Amid rampant speculation that the Ralph/Blat 2008 campaign is coming apart at the seams faster than a cheap Wal*Mart T-shirt, there came a startling development this evening. As the Netherlands-registered cruise ship ms Noordam pulled in at its final port of call - Victoria, British Columbia, Canada - Ralph and his newly-appointed lackey Konservo appeared and demanded to board the vessel, preventing its neocon National Review cruisegoers from disembarking.
The scene which followed alarmed even the likes of former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton, whose mustache was visibly seen to quiver as he said "In all my years of public service, in all those private meetings with Karl and Lurita, with the crotchless pantaloons and free-flowing Velveeta...even I have never seen anything like what I witnessed this evening."
After blocking the gangway in a standoff with Jonah Goldberg, who was repeatedly challenged by Ralph to a paste-eating contest, Ralph insisted that cruise organizers provide him with a room in which he could address the group. "LOUSY SKANKY DORKSIDED PIAPS GETS AN AUDIENCE OF 1,500 AT THAT ISLAMOFASCIST DEMLIB CONSPIRACY-FEST CALLED YEARLYKOS, AND I'M STUCK IN A DRYER IN AN APARTMENT COIN LAUNDRY. SHE MUST BE INVESTIGATED!!!! I MUST HAVE THE FLOOR!!!! BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!" Cruise organizers, fearing that Ralph might pose a danger to himself and others, quickly organized a meeting space on the Lido Deck.
The heady thrill of the campaign trail appeared to have taken a psychological as well as a physical toll on Ralph. Before entering the meeting room he instructed Konservo (somewhat strangely clad in face-paint and a frock coat) to lick the floor clean - which witnesses report that Konservo did, with great eagerness, after falling to his knees before Ralph and wailing "Thou art merciful and wise, oh Master of the Upper Case Fonts! I hear and obey!" Following the floor-licking, he performed around the perimeter an unusual and apparently ritualized dance which one cruisegoer described as "this weird Kabuki-Flamenco kind of thing, with maybe a dash of Limbo thrown in"; drooled on Robert Bork's lapel; swatted Kate O'Beirne on the bottom saying "Naughty girl! Naughty!"; and poured the contents of a small container of frilled toothpicks into Ramesh Ponnuru's breast pocket, whispering sotto voce "For Guido. He'll take you to the safe house. The password is salmonella."
But Konservo's antics were, the crowd was shocked to discover, merely the beginning. While these unusual preparations were taking place, Ralph had disappeared into a restroom with his backpack, and he shortly emerged wearing theatrical scarlet robes and an elaborate crown.
A cruisegoer was said to have muttered in response: "Oh, sweet mother of God, it's the Sun Myung Moon meltdown all over again..."
With his new lackey bowing and scraping before him, Ralph entered the meeting room and climbed atop a large Acme-style one-ton weight, conveniently left there from a Looney Tunes Skit Challenge held earlier in the day.
"YOU MUST ALL EMBRACE THE COULTER PLAN FOR THE MIDDLE EAST!" Ralph thundered. "I WILL BE SENDING YOU SOME IMPORTANT TRACTS EXPLAINING THE RAPTURE!! YOU MUST ALL CONTRIBUTE TO MY CAMPAIGN AND PLEDGE TO VOTE FOR ME BEFORE PIAPS CAUSES AN EXPLOSION IN YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD!!!! ROTFLMFAO!!!!!!"
As one cruisegoer raised a hand to be recognized for a question - apparently confusing this unusual episode with one of the actual National Review breakout sessions - Ralph continued unabated. "THIS CRUISE SHIP IS EVEN NOW ONLY ONE VOYAGE OF MANY NAUTICAL MILES AWAY FROM SEATTLE, A LIBERAL HOTBED OF TERRORIST-LOVING ACTIVISM!!!! YOU ARE ALL IN TERRIBLE DANGER AND ONLY I AND AMERICA'S-GREATEST-PRESIDENT CAN SAVE YOU FROM PIAPS AND THE HATERS!!!!!!!!!"
"ALSO," Ralph added. "BUY MY EXCITING FACT-BASED NOVEL!!!! SOON TO BE REMAINDERED AT WALDENBOOKS STORES FROM COAST TO COAST!!!!!!!"
Ralph and Konservo then made their escape by cannonballing over the side of the vessel, to gasps of surprise from onlookers, as what appeared to be a vulture flapped lazily overhead in the waning light. The Canadian Coast Guard was seen shortly thereafter to be giving chase to a small speedboat making for U.S. waters.
Even such die-hard neocon supporters as first-time cruisegoer Mrs. Mildred Spanakopita (last seen by readers of this site fleeing from a herd of rampaging vacuums in the border town of Nogales, Arizona following a Bush immigration speech) appeared taken aback. "And everyone was so nice and well-behaved and polite until this fellow Ralph came along. Outrageous, what he did to that poor Mr. Bork's suit! I'm sure the Democrats in Congress are to blame." However, Mrs. Spanakopita later conceded, on her way to the buffet for just one more cup of tapioca pudding and prunes, that she was "reluctantly impressed" by Ralph's emphasis on End Times rhetoric and his personal charisma, adding that she would look for his novel if she was ever, in fact, in a bookstore.
That no mention of running mate Blat was made during this unusual campaign appearance was surprising to actual journalists; the National Review editorial staff on the cruise, by contrast, eschewed pursuing the story and disembarked the vessel en masse as soon as Ralph and Konservo bolted, hoping to reach a tobacconist's on Government Street before closing in order to obtain some Cuban cigars. Kate Stone of the relentless No Stone Unturned column was on point and onshore, however, and through a series of repeated telephone calls to the Ralph/Blat "underground" headquarters somewhere in the Heartland, finally got through to a tearful and clearly worried Blat.
"Look...Ralph just isn't himself lately. Ever since he fell for this Konservo guy, it's like he's a changed candidate. It's not about the issues for him any more, not even about the Rapture or the libtards or the prospect of literary fame. Sure, he gives those lip service, he has to, but it's really all about the adoration. Konservo treats him like an icon and he falls for it...and...and I worry about Ralph, really I do." Audible sniffles and catches in his voice on Blat's part betrayed his deep anxiety, even over the phone. "Look," he continued to journalist Stone, "just please tell him all is forgiven. Tell him to come home. I miss him. I miss what we had together. Ranger Bob and G-Dawg and all his pals miss him. We just want back the lunatic we know."
Independent analysts fear that even this episode may not represent this campaign's nadir. Will the Ralph/Blat ticket undergo a catastrophic split with only 15 months remaining in the race? Can Ralph recover not just from his apparent meltdown and loss of public confidence following the 35W Bridge tragedy in Minneapolis, but from this latest bizarre gaffe? And what role does the enigmatic and clearly disturbed Konservo play in Ralph's apparent transformation?
Answers will have to wait for further developments in this unprecedented and unusual campaign.
In happier news, Ralph/Blat is polling an average of three points above Senator John McCain's troubled Presidential bid, in nationwide tallies.