

Endless talk? Forced smiles? No one has dared invite Malden and Goodwrench into the clubs. No prospects here for de-oathing. These men are legends of practicality, men who agree with former New York City Mayor Fiorello H. La Guardia when he said, "There is no Republican or Democratic way to clean the streets."

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