by Harold I. Gullan

The following exchange imagines an all-too-likely exchange at an upcoming presidential debate in 2016. Any resemblance to fact is accidental and unfortunate – The Editor

George Stephanopoulos: I don’t have to reiterate what a surprise the primaries of both parties produced. With today’s conventions only coronations, who would have imagined, say a year ago, that Bernie Sanders would be facing Donald Trump for the presidency of the United States? We’re honored to host the first debate between them. Gentlemen, you each have a minute for an introductory statement, followed by thirty seconds of rebuttal. By a toss of the coin, Senator Sanders goes first.

Bernie Sanders: Well, as I predicted all along, no amount of money can defeat the people once they understand the real issues facing our democracy…

Donald Trump: Wait a minute. What democracy? Aren’t you one of those socialists who calls himself an “independent”? And about this tossing of coins I’ve always found gambling a little risky.

Stephanopoulos: Please, Mr. Trump, allow Senator Sanders to continue.

Sanders: Well, as I was saying, if a minority youth is more likely to face incarceration than to get a decent education, don’t we have things backwards in this country? It’s not only shortsighted, it winds up being more costly for everybody…

Trump: What about a majority youth? And haven’t you used up your minute by now? And George, aren’t you a little short to be a moderator? I guess that’s common with Greeks. But I love Greece. A lot of history, even with some financial problems. I’ve been thinking about buying the country.

Sanders: Look, if it’ll keep you from interrupting, how about if we skip the opening statements, and just answer questions posed by the moderator?

Trump: Fine with me. Lincoln couldn’t clear his throat in one minute. It takes me longer than that just to have my hair set. Besides, I know most of the answers anyway.

Stephanopoulos: All right. To what do each of you ascribe your victory in the primaries?

Sanders: Well, on the Democratic side, I only faced one serious contender, although at times it seemed like two. Hillary and Bill have made so much money giving speeches they’ve almost become part of that billionaire class we’re rebelling against. As the actual candidate, Hillary, always over confident, just couldn’t convince regular people she was one of us – even though she keeps dressing like an extra in “The Good Earth.” And we’d kind of like a few specifics.

Trump: In the Republican primaries we wound up with 30 candidates. When that stage collapsed in Fort Wayne, it made people realize how much they need a businessman in the White House. Jeb Bush was so boring, Governor Christie emerged as my most serious rival. But fat guys have never done well in the White House. I’ve been reading about one named Taft. They needed a crane to pull him out of the bathtub. I’ve been smart enough to get a young, good-looking Hispanic as my running-mate. His name will come to me. He’s the guy who drinks water all the time. And by the way, Bernie, what does someone who’s only been married once know about women?

Stephanopoulos: In this regard, can you tell the audience what in your experience would make you an effective chief executive?

Sanders: Well, born to an immigrant family in Brooklyn, I moved to Vermont and worked my way up to a career in public service, became mayor of Burlington and eventually an independent senator who caucuses with the Democrats. Now I’ve finally launched this popular movement to take our democracy back from the billionaire class.

Trump: It’s always class, isn’t it? You sound like you never left that pushcart in Brooklyn. I could put the entire population of Vermont into Trump Tower, but it’s a beautiful state. I was thinking of buying it and opening a few more golf courses. You know, I was put on this earth to create jobs. I’m also self-made, a billionaire whose father was only a small-potatoes millionaire.

Stephanopoulos: Who’s financing your campaigns?

Sanders: I’ve millions of regular brothers and sisters who “stand with Bernie,” and send in as much as they can afford. I won’t take contributions from those giant PACS, even were they inclined to contribute.

Trump: I thought you were financed by Ben and Jerry. Of course, I’ve enough money to do anything, but anyone who wants to “make America great again” is welcome to join in. What’s wrong with corporations, anyway? They’re just people who happen to be successful.

Stephanopoulos: What are the major issues in the fall campaign.

Sanders: Bringing back a healthy balance of equity in our nation, restoring hope, universal education, full healthcare, and opportunity to our working and middle class families, and rolling back the inordinate power of a few selfish billionaires.

Trump: It’s all about jobs for everybody, without all this government interference. You know, I love Hispanics, and they’re all for me. It’s just that invasion of illegal aliens from Mexico who bring in all the trouble. Speaking of which, I’m afraid I’ll have to take off now. Have to tell all those Miss USA hotties about our change in venue –and fire my PR staff. This is the big leagues. No room for apprentices. But when did our media get so damned sensitive about everything? The voters seem to prefer plain talk, and no one can match me for telling it like it is. I don’t want to seem self-centered, but what kind of ratings would you guys get on your own?

Dr. Harold I. Gullan’s is an author who lives in Mt. Airy. His ninth book, “All Our Presidents’ Parents,” will be published in 2016 by Skyhorse.