Here's one of the most frustrating things that can happen to a columnist: You start a column, and the next day you discover that someone else has written one that's very similar. At that point, you make a decision: Go ahead with the planned column, or ditch it so no one thinks you're ripping off another writer's idea. But I trust readers, and, after all, I was halfway through with this column before I saw that other one. Oh, to heck with it. I swear this column was an original idea! It's just that with all the brouhaha about plagiarism and fictional "memoirs" lately, you can't be too careful.
OK, getting too overheated. Let me back up. Deep breath. I began this "Obama VP choices" piece last week (OK, I actually started it the day before I'm writing this sentence, which should be called "yesterday," but since you won't read this until the March 26 issue, we need to use the term "last week" -- it's one of the odd conceits of writing a weekly piece). So, anyhow, the day after I started the column (i.e., today, or again, "last week" -- I hope you're keeping up with this), I saw that Will Durst, a national political humor columnist, had just posted a "50 Suggestions for McCain's VP" story (see it at www.alternet.org/columnists/story/79950). I'm recounting all this, um, fascinating, behind-the-scenes information in order to cover my butt, er, I mean, to assure you that I did, in fact, come up with this column before the evil Durst tried to sabotage my masterpiece. Hmm, you know what, though? I think I will steal his formatting idea, after all. OK, enough postmodern process disclosure. Here we go. Ideas for a running mate for Sen. Obama.
• HILLARY CLINTON. Takes care of fans of "women with power" right off the bat.
• MIKE HUCKABEE. Would secure the votes of formerly fat people who play electric guitar and don't believe in evolution.
• CHERIE BERRY. North Carolina's Labor Secretary would balance the ticket in three ways: She's a woman, she's a Republican, and she's a slave to corporate interests at the expense of the public good. Oops, maybe not a good choice after all.
• MICKEY MOUSE. Incredibly popular, would help lock down the Florida vote, and his ears would match his running mate's.
• GEORGE W. BUSH. The most ironclad case of "assassination insurance" in VP-picking history.
• MITT ROMNEY. Guarantees support from the Obscenely Wealthy Corporate Automaton community.
• CAROLINE KENNEDY. All the talk about Obama's "Kennedyesque mystique" would be kicked up to mind-boggling levels that even our McCain-worshipping press would have to notice.
• WILLIE NELSON. A genius pick that nails Texans, pot-smokers and senior voters at the same time.
• ELIOT SPITZER. Now and then a First Lady can start to get on a president's nerves. Eliot can help.
• AL GORE. He's already been there, done that. Plus, he'll lock down the dirt-worshipping tree hugger vote.
• DALE EARNHARDT JR. Need to suck up to the white working class? You got it. Could help reverse 40 years of GOP dominance in the South.
• ELLEN DEGENERES. A draw for voters who watch talk shows, dance at the drop of a hat, cry over dogs, support gay rights and/or want a woman on the ticket but not someone Michelle Obama would have to worry about.
• GEORGE MCGOVERN. If a Republican debacle is as certain as some pundits believe, why not go ahead and really rub it in?
• JANE FONDA. Ditto.
• LARRY KING. Picking someone even older than John McCain -- heck, older than McCain's mother -- would instantly deal with the "inexperienced" and "too young" question.
• BRITNEY SPEARS. No matter what the right-wing press digs up on Obama, his youthful personal choices will always seem wise compared to hers.
• THE DALAI LAMA. Yeah yeah, he's not American, but for God's sake, it's the Dalai friggin' Lama here! It's a shoo-in -- go for it!
• CHAKA KHAN. Just so Obama can get the band to play "Baby Got Back" on the final night of the convention.
• AL SHARPTON. Fuck 'em if they can't take a joke.
• KATIE COURIC. Simultaneously secures the older TV-news-watching crowd and moves the ticket away from public perception as too "intellectual," or even smart.
• ANGELINA JOLIE. Could get Congress to revise the whole concept of "No child left behind."
• MICHAEL SCHIAVO. What better way to remind voters of what happens when you let Republicans run the government?
• SUE MYRICK. Anything. Just get her away from Charlotte.
• TIM RUSSERT. Little-known secret: Russert's giant head is actually a storage locker that could be used as hiding place for the President in case of assassination attempt.
• DAVID BECKHAM. Two words: Soccer moms.
And finally, just to be fair, my favorite entry in Will Durst's "McCain VP" story:
• TED WILLIAMS' HEAD. Future focused. Travel costs slashed. Low maintenance.