My girlfriend, Aimiee, and I finally returned from China on August 24. It was a few days earlier than we expected, thanks to a summer wind that came blowing in from … well, you know the rest. But before we could put down our bags or our new Chinese orphan or even Sing Sing, the panda we smuggled back with us, the phone rang. Senator John McCain, the Republican nominee for president, was calling to ask me to be his running mate.

Can you believe it? Neither could I. For one thing, I’ve never held political office. On the other hand, I voted for myself as a write-in candidate in the last three presidential elections, so I clearly have ambition. (Full disclosure: in 2000 and 2004 I ran as “Mike Hunt.”) But Senator McCain said he had read my “Sugar Blogger” posts and was impressed by how I pay lip service to important current events while pushing my real agenda of kissing up to celebrities. He said that sort of mind-set would come in handy when negotiating America’s foreign policy.

I eventually declined the senator’s crazy but generous offer; I don’t want to use up all of my remaining vacation hours at work on the campaign trail. Senator McCain graciously accepted my decision, and he said that the next time Cindy and he are in Chicago they’ll stop by and enjoy some grilled panda.

As everyone knows by now, he settled on Alaska governor Sarah Palin, whose well-received acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention on September 3 was viewed by 40 million people. Right now her poll numbers are higher than both McCain’s and Senator Barack Obama’s. Just think how popular I’d be by now! Oh, the sacrifices we often have to make for the greater good … not to mention those hotel reservations Aimiee and I made at the Wisconsin Dells way before Mr. Vietnam decided to call. You think I’m going to pay some stupid cancellation charge just because Americans need McCain and Cass to bring them reform, prosperity, and peace? No thanks.

The following is an excerpt from my conversation with Senator McCain, which I taped in honor of former Republican president Richard Nixon:

Me: Hey, why don’t you ask Bruce Willis to be your running mate?

McCain: Hmm … well, he is a Republican.

Me: Yeah, and he played John McClane in all those Die Hard movies. McCain and McClane. You have to admit it’d look good on bumper stickers.

McCain: Campaigns are about more than catchy slogans and rhymes, Robert.

Me: Really? Ooh! He could even use his song “Pep Talk” during his stump speeches. It’s from his second album, the one nobody bought. It has the line “If it don’t kill you, it just makes you stronger,” which definitely applies to your life, don’t you think?

McCain: I don’t need your charity.

Me: Good, because I’ve never donated. Now, since Bruce is a Republican, he won’t be like all those liberal rock stars who constantly ask you guys to stop using their songs in your campaigns. Hey, I wonder if he’ll pull out his harmonica during the vice presidential debates. Wouldn’t that be fun!

McCain: It certainly wouldn’t be appropriate.

Me: America does need a pep talk, Senator.

McCain: That’s true, but—

Me: Ooh! How about Mel Gibson? You’re a maverick, and he played Maverick in that movie! The one called Maverick!

McCain: No. Bad idea. He’d scare off certain well-funded minority voters.

Me: What are you talking ab— Oh. Right. The Jew thing. Wait, what about James Garner? He played Maverick first. And he played a president in that movie My Fellow Americans, which was pretty much “Grumpy Old Presidents” minus Walter Matthau.

McCain: I didn’t see it.

Me: No one did.

McCain: Was he a Democrat president or a Republican president?

Me: Uh … I think he was the Democrat. Yeah, Jack Lemmon was the Republican. Nuts. Hey, what about Jack— Wait … he’s dead, isn’t he?

McCain: I don’t think a rich actor is the way to go. My crazy, cuckoo, maverick gut tells me I need an unknown Washington outsider.

Me: Yeah. Sure. You mean like Bush eight years ago?

McCain: President Bush has effectively proven—

Me: Oh, c’mon, you hate that guy.

McCain: That is not true. President Bush has done a fine—

Me: Spin all you want — I’m not listening! La la la la!

McCain: Alright, fine — I want someone who’s more of an outsider than the president.

Me: Have you got anybody in mind besides me?

McCain: Well, there’s one person. The governor of Alaska.

Me: Never heard of it.

McCain: You’ve never heard of Alaska?

Me: No, I meant “him.”

McCain: Then why’d you say “it”?

Me: I have boat lag, okay? I was on that steamship for weeks. [I took a deep breath.] I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have yelled like that.

McCain: You didn’t yell.

Me: Well, I’m pretty sure I meant to. So what’s this governor’s name?

McCain: First off, it’s not a him. It’s a her. Sarah Palin.

Me: Oh. [I paused as I realized the senator’s master plan.] Ohhhhhhhh … Hey, good one! Way to go after those female voters who want revenge on Oprah for betraying their gender.

McCain: Exactly, Robert. I only want to accomplish one thing in this campaign, and that’s sticking it to the queen of America.

Me: Really?

McCain: No. That was a joke.

Me: It’d be funnier if you added an evil laugh.

McCain: Well, alright. [He cleared his throat.] Mwahahahahahahaha. Was that good?

Me: Can you put more echo on it?

McCain: Mwahahahahahaha(hahaha)(haha)(ha)!!!!!! Better?

Me: Better. How long has Governor Palin been in office?

McCain: Since December of ’06.

Me: Less than two years? Wait, haven’t you been complaining that Obama doesn’t have enough experience to be president?

McCain: But Governor Palin has executive experience. Senator Obama doesn’t have that. Senator Biden doesn’t have it. Even I don’t have it.

Me: Bush had it before he became president. Lot of good it did him.

McCain: President Bush is a true leader who has shown—

Me: Still not listening! La la la la!

McCain: Stop that.

Me: Look, if I change my mind and say yes, can I have a gun?

McCain: No.

Me: C’mon, I could be my own Secret Service guy. The economy’s tight right now. We need to make some tough decisions.

McCain: This country has tougher decisions to make than whether or not you should have a gun.

Me: Fine, I’ll join the NRA.

McCain: Yippee! Twenty-five-dollar referral fee, here I come!

Bruce Willis, “Pep Talk” (from 1989’s If It Don’t Kill You, It Just Makes You Stronger)

About the Author

Robert Cass

Robert Cass lives in Chicago. For Popdose he's written under the Sugar Water, Bootleg City, and Box Office Flashback banners and collaborated on the series 'Face Time with Jeff Giles and Mike Heyliger.

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