Pat Paulsen

Where’s Pat Paulsen, now that America needs him?

Or, to put this another way, seeing as Paulsen permanently departed this vale of political tears back in 1997, if he were running for president of the United States today, he’d probably have a fighting chance to get elected. Considering the competition!

For those of you too young to recall Paulsen’s heyday, he was a deadpan comedian who frequently appeared on the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour (Who? What? — Ed) and briefly had his own TV comedy program.

His best running gag was running serially for the presidency of the United States in as many states as he could get his name on the ballot – which was not many

As he asked at the time, “Why not? I can’t dance — besides, the job has a good pension.” That’s got to be better than Donald Trump’s and Hillary Clinton’s key messages in 2016: “It was just locker-room banter” (his) and “I can start a war with Russia if I want to” (hers).

Unlike Trump and Clinton, Paulsen’s comedy ran to the low-key slapstick, played with a poker face. Plus, at the time people actually thought he was funny. (Alas, his stuff doesn’t really hold up that well in replays, so I’ll spare you the Youtube link … maybe it was all the non-medicinal pot fumes at the time).

Regardless, Paulsen ran for president in 1968, 1972, 1980, 1988, 1992 and 1996. He came second to George H.W. Bush in the 1992 Republican primary in North Dakota, and second to Bill Clinton, granted with only 921 votes to Clinton’s 76,750, in the 1996 New Hampshire Democratic primary.

Protest votes, they say, but they did attract enough attention that real politicians, like Bobby Kennedy, were willing to appear in a clip with him now and then. 

Paulsen once appeared on stage in Edmonton. I know that because his picture used to grace the wall of the old Mayfield Inn dinner theatre.

Plus, he showed up in Victoria, B.C., circa 1968, for a nightclub act if memory serves. But the promoter sent him down to Beacon Hill Park Speakers’ Corner, where his remarks were witnessed one damp weekend afternoon by a bored Victoria Daily Times reporter with a pencil stub and a steno pad (plus a dime in his pocket, presumably, in case anything exciting enough to phone in about took place), two dog walkers and a kid with bicycle, that is to say, your blogger.

Paulsen promised to walk the next weekend to Port Angeles, Washington, 40 kilometres across the evocatively named Juan de Fuca Strait, to prove his fitness to be chief executive of the United States. The effort to walk on water, I’m sorry to report, was not much more of a success than Trump’s efforts to prove a similar point.

And, um … that’s it!

As readers can tell, it’s been a slow night in Alberta politics. The only buzz is that today’s the day Calgary-North West Progressive Conservative MLA Sandra Jansen will officially announce her much-rumoured run for the PC Party leadership.

We shall see, I guess. Last night Jansen was playing her cards close to her vest and not responding to your blogger’s desperate plea for confirmation.

If she doesn’t run, it’ll be an outrage, because then her putative campaign manager, political strategist Stephen Carter, will have been given the bum’s rush for no good reason from the CBC’s Calgary political panel, where he was at least as entertaining as Pat Paulsen.

Carter has a reputation as a political rainmaker, but he’s going to have to make a lot of rain if Jansen’s effort to keep the PCs from turning into the Wildrose Party is going to put down lasting roots.

These are desperate times for Alberta conservatives of all stripes, after all, deprived of what they think as their rightful place at the helm of Alberta’s ship of state by, of all people, Rachel Notley and the NDP.

Conservatives like Jansen who think their party should retain its big-tent, centrist traditions, and Wildrosers like Opposition Leader Brian Jean who reckon they deserve at least some credit for saving the party in its darkest days and keeping the thing in running order ever since, are going to have a hard time overcoming the siren call of Jason Kenney, the former Harper cabinet minister who promises a united right will regain power, whether or not its principles remain intact.

Jean was in St. Albert last week, resentfully complaining that Kenney never phoned him about his plans to unite the right through a unique double reverse hostile takeover, first of the Wildrose Party and then of the PCs. “He’s had my phone number and my email address for 12 years,” Jean said plaintively.

During his St. Albert stopover, however, Jean attacked Jansen for not being, as he put it, a true conservative. Unlike Kenney, I guess.

For her part, Jansen can’t stand Kenney and says she’ll quit the party if he becomes the leader.

Kenney himself has been quiet for a couple of days, although his grin may have lingered in the air at the St. Albert Legion during Jean’s brief stopover.

This post also appears on David Climenhaga’s blog,

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David J. Climenhaga

David J. Climenhaga

David Climenhaga is a journalist and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions with the Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald. He left journalism after the strike...