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Sen-a-tor! Sen-a-tor! Sen-a-tor!

By Joel Stein

August 9, 1999
Web posted at: 10:20 a.m. EDT (1420 GMT)

TIME magazine

It is not the policy of this column to endorse political candidates. That's because this column doesn't usually know anything about political candidates. But about Jerry Springer, who is considering running for Senator in Ohio, we know a lot. We even scored a bootleg copy of the episode where the guy makes out with the horse.

While I may not know exactly what a Senator does, I'm pretty sure Springer would be good at it. Not only is he accustomed to acrimonious debate, but if two Senators start to mix it up on the floor, then Steve Wilkos, the off-duty cop who doubles as Springer's bodyguard, would break things up. Wilkos would have been right in between Charles Sumner and Preston Brooks in 1856, when Sumner took a wicked cane beating that left him unconscious. Jer-ry! Jer-ry! Jer-ry!

As a longtime Springer supporter, I'm upset that the media aren't taking his candidacy as seriously as Hillary Clinton's. Hillary has never run for office; Springer was a five-term city councilman and a two-term mayor of Cincinnati who wrestled a bear during his tenure. And while I don't know Hillary's opinions other than on health care and how mental abuse leads to randiness, Springer drops science at the end of every episode. There isn't an issue he hasn't examined. Forget Social Security and child care. This guy has looked into "You're Too Fat for Porn."

As mayor from 1977-81, Springer spent a night in jail to illustrate the awful conditions in the local prisons and fought to bring rock concerts to the conservative city. Which was a great idea except for that 1979 Who concert that turned into a stampede. Jer-ry! Jer-ry! Jer-ry!

Sure, Springer embarrassed himself when he got caught going to a massage parlor because he paid in checks instead of cash. But he rebounded from that, and as a Senator, you can rest assured, he will not only have left his scandals behind him, he will also keep accurate financial records.

Basically, the big advantage to electing Springer is that if Jay Leno asks you who your Senator is, you might know. And I'd rather risk having an ineffective Senator than being embarrassed on national television.

I watch Springer's show because he treats the twisted, painful drama of people's lives with an odd respect, and because there are often strippers on. Sure, his circus is silly and entertaining, but without the laughter it would be liberal patronization. This is what makes people respond to him. He already has, for example, the pregnant-stripper constituency wrapped up. And he will continue to build on that base, according to his friend Tim Burke, the Hamilton County Democratic chairman who is pressing Springer to run. "Jerry has always had a Kennedyesque stump style," says Burke. "I think you'd see a sharp distinction from Senator Mike DeWine on things like this goofy-ass tax cut." Jer-ry! Jer-ry! Jer-ry!

So while other politicians argue about campaign-finance reform (Can you really have an election about the election?), Springer will focus on helping troubled people like those on his show. Compassionate conservatism? Practical idealism? I'm sticking with "Take Care of Yourself, and Each Other."


MORE TIME STORIES:

Cover Date: August 16, 1999

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