February 2004

Michael Schaub


The Democrats of 2004

Election season is upon us once again, and not a moment too soon. The November 2004 election is shaping up to be a wild ride, at least until George W. Bush uses the Patriot Act to cancel the vote and proclaim himself president-for-life. Until then, though, we can still at least pretend that our votes will make a difference. (Unless you live in the South or most of the Mountain West, in which case you're pretty much fucked.)

The best hope for all us liberals is whoever the Democratic Party happens to nominate. The field has been winnowed down considerably over the last few months. There are now six major candidates -- well, four major candidates and two candidates (Dennis Kucinich and Al Sharpton) who have managed to convince everybody that they're major candidates, even though they're less electable than Jello Biafra. I include them here because I enjoy making fun of them. I would have also enjoyed making fun of Dick Gephardt and Joe Lieberman, but they inconveniently dropped out shortly before my deadline. Bastards.

As luck would have it, all of the six major candidates have written books. Or at least hired people to write books for them. I decided I had a responsibility to the readers of Bookslut to read these books and report on them, so that our audience could make an informed decision about the Democratic candidates.

But it turns out that these books are not only expensive, they are also extremely boring. And because my editor pays me in pesos and Martha Stewart Omnimedia stock certificates, it was hard to work up the motivation necessary to tackle 1200 pages of clumsy prose written by some underpaid hacks. Fortunately, I'm good at pretending I've done things I actually haven't, so it all worked out in the end. I hope this guide helps all you Democrats out there make up your minds, and strikes fear in the hearts of all you Republicans: Watch out, boys, the Kucinich juggernaut is rolling on, and no man can stop it.

The Amazon sales ranks quoted below were accurate as of February 5.

The candidate: Sen. John Kerry (Massachusetts)
The book: A Call to Service: My Vision for a Better America (Viking, 202 pages, ISBN: 0670032603)
Amazon sales rank: 519
Book with higher Amazon sales rank: Stitch 'N Bitch: The Knitter's Handbook by Debbie Stoller (61, ISBN: 0060582510)
What this says about John Kerry: Frankly, I'm not sure I want to know.
John Kerry used to date: Morgan Fairchild.
What this says about John Kerry: The man really liked the show Flamingo Road. Ain't no crime.
This from a guy who's, like, 127 years old: "(John Kerry) looks like Abraham Lincoln -- after the assassination." -- Gore Vidal
Sample Amazon reader review: "A call to service my ass. It's more of a call from my credit card company asking, 'Did your card get stolen? Who bought this piece of poop?'" (An anonymous reader from -- wait for it -- New York)
Can he beat Bush? John Kerry was getting shot at in Vietnam while Bush was AWOL from the National Guard. But Bush wants to cut taxes, so probably not.

The candidate: Former Gov. Howard Dean (Vermont)
The book: Winning Back Americaa (Simon & Schuster, 192 pages, ISBN: 0743255712)
Amazon sales rank: 2954
Book with higher Amazon sales rank: Armageddon: Left Behind #11 by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins (1489, ISBN: 0842332367)
Howard Dean used to date: Morgan Fairchild. That's why Kerry's at his throat all the time.
Really? No.
Factor by which Howard Dean, a doctor, is smarter than President Bush: About 15 million
Will America care? No.
Sample Amazon reader review: "Yes, we can win back America when Howard Dean shuts the hell up. Go make sausages with your brother Jimmy Dean and sing a song with your cousins Jan and Dean." (J. Mike Knox of Pasadena, Calif.)
Can he beat Bush? Howard Dean was a huge success as governor of Vermont, balancing the state budget against all odds. But Bush wants to cut taxes, so probably not.

The candidate: Retired U.S. Army Gen. Wesley K. Clark (Arkansas)
The book: Winning Modern Wars: Iraq, Terrorism, and the American Empire (PublicAffairs, 240 pages, ISBN: 1586482181)
Amazon sales rank: 2019
Book with higher Amazon sales rank: The Book of Bunny Suicides by Andy Riley (538, ISBN: 0452285186)
Sample Amazon reader review: "By the way, having served under the man, I can personally attest to the fact that the man is a moral coward who will change his stripes to whatever seems the most politically advantageous. This book is just one more example." (An anonymous reader from Houston)
So he calls Clark a coward, but posts an anonymous review? Yeah, good work, soldier. I feel secure knowing yellow hypocrites like you are defending my country.
Can he beat Bush? Wes Clark is a war hero who pretty much singlehandedly put a stop to ethnic cleansing in Kosovo. But Bush wants to cut taxes, so probably not.

The candidate: Sen. John Edwards (North Carolina)
The book: Four Trials (Simon & Schuster, 237 pages, ISBN: 0743244974)
Amazon sales rank: 761
Book with higher Amazon sales rank: Where Is Baby's Belly Button? by Karen Katz (52, ISBN: 0689835604)
Isn't he that psychic guy? No. That's John Edward.
Isn't he that Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God guy? No. That's Jonathan Edwards.
Isn't he that Bachelor Party guy? No. That's Adrian Zmed.
Sample Amazon reader review: "He himself, on the campaign trail likes to tell you about his middle class upbringing, well how do you think he amassed the huge fortune or paid for his 8 bedroom, 6,672 square foot Washington D.C. home or pays the husband and wife nanny duo who take care of his children and fly them back and forth between the said Washington mansion and the campaign trail?" (An anonymous reader from Cary, N.C.)
Can he beat Bush? Edwards is intelligent, well-spoken, and morally courageous. But Bush wants to cut taxes, so probably not.

The candidate: Rev. Al Sharpton (New York)
The book: Al on America (Kensington, 304 pages, ISBN: 0758203519)
Amazon sales rank: 281307
Book with higher Amazon sales rank: Just Justin: Get With 'N Sync's Total Babe! by Kimberly Walsh with Anne M. Raso (79970, ISBN: 0439174503)
I hate to admit it, but: I kind of like this guy.
Sample Amazon reader review: "This sad, sorry literary effort merely reaffirms that Mr. Sharpton is little more than a posturing, flamboyant, hate-driven windbag whose chief purpose seems to be promoting divisiveness." (An anonymous reader from the United States)
"Hate-driven windbag": Would be a good name for an album.
Can he beat Bush? Yes, absolutely. I'm serious. What? Why are you looking at me like that?

The candidate: Rep. Dennis Kucinich (Ohio)
The book: A Prayer for America (Thunder's Mouth Press, 160 pages, ISBN: 1560255102)
Amazon sales rank: 7240
Album with higher Amazon sales rank: Meat Is Murder by The Smiths (5012, ASIN: B000002L7J)
This whole column was just an excuse to make that joke, wasn't it? Yeah, so what?
Age at which Kucinich discovered he was pro-choice: 56.
Age at which Kucinich discovered he was vegan: Uncertain, but sometime before he was 56.
Cabinet department Kucinich wants to establish: Department of Peace.
And now, an out-of-context quote from the congressman: "I would say there's a sense of which the doctrine of substantiation is connected to the Hindu religion's concepts of shakti, yanim and yipassana."
Sample Amazon reader review: "Only a fool would vote for someone who couldn't even keep the city of Cleveland solvent. Lots of heat but not much light. Obviously, this book was released to coincide with an anemic Presidential campaign. YACET (Yet Another Congressman's Ego Trip)." (Clayton Manning from Montana)
Can he beat Bush? Yes, absolutely. I'm serious. What? Why do you keep looking at me like that?