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Strange Bedfellow

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FOR A MOMENT, THE CANDIDATE’S FACE becomes thoughtful as he out-lines his foreign policy. “My first act as President would be to declare war on France,” he says. “We don’t like them, they don’t like us. It would be kind of fun.”

Mercifully the speaker is not George Bush. Neither is it Paul Tsongas, the only announced Democratic candidate for 1992. It is Dave Barry, the 44-year-old humorist, whose Miami Herald column appears in 500 newspapers around the country. He has written three bestsellers, and his ambition is boundless. He wants to be President, he says, and he announced his candidacy in his column. At least on Barry’s part, the mudslinging has already started: He has accused Tsongas of deliberately misspelling his own last name (“Are you aware that the letters in Paul E. Tsongas can be rearranged to spell gaseous plant?”) and will credit President Bush only with being taller than he is. Barry, who is combining his electioneering with a seven-city publicity tour for two books, Dave Barry Talks Back and Dave Barry Turns 40, was at the Four Seasons Hotel in Los Angeles on a recent weekend. Coincidentally, President Bush and his entourage showed up at the same time. “He must have been selling his book too,” figures Barry.

Reaction to his candidacy has been mixed. White House Press Secretary Marlin Fitzwater says, “I think he has a shot. But he may be too serious to be a politician.” Barry’s wife, Beth, 44, an editor at the Herald, may need to take remedial supportiveness lessons from Barbara Bush. “She thought it was a horrible idea and still does,” says Dave. “I think in part because I can use it as an excuse to get out of housework. She can say, ‘Did you put the boxes away?’ and I can say, ‘No, I can’t. Right now, I’m running for President.’ The more I think about it, that may be why Walter Mondale did it, or Michael Dukakis.”

And, far from being a Favorite Son, Barry isn’t even a Favorite Father in his Miami home. “He’s not going to make it,” predicts 10-year-old Robert. But what’s one puny pessimistic pundit to this presidential hopeful? “I actually saw one car with a DAVE BARRY FOR PRESIDENT sticker on it,” says Barry. “I thought, ‘Boy, the drug problem is worse than I thought.’ ”

Although Barry—whose last electoral victory came when he was chosen Class Clown at Pleasantville (N.Y.) High School in 1965—doesn’t care whether the Democrats or the Republicans take him, he is unshakable in his choice of a running mate—Dan Quayle. “He’s my man,” he says. “In fact, one of my slogans is, ‘Dave Barry and Dan Quayle. Just what the country needs: Two white guys in their 40s.’ ”

Barry cites one last reason why voting for him ought to make sense: “I’d like to go pretty much from being elected to working on my presidential library,” he says. “My library, by the way, would have a video arcade.” And probably a section devoted to the war with France.


DON SIDER in Miami