Nobody’s saying George Bush is the Antichrist . . . just a lousy president. But the Antichrist had a helluva bad year too, and Bush’s humiliating defeat was a big part of it.

See, Bush’s “New World Order” is–or should we say was–the start of the Antichrist’s prophesied one-world government, according to Christian fundamentalists like Pat Robertson. Robertson’s 1991 book The New World Order said Bush is “unknowingly and unwittingly carrying out the mission and mouthing the phrases of a tightly knit cabal whose goal is nothing less than a new order for the human race under the domination of Lucifer and his followers.”

Since the Antichrist has to serve a seven-year term as world dictator before the second coming of Christ and the battle between the forces of Good and Evil at Armageddon, Robertson must be looking forward to the one-world government. Why else would he endorse Bush’s reelection effort and speak at the Republican convention? Ironically, many pundits think Robertson’s speech was one of the things that doomed Bush’s candidacy. Now the Antichrist has to muddle through without Poppy’s help.

More bad news came from the troublesome European Economic Community, which fundamentalists believe is the 10-nation confederacy identified in the Book of Revelation as the Antichrist’s initial power base. Never mind that the EEC now comprises 12 nations. Its performance this year suggests that the Antichrist should look for a power base that’s a little more cohesive, like say Yugoslavia.

Highlights of the EEC’s year began when Danish voters rejected the Maastricht Treaty, which would create a single European currency if all 12 countries ratified it. Next the stubborn German Bundesbank’s high interest rates fueled currency speculation that drove the British pound so low that Britain dropped out of the European monetary system. Finally they all bickered over uniform European requirements for consumer products. The EEC proved it can’t agree on runny French cheese, much less rule the world.

Nor did the world end as scheduled on October 28. For the Antichrist that’s like canceling the Superbowl. That day an estimated 20,000 South Korean fundamentalists were expecting “the Rapture,” in which many fundamentalists believe they will be physically lifted into the sky to meet Christ. This, they think, will happen just before something like a nuclear war inaugurates the Antichrist administration. They plan to watch from a comfortable seat in the clouds while the Antichrist rules the earth and God rains down hideous tortures on the heathen unbelievers left behind, like you. But no such luck: October 28 came . . . and so did October 29.

On a more personal level, 1992 also sucked for the leading Antichrist candidates. Fundamentalist writers tout five men as contenders for the position: Mikhail Gorbachev, Pope John Paul II, King Juan Carlos I of Spain, Henry Kissinger, and Karl von Hapsburg, heir to the extinct Austro-Hungarian Empire. (Feminists will have to debate whether the all-male list is a straight insult or a left-handed compliment.) None of them got any closer this year to total world domination.

Mikhail Gorbachev. Gorbachev is unexpectedly prominent in biblical prophecy. Robert Faid, author of Gorbachev! Has the Real Antichrist Come? quotes from Revelation 13:1: “And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns . . . ” That may not seem to refer specifically to the former Soviet president, birthmark notwithstanding, but Faid thinks it does: “We are told that the ten crowns are ten kings . . . ten members of the Politburo elected Mikhail S. Gorbachev as General Secretary of the Soviet Communist Party,” he writes.

Fundamentalists consider Gorbachev’s Antichrist credentials so impressive that they dismiss his ouster from the Soviet presidency as a temporary setback. “Strangely enough, Gorbachev remains one of the most popular political figures of Europe,” observed a recent “Gospel Truth” newsletter. It added that Dr. Malachi Martin, author of The Keys of This Blood: Pope John Paul II Versus Russia and the West for Control of the New World Order, “now believes, and other political observers concur, that Boris Yeltsin’s days will be numbered, and Gorbachev will once more emerge as the man who can weld the EEC and the remains of the Russian Empire together to form the structure for a mighty world conglomerate.”

Maybe, but Gorbachev didn’t do much emerging this year. After getting bounced as Soviet president, he was kicked out of his luxurious Moscow apartment and reassigned to a three-room flat. When he criticized the Yeltsin government Yeltsin replaced his limo with three unimpressive Volga sedans. One got stolen from a parking lot. The former communist leader ended up flying around the U.S. scaring up funds for his Gorbachev Foundation in the Forbes corporate jet, aptly named “Capitalist Tool.” In October Yeltsin locked him out of the Gorbachev Foundation’s rent-free Moscow offices and awarded the building to a government academy. The foundation will get back about one-third of its office space, for a presumably hefty lease. The only thing Gorbachev avoided this year was a coup. No one wants to trade places with him anymore.

King Juan Carlos. The king is implicated in prophecy that calls for the fickle Antichrist to make a covenant with Israel, then break it and move in as ruler of Jerusalem. Charles Taylor, author of Watch World Events in 1989!, writes that “that which will verify if King Juan Carlos I is to be the man of destiny, ‘The Antichrist,’ will be when this person makes, or is inclined to make, the prophesied 7-year covenant to protect Israel.” Since the king has apologized for Spain’s treatment of Jews during the Inquisition and has officially recognized Israel, Taylor concludes that Juan Carlos is eligible to become the “prophesied king of the soon-to-be-revived and revised Roman empire.”

Still, 1992 wasn’t his year. Too bad he couldn’t spend all his time at the Olympics and the world’s fair. The king was the closest thing we had to a personification of Columbus on the 500th anniversary of the “discovery” of America, which inconveniently coincided with a surge in political awareness by Native Americans. The king’s 1992 mail ranged from irate demands by Latin American Indians for reparations for Spanish enslavement of their ancestors to 17,000 letters from Texas schoolchildren pleading with him to send permanent replicas of the Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria to either Galveston or Corpus Christi. And you thought you had trouble with mailing lists.

Pope John Paul II. Like Juan Carlos, Pope John Paul II also fulfills the Antichrist-Israel prophecy, now that the Vatican is negotiating with Israel to establish diplomatic relations. In addition, the Book of Revelation predicts that the Antichrist will amaze the world by recuperating from a deadly wound, making the pope’s assassination attempt an ideal personal tragedy. But 1992 just brought the pope one indignity after another. He was physically cut open for unpleasant abdominal surgery and symbolically ripped to shreds by the unpleasant Sinead O’Connor.

Henry Kissinger. As an Antichrist candidate Kissinger is really coasting on acts of evil committed two decades ago. His claim to prophecy fulfillment is vague, as described in David Webber and Noah Hutchings’s Countdown for Antichrist: ” . . . because he is a Jew from West Germany, a great peacemaker by reputation, called a man of wonder by heads of state, and married to a Gentile, many have noted the similarity between many of the qualifications possessed by our former Secretary of State which match those of the coming world ruler.” They forgot to mention “used to date Jill St. John.” Kissinger’s credentials get him on Nightline every other night but didn’t bring him any closer to ruling the earth in 1992. He will surely ring in the new year with relish and perhaps a lawsuit: a new biography meticulously chronicles his misdeeds, down to throwing a staff member’s report on the floor and stomping on it.

Karl von Hapsburg. Hapsburg is a neophyte, barely 31 years old, whose main qualification is his membership in a European royal chain. Thus he is a potential ruler of the “revived Roman Empire,” or the EEC, as it’s otherwise known. Hapsburg’s candidacy is strengthened by his leadership in an Austrian political group, the Pan-European Movement, which supports European unity. We should also note that Hapsburg, alone among the major Antichrist contenders, possesses the youthful vitality needed to serve the seven dark years of his term and still battle the forces of Good at Armageddon. Hapsburg remained relatively unscathed by the year’s events, but made no discernible progress toward world dictatorship.

As world dictator and spawn of Satan, the Antichrist will wield far greater influence over the lives of Americans than any president. Aided by supernatural powers and unencumbered by the need to run for re-election, he might even be able to pass legislation opposed by the tobacco lobby or the American Association of Retired Persons. So while the rest of the country was obsessing about nickel-and-dime earthly presidential politics, we were busy trying to interview the potential Antichrists. We asked two questions:

1. As world dictator, what would be your first project?

2. What would you do to curb the inexplicable continuing popularity of the American pop group New Kids on the Block?

Unfortunately, potential Antichrists are characteristically publicity-shy. King Juan Carlos’s spokesman denied the king’s Antichrist aspirations altogether. “There is not any beginning of proof or anything. It is just an opinion,” he insisted. Papal spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls concurred: “The two questions which you raised . . . are so much hypothetical and so far from reality, that I cannot reply, not even as a mere joke.” Kissinger’s spokeswoman was surprised that her boss is being considered for the job. “Oh, lovely,” she moaned. “You’re not taking this seriously, I hope.”

In contrast, Gorbachev’s spokesman and Karl von Hapsburg himself graciously considered the questions. Both men, we discovered, are quite ambitious in their dictatorial goals.

“As world dictator, the first step will be to resolve all conflict and stop bloodshed in the world,” said Gorbachev adviser and spokesman Alexander Likhotal.

Hapsburg reminded us that he is a leader in the Pan-European Movement. “I would try to get the ideas of the Pan-European Movement, to make them true at least for all of Europe, and if they apply, also to other states,” he said firmly. “This would be self-determination of people. I mean, I don’t want to have the same rules all over the world because it would be ridiculous, because man is not the same in all countries.”

As for the New Kids on the Block, Likhotal suggested that their influence could be neutralized “by forming a taste for classical music” among the world’s population.

“I know the group, the name sounds familiar,” Hapsburg mused, “but I couldn’t think of one specific song of that group. So the question is quite a problem for me. I’m so sorry. I do apologize.”