Ask not what money can do for you…

As this stranger-than-usual US political season comes to a close (highlighted by some stranger-than-usual candidates), I thought I'd put this in context by drawing attention to an event that occurred thirty years ago this week, which might help explain the present situation.

Two days after the 1980 US Presidential election, won by Ronald Reagan, I went on national television to introduce myself as a "neo-independent" candidate for US President for 1984. (I thought I'd get an early start.)

The results of my campaign? Though I ran without the support of a political party and spent just a few hundred dollars, I won only one less state than Democratic nominee Walter Mondale, who spent $27 million in his losing bid to Ronald Reagan.

Here's an edited clip of my appearance on NBC's Tomorrow Show, hosted by Tom Snyder.

While US Presidential candidates have campaigned for decades on the importance of fiscal restraint, how many have modeled it in their campaign? I learned from my rock & roll days—when I lived on $2.50 a day—how to stretch a dollar.

But more importantly, my campaign introduced a new breed of American politician who could soar above the clang and clatter of the public square, with a mind uncluttered with details, unencumbered by data, unbiased by facts.

I was able to transcend any limitations of knowledge, education, and—some would say—character in order to reawaken an archetypal dream of a simpler America, where simple words (if repeated thousands of times) are all we need to grasp simple truths.

Based on the returns from today's elections it's clear that this political formula is finally succeeding. In fact my campaign motto of thirty years ago—Ask not what money can do for you, ask what you can do for money—seems to resonate more poignantly with the values of today.

So now we have a new wave of public servants and political aspirants, including a possible Presidential candidate for 2012, who have committed to memory my blueprint for success. Do we celebrate this moment? Or do we hide the children?

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  1. Back then, John, you said you'd rather be on Venus watching the Reagan experiment. Today, the Venusians have landed and are threatening to take over.

  2. I'd go with hiding the children. Or shipping them to the countryside until the war is over. Are you proud of your creation, Doktor Frankenstein?

  3. It is a world gone mad! I may have to block every news station on my TV - pornography! Especially if the worst happens with the nomination in '12.
    John, what you wrote here is so damn funny and makes me smile a lot. And that is a good thing, because if I lose my mind with all of this, I will be able to (vaguely) remember what it felt like to smile.

  4. Ali, I'd feel more proud if my monsters would give me a little credit. In the meantime I may join your children in the countryside.

    Dorothy, thanks for the reminder about the 2012 campaign — which officially begins tomorrow. Can't wait.

  5. Based on results thus far your "monsters" are doing alright, except for Christene O'Donnell in Delaware, who copied your playbook - and still lost.

  6. "Ask not what money can do for you...
    Ask what you can do for money..."

    Let the record show I have repeatedly and frequently advocated for another John O'Leary run for office. This clip illustrates why.

    That was terrific sir! Most excellent indeed...

  7. Hey John!! Just posted the interview on Facebook!!!! LMFAO!!!!
    Where the hell was I when you did this?? Don't answer that please....


  8. On 12 Step programs:

    On The Bob Newhart Show - the first one - he had some patients who had a problem with stuttering. He said he was going to start a Stutters Anonymous. If the members felt like they were going to stutter they would ... get together ... go out ... get drunk.

    So, John. I am not doing well with my political addiction, either. Should we ... get together ... go out .... get drunk?

    (PS. Is this very not PC? Newhart said it, not me. And I had a speech problem as a kid. So don't holler at me, anyone. I have enough problems already, watching the news.


  9. Ali: Christene O'Donnell spent a FEW more million than I did in my own campaign, but who's counting.

    Dave: I've been in a 12-step program to end my political addiction. But clearly it's not working.

  10. John
    You missed your calling....
    You could have had a great career as a political comedian....

    Here's what I'm doing for money!

    care to read?


  11. I agree with Dave... you should have been the precursor to the Daily Show/Colbert Report!! And you are more sensible than Bill Maher to boot!!

  12. Nick, what happens in Vegas...
    Dorothy, I too stuttered as a kid.
    David, I never thought of you as a public bank, but if you're FDIC- approved and offer good interest...
    Mark, keep up the good work on your blog.

  13. Hey. I didn't know you had a blog. Where have I been?

    <<...simple words (if repeated thousands of times) are all we need to grasp simple truths.>>

    So you're the one to blame for this?


  14. Peter: as to where you've been, maybe you were with Nikki J (see above) in Vegas?

    As I wrote on a Facebook post... The trick is to create a hypnotic, mantra effect with your words that bypasses the neocortex of the listener. Those who have faithfully studied my formula from 30 years ago know exactly how to do this. Simple & repetitive is the name of the game. But these phrases need to be rich in apparent meaning. You want people to feel satisfied with these high calorie sound bites, so they can take very long naps. It works best when the words sound familiar but no one knows what they mean. ("Socialist takeover" is of course the gold standard: it has high obfuscation AND high sedation value.)

    To quote my mentor, Richard Nixon, "I'll take the responsibility but not the blame" for all of this. Whatever that means.

  15. Peter, I can recognize the earmarks of my 1984 communication strategy in all of her work — her impenetrable logic, her marvelously-bewildering-yet-rudimentary linguistic constructions, her mystical appeal to the agrarian "Volk," her expansive and all-inclusive patriotism. Every time I hear "death panels" and "death tax" it takes my breath away. What creativity! We'll be studying this marketing phenomenon for decades in our business schools. BTW, I've offered this motto for Palin's 2012 Presidential campaign: "I see dead people." It continues the buoyant arc of her mortality motif while reminding us she sees only the best in human beings.

  16. i just read that mondale won only 1 state ... so that means you won how many states? ... you lived on $2.50 a day ... was that in the 1920s?

    i would have voted for you if i was old enough ... you probably weren't in the tank for anyone if you only had a couple hundred bucks to spend ... bring on palin in '12 so the whole rotting system can collapse ... rock on, bro.

  17. Thanks for your inspiring vision, t. Yes, you're technically right. Mondale won only one state, his own, in 1984. But I could have flipped a few states if my core constituency (convicted felons) were allowed to vote in more states. I also got a lot of good press in Canada and the UK but draconian American election laws discounted votes from citizens of other countries. (Elitism at its worst.) Meanwhile they're still counting the write-in votes (there are literally HUNDREDS of them) from 1984, under the radar of the Supreme Court.

    I really did live on $2.50 a day ($1 of that for food) in the 70s, while playing rock & roll in southern California. I could buy a can of sardines for a quarter, a banana for a dime, salad basics for a quarter, etc. And I could usually find a compassionate fan to take me out to dinner every few days. Nowadays most people just aren't sufficiently frugal (or exploitative) to live within their (or their friends') means.

    But it's important to maintain outrage against the profligacy of spending in this country — especially in our campaigns. Candidates are spending MILLIONS of oil lobbyists' hard-earned dollars. It's obsenely wasteful. Politicians can be bought much more inexpensively, especially in a down economy.

    My campaign promise to my backers was more simple & honest: "You scratch my back and I'll scratch my back." Everybody knew where they stood.

    See you on the trail, dude. Save me a seat at the Apocalypse.

  18. I've been paying attention to politics since about 1965 (except for those lost years in the 70s). I have never seen a more hotly divided climate. And through the Looking Glass? I never dreamed there would be a day when Intellectual would become a 4 letter word. (Smrt?)

  19. Yes, isn't it amazing? Who'da thunk there'd be SO many new political candidates with minds "uncluttered with details, unencumbered by data, unbiased by facts." Wait—that's a good thing, right?

  20. During my presidential run too many folks wanted to have a beer with me. I always paid and it wiped out my campaign budget.

    By the way, I always cook with beer. Ever try that? I find it REALLY improves the flavor of the meal. Sometimes I even put it in the cooking.

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