In a transparent attempt to attract liberal voters just days before the election, President George W. Bush made a conspicuous display of getting a facial and manicure between stump speeches late last week.
Looking nearly luminous following the facial, which included a lymphatic drainage massage and paraffin masque, Bush seemed relaxed despite a grueling schedule. A Bush spokesperson insisted that the president had not sought collagen lip-poofing injections despite urging by consultants from the sensitive-male makeover firm Big Bangs for Your Buck.
Then Monday, while opponent John Kerry was participating in Key West's annual Ernest Hemingway He-Man marlin-fishing tournament sponsored by the Pistol and Enema Club, Bush was spotted sipping sangria in a South Beach tapas bar.
Bush, a recovering alcoholic, dismissed curious onlookers demanding an explanation for his sudden interest in wine and launched into a surprisingly detailed soliloquy about the club's Art Deco design.
"This is just a FAB-ulous example of the cubic forms and zigzag designs that characterize the best of Art Deco. I adore the terra-cotta facing. But of course my affection for the style really is a reflection of my lifelong affair with Egyptology as well as my fascination with the Bauhaus School." Bush critics were quick to suggest that the president is a hypocrite and a phony for apparently concealing his artistic side all these years, preferring to shape a faux-cowboy image in an effort to stimulate his testosterone-rich retro base.
"I feel betrayed, as I'm sure every American does," said Kerry during an emergency visit to a local dermatologist for a serious sunburn - a side effect of overusing wrinkle treatments involving alpha hydroxy acid.
Despite this minor setback, Kerry was in high spirits thanks to his trophy marlin. As he hauled the flip-flopping fish onto the deck of his wife's boat, "Camelot," Kerry ignored his bloodied and blistered hands and beamed for photographers.
"I've earned Purple Hearts for less than this," he said, poking fun at himself in his characteristically self-effacing way. Reporters laughed appreciatively and, in a moment sure to catch the attention of the Bush campaign, joined in a brief group hug.
Kerry's tone turned suddenly somber as he segued into a fish tale from long ago.
"Of course this fishing expedition has been tons of fun," he began. Then, apparently remembering who he was supposed to be in that particular instant, he corrected himself:
"No, wait, I mean, hell, man, I haven't had this much fun since I was a dadgum Swiftee in Vietnam, much as I hate to bring up the war in which I was wounded three times and received the Silver Star and Bronze Star as a Swift Boat captain.
"But anytime I fish, which I do pretty much whenever I'm not huntin', I can't help remembering one Christmas when my men and I pulled a few fish from the Mekong and, with a couple of bread loaves baked by some local Cambodian women, who were lesbians, we managed to feed a multitude. It was a miracle - just like embryonic stem cell research."
Kerry became perceptibly emotional at this point, obviously remembering his friend Christopher Reeve, who, according to Kerry's running-mate, John Edwards, would have been walking by now if not for Bush's "ignorant" belief that human life shouldn't be deliberately destroyed for scientific research with the financial backing of the federal government.
Asked later to comment on Kerry's Vietnam remarks, Bush seemed annoyed at the interruption. He had been listening to a recording of himself reciting T.S. Eliot's "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock," one of many poems Bush has committed to memory, and was finishing an oil painting of a Kennebunkport seascape, which he intended to donate to an AIDS fund-raising auction.
"I have nothing but admiration for my opponent's service to our country, and I see no profit in comparing notes on what happened 30 years ago," he said, dabbing perspiration from his brow with a monogrammed handkerchief. "These forays into one-upmanship devalue the currency and demean us all."
Suddenly Bush excused himself, saying he had to rush back to Washington for dinner with Jacques Chirac and Gerhard Schroeder. "We're working on a summit for early April," he said. Then, pursing his lips in a failed attempt to conceal his obvious delight, Bush said:
"Jacques has promised to uncork a 1914 Lafite-Rothschild. Don't you just love Paris in springtime?"