I'm loath to provide the Republicans any tips to secure four more years in the Oval Office, but in watching George W. Bush stumble through the presidential debates with all the grace of Zab Judah pleading with Jay Nady, it's clear to me there's an easy way to ensure re-election.
For all of you Dubya supporters who cringe every time he sputters to start a sentence or furls his brow in confusion, there is an unabashed campaign supporter available to quell your worries.
This dynamic force could counsel the president on the finer points of verbal expression, a move that would guarantee the incumbent more bonus points in the polls than a Eugenia Williams scorecard.
The magic solution is Don King.
In another society the most fantabulous, most magnanimous, most stupendous promoter of all promoters would be a worthy presidential candidate in his own right and probably would annihilate both Bush and John Kerry in a podium showdown.
King is erudite and charismatic. His sermons are streaked with history lessons, pointed sociological observations and civic policy advice. He has the uncanny ability to speak as adeptly to a commoner as he does a ruthless dictator — and I'm not referring to Jose Sulaiman. King has brokered deals with world leaders and broken bread with some of the most influential international politicos.
He would stand a wonderful chance at election himself if he hadn't killed two people, served four years in prison and was a former numbers runner, or if he hadn't been the subject of three grand jury investigations, lawsuits the number of which he says “would be an injustice to hypothesize” and accusations of everything from tax evasion to fleecing fighters to serial filibustering.
But I digress.
All great fights deserve a trilogy, and this fall's debates are no different. Bush had his belt buckle handed to him by Kerry in the first debate (a la Mike Tyson against Lennox Lewis). Kerry was impressive in last week's rematch but faded down the stretch to let Bush win a razor-thin majority decision (a la De La Hoya against Felix Trinidad).
Now it's time for the rubber match tonight at Arizona State University. They're calling it “The Tempest in Tempe,” a slogan fit for a fight poster if ever there was one.
It would be the perfect time for the Republicans if King were to step in and make sure everything went according to plan, and I could think of no better debate coach when I sat down with He of the Fuzzy Noggin prior to Felix Trinidad's victory over Ricardo Mayorga early this month.
King was stumping as hard for Bush as he was for his Nov. 13 heavyweight fight card at roundtable press conference for the Madison Square Garden event.
“He'd knock Kerry out, man! Slam dunk!” King replied when asked how Bush would fare if the candidates met in boxing ring.
King's allegiance was visible. No fewer than nine Bush campaign buttons, including one that even depicted the president's twin daughters, adorned his denim jacket, which was flecked with rhinestones and airbrushed with a rendition of Mt. Rushmore. He wore a light blue dress shirt, a tie that featured the U.S. Constitution's preamble and a necklace with a large diamond crucifix.
“He got too much intestinal fortitude, too much tenacity, too much guts and the punching power is devastating,” King continued in his fast, freewheeling patter. His unlit, slightly chewed cigar lie on the table next to a pair of miniature American flags ready for waving.
“You know, Kerry would be confused as to what punch he should through. 'Maybe I should throw a jab. Maybe I should throw a right hand. Maybe an uppercut. Whoa! Maybe it's a right cross.' By the time he makes up his mind, Bush has done mugged him in the alley, got him drunk and knocked him out.”
King has been a vocal proponent of the Bush administration since — well, since it took office.
If we know anything about King it's that he loves a winner. He stepped between the ropes with Joe Frazier for that 1973 blockbuster bout in Jamaica, but left with George Foreman. And as King biography writer Jack Newfield wrote of the 1983 Gerrie Coetzee-Michael Dokes title fight in South Africa, the promoter “jumped into the ring, stepping right over the fallen black champion he called his son to embrace the new white champion from the land he had condemned.”
King was an ardent Bill Clinton supporter, has predicted Hilary Clinton will be the nation's first female president and donated $250,000 to House Democrats in 2000.
In the past year, however, King has given at least $42,500 to the Republican National Committee, according to the Wall Street Journal.
In other words, King is the epitome of a flip flopper.
But the Hall of Fame promoter's money and his street credibility have made him a high-profile friend of the re-election campaign. He was an extremely visible guest at the Republican convention in New York and has campaigned for the president alongside National Committee chairman Ed Gillespie.
“I was with Bill Clinton when Bill Clinton was running because I'm a Republocrat,” King said. “Bill Clinton is a good guy. I love Bill Clinton. I have no problem with Bill Clinton. But Bill Clinton ain't president.”
It's easy to be suspicious King's motives regarding this election. He just so happened to get on the bandwagon right around the time Republican Senator John McCain's boxing reform bill — a proposal that would change the very system that made King wealthy — started to gain acceptance.
“I think that these people that are using him [the Republican party] cannot know anything about his record,” the Wall Street Journal quoted McCain as saying at the convention.
But no one can deny King's persuasiveness, and that's something from which Bush can learn.
Bush clearly has a little promoter in him. He struck up a war behind the Weapons of Mass Destruction threat, which turned out to be as real as Peter McNeeley's Cocoon of Horror. Then there was “Mission Accomplished,” which I think was the banner above the dais after Mike Tyson defeated Bruce Seldon.
But where Bush clearly falls short of King is in his ability to communicate. Both sound like they make up words, but I can't tell you the number of times I've dictated audio tape of a King interview and discovered a legitimate word I never knew existed.
King's quotes zip right through my word processor's spellchecker, while Bush is infamous for uttering such words as “misunderestimated,” “securitize,” “insticated,” “embetterment” and, my favorite, “Hispanically.”
King's vernacular can be crude, but no one can deny its effectiveness. Bush would need a speechwriter and hours of practice to sound half as eloquent. Rumors abound Bush was wearing a Boba Fett-style radio backpack to help him get through last week's debate.
“If he falls short of the mark of how he said what he said or didn't say, this man has got a heart, he's got confidence,” King said. “He's a molder of consensus rather than a follower of consensus. He says what he means and means what he says. His enemies fear him and his friends respect him.
“George Walker Bush has got balls. This guy has testicles. You want to talk about my country 'tis of thee? I'll fight to death for this country. This is the greatest nation in the world. I've been around, and I can tell you you have to be strong. You can't deal with some of these people with a cup of coffee and a pat on the back.”
King's liveliness is what has kept him at the top of his profession for three decades. Oct. 30 will mark the 30th anniversary of the Rumble in the Jungle. King negotiated with Zaire's homicidal dictator, President Joseph Mobutu, to guarantee a $10 million purse for Muhammad Ali and Foreman. Now that's diplomatic relations.
“There ain't been a baseball player, football player, soccer player or businessman that's been No. 1 for three decades,” King said. “Three decades and still counting.”
Only in America.
Who said it, the president or the King?
Here's a quiz to see if you can decipher quotes from two of America's most befuddling-yet-entertaining orators, President Bush and Don King. Both of them like to use big words, but only one of them is good at it:
1. Sometimes I amaze myself. I say this humbly.
2. I'm the master of low expectations.
3. Free societies are hopeful societies. And free societies will be allies against these hateful few who have no conscience, who kill at the whim of a hat.
4. You're right sometimes when you say whether a person should have the right to be able to make a subjective analyzation of who he may think who may be doing this, that or the other.
5. I want the folks to see me sitting in the same kind of seat they sit in, eating the same popcorn, peeing in the same urinal.
6. And for that I have to take the whupping that they whup on me. But I do it with a smile because I stand ever ready to fight any wrong and help any right.
7. You get shot at with darts and arrows in the business world, but they were shooting bullets and bombs where I came from, brother. Going to Iraq ain't nothing but a skirmish for me.
8. Families is where our nation finds hope, where wings take dream.
9. We actually misnamed the war on terror, it ought to be “the struggle against ideological extremists who do not believe in free societies who happen to use terror as a weapon to try to shake the conscience of the free world.”
10. When we started, it was based on lies. It's changing now. There are no secrets in the business. You've got to come with the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. It's becoming very confusing.