Would You Buy a Used Car From This Candidate?

(September 1992)


"Would you buy a used car from this man?"

A 1968 political cartoon had that caption under a drawing of an unshaven, leering Richard Nixon. The cartoon reflected Americans' uneasiness about the man they were about to elect as their president.

The question is topical again. Faced with a choice between Bill "Slick Willie" Clinton and George "Outright Liar" Bush, voters are asking themselves whether they can trust anyone.

I can't answer the trust question, but I can try to depict what buying a used car from each of these candidates might be like...


George Bush - "Hey, hey, nihaoma, welcome to George Bush Cadillac! Ya know, I don't like ta do the selling thing - my mother, a wonderful woman, except she made me eat broccoli and I hate broccoli - my mother told me not to say "I', not to boast, and I'm selling, well, when ya sell, ya gotta be personal, gotta boast, gotta brag, and I'm not gonna do it. Not gonna do it! Nope, hate ta sell, but love ta see those happy, shining faces leaving with a brand new American car.

"There's nothing I want more - except for my lovely wife Bar - wonderful with the grandkids - nothing I want more than to tell ya about this car, but my mother always taught me that self-gratification is bad, can't do it, gotta do your duty first. And it's my duty to tell ya about that Clinton fella selling cars down the street. Ya know, that guy is just plain slick - he's dishonest! He'll tell ya he's selling a basic car, but when yer not lookin' he'll slip on a bunch of expensive options and ya won't, ya, you'll get a bill and then you'll know. Bad! Bad! And ain't all - make sure ya don't take your wife to the showroom. Can't tell ya why not - beneath my dignity - proper bearing is important, can't roll in the mud of personal attack - but I'll make sure one of my salesmen lets ya know.

"What? No, doesn't have anythin' ta do with the car I'm sellin', just thought ya'd want ta, it's, well, it's important information. And I'm tellin' ya the truth about this guy - ya know, sometimes I say things just ta make a sale, but I'm really sincere this time. He's the failed owner of a small...How fast does this car go? How much horsepower? Well, now, I can't tell ya that 'til after ya buy the car - ya just gotta trust my judgment that it's a great car. Lemme have my assistant Danny-great guy, loyal, hard-working, horribly maligned by my ungrateful customers - have him come ovuh and tell ya 'bout that Clinton fella. Danny? Danny! Stop asking that woman who the father of her child is - it's none of your business and we're not gonna sell cars that way..."


Bill Clinton - "Hi, there, how are you today? Welcome to Slick Willie Buick/Volvo! How do you like the showroom? The plants? You don't like the plants? Mario! Come here and get rid of these plants! Is everything okay now? You're sure? 'Cause I'll change it again if you want me to. I'm real flexible that way.

"Let me tell you about the cars I've got: this here is a Volvo 400E. It is a five-door hatchback with a 2740cc six-cylinder engine that produces 148 horsepower and a maximum of 205 pounds-feet of torque. It has a five-speed manual transmission with gear ratios of 3.06, 1.95, 1.45, 1.00, and 0.73. The car is 111 inches long between the axles and has a total length...do you need some coffee or something? You've been yawnin' an awful lot.

"Guess you want me to get to the exciting stuff. First off, you'll notice the roomy back seat - it's big enough to do anything you all have in mind, if you know what I mean. This baby tops out at 120 mph - if that doesn't reel in the women, I don't know what will. Catch my drift?

"Now let's talk...Hillary? Hillary, darlin'? Where are you goin' with my wall calendar? I don't care - I like that calendar! Well, if that's a problem, then don't let Tipper's kids come anywhere near it. I don't know, Hillary, go ask Big Al - he's out in back building a treehouse...Sorry about that, sir. I want to talk prices with you, and let me tell you that you're getting a bargain. Here's the deal: I'll give you air conditioning, power steering, free maintenance for the lifetime of your car, road work if your street needs it...hell, I'll even build you a new garage! And I'll give all this to you for less than the basic model would cost anywhere else.

"How can we do it? Well, I'm going to make the rich pay more to offset my expenses. You know, in the '80s, the rich took advantage of favorable taxation and exchange rates and bought Rolls-Royces...big, long Rolls Royces...with 12-cylinder engines and quiet suspensions that kept the interior noise level below 68 decibels...sir? Sir? Are you all right? You were drooping off again. As I was saying, the rich will pay more so you can pay less...Well, sir, I'm sure my competitors are criticizing me for that. Their claims that the numbers don't balance aren't sincere - they are simply code words for their disdain of the poor and minorities! All that my competitors can do is lie and distort my record and attack my business methods. Let me give you the statistical correlations between their attacks and...sir? Sir? Where are you going?"


See you in six weeks at the car lot!