WASHINGTON, D.C. -- In the vacuum created as Jon Stewart and Steven Colbert each declined attempts to be drafted to run for the presidency of the United States in 2008, Buzz Lightyear has declared he is jumping into the void.
Lightyear's announcement has quickly eased the pain among non-aligned political activists, whose disappointment was almost palpable as Stewart and Colbert successively chose to turn down attempts to draft them to run for president. Both men were eminently qualified, experts had noted, as well-known public figures, respected in their profession and capable of reading fluently simple words written for them.
The despair only deepened as an attempt to bring Pat Paulsen out of retirement also quickly failed.
But Lightyear's entry changes everything -- the whole landscape of the 2008 presidential race. Lightyear's wholesome sexual appeal has certainly set back former Senator John Edwards' chances, put senators Clinton and Obama into full battle mode.
Lightyear, says presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, is a throwback to many earlier campaigns in U.S. history when public figures outside of mainstream politics stepped into a presidential race without any previous electoral experience. "The best and most recent parallel I can conjure up is Dwight David Eisenhower. A figure of almost mythic proportions but with such a high likeability factor," said Goodwin.
"While defeating Emperor Zurg isn't quite eliminating Hitler, Mussolini and Tojo, it is still quite a feat for our time, especially as long as Osama bin Laden is running out and about," added Goodwin.
A comparable but more recent electoral figure, at least at the state level, is Arnold Schwarzenegger, whose winning bid for California governor in 2003 in the recall election against incumbent Gray Davis surprised many in and out of politics.
"Buzz and Arnold, with their simultaneous careers as action-adventure figures, have the same kind of native appeal, despite their obvious differences. For one, Buzz's English is far superior, and his acting ability is, well, light years ahead," said political pundit and media veteran Morton Kondracke.
While Schwarzenegger's Austrian nativity has prevented him from making a presidential run at this time, it has not kept some from talking of a constitutional amendment that would allow him to become president. Constitutional experts, however, say the arduous amendment process is unlikely to be successfully traversed in Schwarzenegger's political lifetime.
Now insiders in the camp of several of Lightyear's probable opponents, notably Senator Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) and Senator Barak Obama (D-Ill.), are said to be talking up "playing the Schwarzenegger card" -- that is, contesting the constitutionality of a Lightyear presidency.
"While it's pretty darn clear that Lightyear was conceived in the States, what with the outsourcin' of all that animatin' work, it ain't that clear where he was 'born'," said political consultant James Carville. "I think the judiciary system oughta be decidin' that."
The Lightyear campaign released a simple statement in response.
"Anybody who questions the patriotism, love of country and the through-and-through red-white-and-blue colors of Buzz Lightyear is itching for a fight. It's a good thing for her that Hillary Clinton is a girl.
"I am American born, American bred and when I die I'll be American dead. What's un-American here is trying to decide elections in the courts. Let the people decide who's more American: Buzz Lightyear or Barak Obama," read the statement.
In an almost unprecedented strategic move, Lightyear did not say if he was running as a Democrat, Republican or an independent. Some observers say he may waiting to "take the best offer."
Presidential historian Stephen Hess says that Lightyear is by far the best chance for a two-dimensional candidate to win the U.S. presidency since Al Gore in 2000.
Copyright 2006, Douglas Salguod