WASHINGTON, DC—The Mysterious Congressman, whose presidential campaign continues to be propelled by the dashing, effortless flair with which he exposes the cowardice and duplicity of lesser legislators, challenged presidential candidates of both major political parties Monday to a great public debate.
"Gentlemen and lady who vie with me for our nation's most exalted office: Hear me now!" said the caped and gloved lawmaker from the dome of the Capitol building, the last rays of the setting sun captured in his upthrust rapier and in his equally keen and steely eyes. "It is my most earnest intention to confront you all, not with the clash of steel, but with the far more noble edge of a more deadly weapon: namely, my wit."
Following his announcement, the Mysterious Congressman (D-WI) sprang from the dome amid thrilled shrieks from the oppressed D.C. citizenry, alighted gracefully on the strong, broad back of his steed, LaFollette, and galloped down the National Mall, borne away on the cheers of the throng as a ship on the waves.
Capitol police called to the scene once again found only a single red-white-and-blue rose, accompanied by a stack of talking-point memoranda written in the form of tastefully understated rhyming quatrains. Penned in his trademark droll yet frank style, the memoranda laid out a demanding but elegantly simple debate format, in which "no fools shall be suffered and no question begged."
"His appeal for a debate unconstrained by time or subject is exactly what I have yearned for, lo these many years," said Alexandria, VA carpet salesman Craig Hendershott. "Did you hear how he laughed off the moderating services of [CNN anchor] Wolf Blitzer when he was so arrogantly offered them? That we finally have a candidate who stands for the gloriously free and open exchange of ideas is as a great bell pealing in our hearts."
"Long have I dared hope of a wonderful man who would speak plainly yet truly of the national matters that darken our days, especially health care, education, and our tragic entanglement in a war amongst the Muhammadans," said Maribel Suarez, a Walgreens cashier and mother of three. "Now, hope, once near-extinguished, flames brightly within my breast once more."
Many candidates expressed reactions ranging from puzzlement to contempt, saying that the Mysterious Congressman's call to debate, while brazen, lacked clear details, as it offered no precise venue and suggested no issues.
However, as the day drew on, these same candidates found themselves receiving personal invitations in a fashion characteristic of the challenger.
"I returned to my private quarters at midday to find the door ajar and the lights extinguished," said Mitt Romney, a former governor of the Massachusetts Commonwealth and a leading aspirant to the presidency. "Nonetheless, I entered, assuming laziness on the part of my servants and womenfolk. The next thing I recall, the captain of my personal guard was shaking me to consciousness, one of those damned spangled roses was thrust in my lapel, and stuffed in my mouth was a gilt-edged rolled parchment instructing me to appear at the portico of the Jefferson Memorial at sunrise on the fifteenth of August prepared to argue 'for my miserable soul' my stance on age-appropriate sex education."
"Curse his infernal cheek!" Romney said, tearing the tricolored rose from his suit jacket and dashing it to the floor. "He'll have his damnable debate—and may he choke upon it!"
While being bussed to a campaign stop in New Hampshire, Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) reportedly discovered that his driver had been supplanted by a familiar caped figure, who handed him a parchment and warned him, playfully yet firmly, that "where foreign policy and diplomatic matters are concerned, the safest path was no direction in which a truly honorable man would flee."
Former Tennessee senator Fred Thompson found his invitation and several saucily phrased notes printed neatly on a vellum scroll, which was tucked into the perfumed bosom of his coquettish trophy wife, Jeri, although she either could not or would not explain how it came to reside there.
Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS) arrived at the Congressional infirmary with his invitation to defend his proposed budget cuts carved neatly into the slack flesh of his backside.
And a flushed, disheveled, and distracted Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) announced at a press conference early Tuesday that the Mysterious Congressman had swung in through her apartment window during the night and delivered his invitation in person.
"I wish to reassure the public that the Mysterious Congressman was, in fact, a perfect gentleman," said Clinton, her posture and tone failing to conceal an air of disappointment. "A perfect gentleman."
Per the Mysterious Congressman's directive, the debate will held in one fortnight's time on the shores of the Tidal Basin at day's first light. It will be broadcast simultaneously by all network and cable-news channels.