P residential politics are now zooming toward 1996.
Thus, Larry King had powerbroker Ross Perot on his CNN talk show the other night, and as usual proved a rapt listener while letting the Texas billionaire and former presidential candidate plug his pet enterprises, be evasive and pretty much have his own way.
It was Perot, you may recall, who launched his abortive but influential 1992 drive for the White House on “Larry King Live,” indelibly imprinting King on the campaign raceway and setting a trend that has made his show a mandatory pit stop for candidates and others wanting to expound at length without being challenged by the host.
In that regard, a partial transcript of an unpublicized King interview surfaced recently, a provocative dialogue that epitomizes the talk-show host’s tone and deserves wider exposure than it initially received.
King: I’m honored to have as my guest for the entire hour tonight an old friend of this show, Vlad the Impaler.
Vlad: Pleasure to be here, Larry.
King: And you’re running for Impaler of Walachia against a pretty tough fella.
Vlad: Michael the Boor.
King: A coldhearted monster, huh?
Vlad: He’s done a nice job of stringing up monks. I won’t deny that. But this is a job that demands real know-how from someone who’s spent his entire disgustingly evil career down there where the rubber meets the road, not some petty demon who thinks knotting a few nooses qualifies him to be the Impaler of Walachia.
King: Now Walachia--is that something like Brooklyn? You know I’m a Brooklyn boy, Vlad. That’s why I wear these suspenders. Bought a gross of ‘em for my friends, if you want a pair.
Vlad: If I wore suspenders I wouldn’t be me, Larry. I’d be part of the politics of illusion. Now you see it, now you don’t. Let’s forget about the politics of illusion and really get into the issues.
King: And the biggest issue in this election--one that your opponent, Michael the Boor, is always bringing up--is brutality. He says that you cannot be unbelievably cruel enough to be the Impaler of Walachia.
Vlad: Well, he would say that, Larry. But let me remind our viewers who it was who built the Fortress of Bucharest, then filled it with political prisoners and subsequently had them butchered. Who it was who beheaded the Council of Boyars. Who it was who organized the massacre of his oldest and dearest friend, Sigismund of Grumatz, and his kinsmen. And did it on a weekend, too, canceling a relaxing holiday of pillaging the villages of innocent Moldavian settlers. It wasn’t Michael the Boor, I can tell you that. It was Vlad the Impaler, Larry.
King: So it was you.
Vlad: Yes, and I’m happy to have the opportunity to say it directly to your viewers, Larry, and bypass the regular media who want to talk about balancing the budget, education and things like that. Let’s talk about the issues that matter. Let’s talk about my “contract with Walachia.” Let’s talk about my program for blood and gore, which I care about dearly. It’s all in here, Larry.
King: In the book that you’re holding up along with a three-foot card showing an 800 number that Walachians can call for details about your savagery?
Vlad: That’s right, Larry. And as viewers can see, the title of my book--and it’s also my campaign slogan--is “Give the People a Stake.”
King: Although I haven’t read the book, I’m sure it’s chock-full of delightful acts of sadism and fiendishness.
Vlad: That’s very perceptive, Larry. Let me also mention that “Give the People a Stake” contains an entire chapter on the wood stakes, or spikes , I use for impaling innocent victims. Unlike my opponent, mine come entirely from forests that I am rapidly depleting--along with their wildlife, let me add--by cutting down far more trees than I will ever use. It’s bold, it’s visionary, but I’ve always believed that leadership is not putting your gauntlet in the wind.
King: As a Brooklyn boy, I really respect that. And once more, that’s in “Give the People a Stake,” which you’re again holding up beside your 800 number?
Vlad: Yes, it’s in my excellent book, “Give the People a Stake.”
King: Let’s take a call from Petrascu of Transylvania.
Caller: Why don’t you tell the truth, Vlad, and admit that you’re too soft to do your own impaling? The public deserves to know that you use a ghost impaler.
Vlad: That’s what I mean by the politics of illusion, Larry. That’s a malicious lie, and I’ll stand on my record. My barbarity--who was it who personally impaled the Patriarch of Constantinople in front of his aged mother?--is documented. And I know a set-up call when I hear one. Michael, Michael the Boor, is that you?
King: He’s gone. But if that was you and you’re watching, Michael, I would like to suggest a debate on this program between you and Vlad. Or, if you’d prefer, I can give you the entire hour. No questions, no rebuttal, no preparation, free suspenders. If you like, I won’t even show up. How about it, pal?
Vlad: If you don’t make me the same offer, you’ll regret it.
King: Why is that?
Vlad: I’ll impale you.
King: I love it. I love it. Name a date and we’ll do it live on this show.