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Virtual Candidate Talks

One entrant in this year’s presidential race is spanning his own digital divide, using the latest in real-time computer animation to emerge as the first virtual candidate. Uncle Duke, the Doonesbury comic strip character seen in 1,400 newspapers worldwide, has grown from a flat, cigarette-holder puffing cartoon into the three-dimensional, political trash-talking star of his own Web site (www.duke2000.com), complete with virtual smoke. The animation was created by Dotcomix, a San Francisco-based Internet studio. For virtual Duke, an actor wears a body suit with motion-capture detectors while a puppeteer manipulates facial expressions. Says executive producer Buzz Hayes: “We could apply the same technology to Bush and Gore-to make them more animated, too.”

In an exclusive interview with TR contributing writer Steve Ditlea, candidate Duke unveiled his views on high tech-via campaign manager Garry Trudeau.

TR: Are you taking positions regarding technology?
DUKE: No, my campaign is faking positions regarding technology, just like the other campaigns. The difference is we’re upfront about it. I mean, who’s got time to keep up? Just ask Bill “an Internet browser is a trivial piece of software” Gates.

TR: What do you think about the digital revolution?
DUKE: I’m for it. I can lay out my agenda, spam voters and sell junk from my Web site-all without leaving my campaign headquarters at the Coon Rapids E-Z-Rest Motor Court. And I’ll be selling all my ambassadorships on eBay.

TR: How significant is the “new economy”?
DUKE: Well, so far, my campaign is only being sponsored by old-economy companies-Absolut, Keebler Cookies and most recently Brown & Williamson, which has signed on as the Official Nicotine Delivery System of the Duke2000 Campaign. We’d be open to new-economy sponsorships, provided they pay in cash-I won’t be held hostage to some socially impaired teenager’s ability to close mezzanine financing in a bear market.

TR: Should Internet transactions be taxed?
DUKE: Who talks about new taxes during a campaign? Serious candidates only talk about tax cuts-free money. And I’ve already said I’ll double whatever anybody else offers. I’m not a fringe player on this issue.

TR: How do you feel about censorship of the Net?
DUKE: Look, we should have learned long ago that one person’s porn is another person’s social life. Now, obviously there are strong individual cases to be made for censorship-MarthaStewart.com, iVillage and such-but no one’s forcing you to log on. And as for all those bomb-building Web sites, do you really want to live in a country that restricts the rights of the legitimate, law-abiding sport bomber? I’m just not comfortable with that.

TR: Are you in favor of human cloning?
DUKE: The potential for abuse is enormous. History would never forgive us if we were to produce another Linda Tripp.

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Illustration by Rose WongIllustration by Rose Wong

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