Pick the job with the lowest status:
a. Tollbooth operator.
b. Deodorant tester.
c. Ty-D-Bol Man.
d. Chairman of the Republican National Committee.
It's a close call. Perhaps the AP poll would go with the deodorant tester and the UPI poll would pick the tollbooth operator, while the Ty-D-Bol Man would be champion of the New York Times computer rankings.
But at this rate, by next year they will all be blown away by the GOP chairmanship. As anyone who reads far too much about politics knows, President Bush designated the relative heavyweight William J. Bennett to succeed the ailing Lee Atwater in the top party job, but last month Bennett suddenly announced that he didn't want it, because he wouldn't make enough money. Since then the job has dropped down below slip-and-fall lawyer on the status scale and any day now will plummet below that of those struggling actors in the male pattern baldness commercials.
"They're going down and down and down and it's becoming more and more difficult to find someone willing to do it," says David Keene, a Republican operative with his own consulting firm. "It's amazing, isn't it?"
People are practically lining up at the White House to announce that they will not serve if called. Once-loyal Republicans are fleeing from the job in the kind of hysterical frenzy not seen since the Khomeini funeral. Craig Fuller, Bush's chief of staff a few years ago, doesn't want it. Mitchell Daniels, former White House political director, doesn't want it. James A. McClure, retired senator from Idaho, doesn't want it. Now they're talking about Clayton Yeutter of the Department of Agriculture. It says in the paper that a fellow named Rich Bond has asked not to be considered for the job. No normal earthling has ever heard of Rich Bond. All we know about him is that his name sounds like a brand of typing paper. Yet even he's too big for this little job. It has reached the point where you seriously wonder if an American Indian will show up one morning to reject the job on behalf of Marlon Brando.
"This is a job that people normally kill for. This is the pinnacle of success for a party operative, to be chairman of the national party," says one conservative Republican insider.
But that was in the days of the Great Whisperer. When the old man was in charge, making the same speech every time up at the podium, sticking to his six-shooters, there was never any doubt as to what it meant to be a Republican. Communists were bad. Taxes were bad. Welfare cheaters and hippies and pushy atheists were bad. Homosexuals were perverts. Abortion was murder, and that, of course, was bad. You hung a flag at the front door and above the hearth you had a map of Chappaquiddick.
"You could thump the tub against communism, against taxes, against abortion and so on. You have a very clearly defined political agenda," says the insider. "Now look at the party. Fund-raising is off dramatically because the $25 donor doesn't see what he's getting for his money. We have a technocrat president and technocracy is not very attractive as a political philosophy."
There are several job requirements that seem to have made the top GOP job distasteful:
1. Deferring to the president's staff, specifically White House Chief of Staff John Sununu.
2. Going to banquets in places like Rochester and Kansas City and dealing with people in ugly blazers who want to know why the president, for all his many virtues, is sort of a doofus.
3. Passing John Sununu in the hall.
4. Not making millions of dollars.
5. Being in the same Zip code as John Sununu.
"There have been smoother job hunts," grossly understates John Buckley, a communications consultant and former member of the Republican National Congressional Committee. "Take it from me, it is still fun to be a Republican." A pause. "Did I say that like I was trying to convince myself?"
So who'll get the job?
Raghib "Rocket" Ismail?
Can you say Shevardnadze?