The most bizarre part of running for president of the United States is the people who want to introduce themselves to you in the men's room, Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry told Jon Stewart last night.
See, this is why it's so important for the candidates to appear on Comedy Central's "Daily Show" -- the best news and information program in the land according to the Television Critics Association. This is the kind of information about the candidates you're just not going to get from "60 Minutes" or ABC's "World News Tonight" or "The Today Show."
Kerry is the first presidential nominee to appear on "The Daily Show." Host Stewart wasted no time grilling him.
"I watch a lot of the cable news shows, so I understand that apparently you were never in Vietnam," Stewart said.
"That's what I understand, too -- I'm trying to find out what happened," Kerry joked.
Kerry also said a lot of stuff about the allegations over his war record being disappointing because he thinks most Americans would like to have a much more intelligent conversation about where the country's going, and that he's seen a "web and network" behind the ads that have attacked his Vietnam War record, and how President Bush doesn't want to talk about the real issues because, after all what's he gonna do, come out and say we've lost 1.8 million jobs and 4 million Americans lost their health care and how we're going backward on the environment and we have angered everybody in the world?
But you can get that stuff on all the other "news" programs. Kerry delivered some of it in the speech he gave yesterday at the Great Hall at Cooper Union college in New York. We're focusing on the stuff you can't get anywhere else.
Like the fact that Kerry said he might have his inauguration on "The Daily Show." I bet Tim Russert doesn't have that.
Stewart also asked Kerry if he is more liberal than Karl Marx and if he wants our troops to go to war wearing only gabardine, which, he said, he learned from watching 24-hour cable news networks.
Kerry responded that the president abused the authority he was given as a kind of trust, having promised that he would build an international coalition to handle Iraq, which he clearly did not do, and that "you don't go to war because you want to, you to go war because you have to." How he got there off Stewart's question remains a mystery.
"I've heard [Bush] is very shrewd in debates . . . saying, 'Look, this is a choice. It's a very easy choice between a man who loves Fidel Castro and someone who loves America.' How do you think you will ever be able to have an honest discussion?" Stewart asked.
"That's the test of debates," Kerry explained. "The president has won every debate he's ever had. People need to understand that. He beat Ann Richards. He beat Al Gore. He's a good debater and debates are sort of formulaic. But I believe that the truth is what people are looking for."
Okay, you can probably get that on "60 Minutes."
Stewart wanted to know if oil would turn out to be the United States' kryptonite.
"The United States has 3 percent of the world's oil reserves. We import 61 percent of our oil. There is no possible way for us to drill our way out of this crisis. We have to invent our way out of it . . . by moving to alternatives, to renewables, to fuel-efficient vehicles, to biomass."
Which was the perfect straight-man opening for Stewart to suggest that cars should run on Twinkies.
"Fast food, that sort of thing. We are the fattest people in the world. We could do this -- liposuction right into the car. Zip, zoom, done."
Then, somehow, when Kerry was noting that anyone can come to one of his rallies but you have to sign a loyalty oath to get into a Bush rally, Kerry just mentioned in passing, "You'd be amazed the number of people who want to introduce themselves to you in the men's room."
"Really?" Stewart said, stunned that he was suddenly Kerry's straight man.
"God, it's the most bizarre part of this entire campaign."
Stewart saved his last minute to question Kerry about his fabulously wealthy and outspoken wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry.
"Is it true that every time I use ketchup your wife gets a nickel?" he asked.
"Would that it were. Would that it were," Kerry replied, adding, "but use the ketchup a lot anyway."