It isn't too early to think about
                          Election 2000

                          BY DAVE BARRY

                          AS WE, THE American people, approach the new millennium, we
                          face many troubling questions. One is: How can we, as a nation, be
                          sure that we have spelled ``millennium'' correctly? The easiest way is
                          to remember the old poem that we were all taught back in elementary

                          Two n's and two l's

                          You've spelled it quite well

                          One l or one n

                          You're a big fat stupid hen

                          But an even bigger question facing us, in the year 2000 before the
                          millennium, is: Can we, as a nation, get past the divisiveness, the
                          bitterness, the sliminess -- in short, the Jerry-Springer-ness that
                          plagued us throughout 1998? It will not be easy. The American public
                          is still deeply divided, according to a recent Gallup Poll showing that:

                             72 percent of the public agrees with the statement, ``President
                          Clinton has been punished enough.''

                             71 percent of the public agrees with the statement, ``President
                          Clinton has not been punished enough.''

                             73 percent of the public agrees with the statement, ``The Grand
                          Canyon was created by a race of fierce, prune-eating hamsters from

                          These poll results remind us, as if we needed reminding, that the
                          public cannot be trusted to decide any issue more complex than ``eat
                          in'' vs. ``take out.'' That is why we need leadership, defined, in the
                          United States Constitution, as ``white men in dark suits, and possibly
                          Elizabeth Dole.'' Even as you read these words, such men are gearing
                          up for the 2000 presidential campaign -- a campaign that promises to
                          deliver all the drama and high-voltage, spine-tingling excitement that is
                          evoked by the phrase ``Lamar Alexander.''

                          That's right: Lamar -- a man who lights up a room the way a Zippo
                          lights up Mammoth Cave -- is one of the leading Republicans now
                          ``testing the waters.'' Other potential GOP timbers include George
                          Herbert Walker Thurston Crumpet Bush Jr., Steve ``51 Years
                          Without Blinking'' Forbes, somebody named ``John'' and the late
                          Calvin Coolidge.

                          Meanwhile, on the Democratic side, the big news is the official
                          formation of a campaign organization for -- get ready -- Al Gore. This
                          should come as a big surprise to anybody who has spent his or her
                          entire life locked inside a meat freezer, because Al has basically been
                          running for president since he emerged from the womb, clutching, in
                          his tiny hand, a position paper on breast-feeding. Al's biggest
                          drawback is that he appears stiff in public, to the point at which
                          sometimes, when he's carrying out his primary constitutional duty as
                          vice president -- which is to stand behind the president and look
                          earnest while the president issues his daily apology to the nation -- Al
                          will look down and see beavers gnawing on his shins.

                          Al's main rival for the Democratic presidential nomination is former
                          Sen. Bill Bradley, a man who, in terms of his ability to fire up a
                          crowd, makes Al look like K.C. and the Sunshine Band. Other
                          leading Democrats testing the waters include Gary ``Why Not?'' Hart,
                          somebody named ``John,'' and Dick Gephardt, who has had over
                          600 gallons of Rogaine injected into his forehead in a
                          so-far-unsuccessful attempt to grow eyebrows.

                          So there you have the main contenders in the upcoming presidential
                          race, a.k.a. CharismaFest 2000. Over the next year, each of these
                          men will try to develop a Vision For the Future, defined as ``around
                          $40 million in cash.'' They will use some of this vision to pay for polls
                          so they can find out what their views are; they will use the rest for TV
                          commercials explaining these views in terms that are understandable
                          to the average American voter or cocker spaniel (``Vote for John.
                          You like John. John have same views as you. See John with family!
                          See John wear dark suit! John very good. Other man very bad.
                          Remember: John.'').

                          AT THIS point the question that is on your mind, if you care about
                          the future of this nation, is: ``Wouldn't `The Fierce Prune-Eating
                          Hamsters from Space' be an excellent name for a rock band?'' I think
                          we can all agree that it would. I think we can also agree that America
                          desperately needs a new kind of presidential candidate -- not another
                          droning, wingtipped, intern-groping, lip-biting, political clone who
                          can't burp without putting out a press release; but a normal person, a
                          regular guy, a plain-talking ``Joe Sixpack'' type of individual who has
                          spent his life working in the REAL world, developing honest calluses
                          on his hands and honest sweat stains in both of his armpits from toiling
                          away at the harsh, sometimes brutal, but vitally necessary job of
                          producing one humor column per week.

                          Does such a person exist? To answer that question, in the next few
                          months I will personally conduct an intensive nationwide search,
                          traveling, if necessary, to all four corners of my office. Let us hope, as
                          Americans, that I find this unique individual; and let us further hope
                          that, if I do find him, I can persuade him to run for president and
                          accept our contributions, preferably in cash. I will keep you posted on
                          my efforts, so you should monitor this space. Remember: Dave.