In a year when America may see - for the first time - either the first female president or the first black leader of the free world, what are the odds for a first Muslim commander in chief? After carefully testing the waters for months, this newly declared candidate today started pounding the pavement, mindful to not appear too stereotypically violent or too "anti-pavement."
According to anonymous but reliable sources, "turning swords into ploughshares" will be at the heart of the candidate's foreign policy. "Boxcutters, machetes, Ginsu knives - we'll turn any cutting implements into organic, food-cultivating instruments," declared the Prez-in-the-Fez, whose campaign slogan is "The Pen is Funnier than the Sword."
According to candidate Khalil Bendib, "disarming the enemy through the power of laughter" is the best defense. "Ours will be the funniest, most hilarious administration in American history," asserts the candidate, with a straight face. "No joke!"
Skeptics, however, are quick to point out that, having already turned the United States of America into a laughingstock over the past seven years, the current administration may be a tough act to follow, comedic ally speaking. How does Bendib propose to outdo those occupying the White House? "Make the rest of the world laugh with us, rather than at us, as has been the case for too long."
But beyond these generalities, critics are asking Bendib, "Where is the beef ?" And - more important - is it halal (kosher for Muslims)?"
What follows are a few planks from the presidential candidate's platform:
-- On government waste and pork barrel spending: "As a self-respecting Muslim, you can guess how I feel about pork: I'm not too crazy about it!"
-- On foreign trade: "As the Prez-in-the-Fez, I will guarantee the free flow of Danish goods into the United States - except for political cartoons, of course!"
-- On education: "Pens not guns, books not bombs, math instruction not mass destruction!"
-- On the Patriot Act: "Once elected, I will act like a patriot and repeal the Patriot Act!"
-- On the use of torture: "If you absolutely have to obtain information? Tickle, don't torture! Amuse, don't abuse! Be clever and cute, don't electrocute!"
-- On the war on drugs: "Give the people what they want: Decriminalize illegal drugs and arrest drug company CEOS instead!"
-- On nuclear proliferation: "Islam is a religion of peace and America is a peace-loving nation. So instead of bombing Iran, the Prez-in-the-Fez will shame the Islamic republic into voluntarily abandoning its nuclear ambitions. How? Leading by example, we will demand the dismantlement of all nuclear weapons everywhere starting with the world's largest arsenal (our own) - and putting back the "non" into "non-proliferation."
-- About Palestine and Israel: "What is good for the goose is good for the gander; my policy will be absolute evenhandedness: If we give Israel $30 billion, we will do the same for the Palestinians: $30 billion to Fatah and $30 billion to Hamas! For those of you who think I'm favoring the Palestinians by giving them double, think again: By the time you factor in Palestinian leaders' Swiss bank accounts, the Palestinian people will receive just about the correct amount..."
-- Finally, on Guantanamo Bay: "Render unto Fidel what belongs to Fidel, have the Cubans dismantle the torture center and build something more positive there - like a dental school or something!"
In closing, says the presidential hopeful, "Sadly, Islamophobia runs deep in America today, and it has been used as an excuse for pre-emptive wars, domestic spying, torture, the suspension of habeas corpus and the erasure of so many of our most treasured constitutional freedoms. What better way to bring back our precious liberties and to rid us once and for all of the exaggerated fear of Islam than to elect a Muslim for president? President Kennedy did not bring the Vatican into the white House, as initially feared, and as your president, I will not bring Mecca into the Oval Office! To paraphrase another great president before me, the only thing we have to fear is the fear of Islamophobia itself! God bless America and peace be upon you
Khalil Bendib of Berkeley is the author of the new book of political cartoons, "Mission Accomplished," (Interlink, 2007). He can be reached at www.bendib.com.
This article appeared on page B - 5 of the San Francisco Chronicle