PHILADELPHIA — When the Los Angeles Times asked me to report back from the Republican National Convention, I brought along my tape machine so I could record some interviews. The big names were already committed--and some of them should have been--so I chatted with minor players, the kind who ordinarily don't get much air time. By far the most interesting was an old friend, Sen. Phillip Buster, who used to make appearances on my TV comedy shows.
I introduce into evidence the transcript of our exchange:
Steve Allen: Senator, I understand that you're here as a delegate-at-large.
Senator: That's right. How much longer I'll be able to remain at large we'll soon see.
S.A.: What do you think of George W. Bush's "compassionate conservatism"?
Senator: I think it's only fitting that we show our conservative friends a little more compassion.
S.A.: But do you agree with them, say, in their opposition to gun control?
Senator: Personally, I have three words for you on the subject of guns.
S.A.: And what are those words?
Senator: Stick 'em up!
S.A.: But how do you feel about world trade?
Senator: It's absurd. Poems are made by fools like me, but only God can trade a world.
S.A.: How do you feel about separation of church and state?
Senator: A dirty communist idea, if I ever heard one.
S.A.: But Senator, it's in our Constitution. It was proposed by the founding fathers.
Senator: What I'd like to know--and I say this as a firm supporter of women's lib--how come we never hear about the founding mothers?
S.A.: Senator, even though the American economy is stronger than it has ever been, the happy results have certainly not "trickled down" to millions of people. Do you therefore think that we should continue the War on Poverty?
Senator: Yes, I do. In fact the War on Poverty is going very well. Last week alone, we shot more than 200 poor people.
S.A.: Sen. Buster, at one time we thought the problem of alcoholism was solved, but now it appears to be worse than ever. Do you have any idea how many drunks there are in our country?
Senator: The statistics are staggering.
S.A.: You know, I've heard talk on the convention floor that the Democrats may have distorted the statistics about low unemployment. Some say that unemployment is still a problem. Do you agree?
Senator: Absolutely not. I say that all this damnable talk about unemployment is nothing but a rumor.
S.A.: But who starts these rumors?
Senator: Oh, people who are out of work, I suppose.
S.A.: Frankly, I don't really envy you politicians. Yours is such a precarious profession.
Senator: I was just making that very point to my waiter at dinner this evening--Newt Gingrich.
S.A.: Third-party candidates are complaining about being squeezed out of the election process. Do you think that Pat Buchanan really has a chance of being elected president?
Senator: I'll say this for the man--if he ever gets elected to the White House, it would sure cure your hiccups.
S.A.: Senator, how is the War on Drugs going?
Senator: Frankly, it's a colossal failure.
S.A.: Why do you say that?
Senator: Well, look at the names of some of the people on TV these days--Cokie Roberts, Stone Phillips . . .
S.A.: Despite the booming economy, there seems to be a surprising amount of labor unrest. How do you account for all the strikes?
Senator: Well, there are issues other than the truly financial. In Chicago the day before yesterday, I saw a group of workers striking for shorter hours. And I must say I agree with them.
S.A: You do?
Senator: Yes, I always did think that 60 minutes was too long for an hour.
S.A.: Some workers and picketers are becoming physically aggressive. What do you think of striking workers?
Senator: I say if the shoe fits, wear it. I personally struck three workers as I was coming out of my hotel this morning.
S.A.: And what do you think of Dick Cheney?
Senator: We old-timers fondly remember his work in horror movies.
S.A.: No, no, I'm not talking about Lon Chaney, I mean Dick. Well, Senator, I really want to thank you for coming down here to talk to us tonight.
Senator: Oh, it was nothing.
S.A.: That's true, but thank you anyway.