"Hello everyone, I'm Jim Lehrer, although my accent makes that rhyme with 'Berra,' as in Yogi Berra. And if you think that's confusing, wait until you watch the rest of this cockamamy debate, which is supposed to convince America that these guys are the best choices available, instead of just two bozos put up by the power elite. All right, if we're gonna get out of here by midnight, we'd better get started. Vice President Gore, you won the coin toss."BR>

"Thanks, Jim. I've elected to be a pushy, arrogant know-it-all tonight. I'll also be sighing audibly and giggling from time to time. I'm hoping to court the Baby Boomer vote, too, so I'm wearing a lot of blush, which makes me look like Howdy Doody."

"Fine. Governor Bush?"

"I hope voters won't notice that my beady eyes are too close together, and I'll be trying to show my teeth when I smile, which makes me look either scary or crazy, depending on the camera angle. My overall goal is to get out of here without Poindexter there making me look stupid, so I plan to shuffle my way out of saying anything specific."

"Fine. Gentlemen, first let's go over the rules. You'll get two minutes to dodge my question, then the other guy will go off on a tangent for another minute. After that, I'll start saying 'time' louder and louder while you both ignore me and argue about each other's arithmetic. And remember, this isn't really a debate ? it's just a way to run through the buzz phrases from your campaign speeches. Ready, Mr. Gore?"

"We need to have a middle-class tax cut, not for the wealthiest 1 percent, and don't let those creepy oil companies start drilling in Alaska or take away a woman's right to choose."

"Governor Bush?"

"20,000 new bureaucrats, Monica Lewinsky, Buddhist temple."

"All right. Now the average American can't tell any more difference between you two than a couple of snowflakes. And polls are about as scientific as dowsing for water with a forked stick, so we keep hearing that this sad excuse for an election is a statistical dead heat. That's why we've assembled a group of typical voters here tonight and wired them to measure their galvanic skin response, respiration, and other vital signs during this charade. So unless we have an unexpected heart attack, we should get a pretty good idea of who drops the biggest bomb. Governor Bush, you start."

"Well first, Al Gore over here thinks the government should keep your tax money, but I want to give it all back. Then, I'll also use it to bail out Social Security and paint everybody's house. In conclusion, don't forget that the Clintons are sleazebags and the buck stops at the Lincoln Bedroom."

"Mr. Gore?"

"Liar, liar, pants on fire. I'm my own man, and I'm using a lot of exaggerated hand gestures tonight to prove it. And if the Republicans get in, old people will be sleeping in their cars."

"All right, gentlemen, a hypothetical question to test your leadership ability and show how clever I am. If the country had a sudden, unexpected economic collapse and Slobodan Milosevic refused to step down on the same day that an asteroid crashed into Salt Lake City, what would you do? Mr. Gore."

"Ooooh, good one. Well, I certainly would do something. And let me take this opportunity to say that the U.S. military is the best in the world."

"Wait a minute! I think the U.S. military is the best in the world."

"In fact, we both have a plan for improving it, which we both agree that it doesn't need."

"That's right."

"We're both in favor of education, too."

"And don't forget campaign-finance reform."

"Right after the election."

"You bet."

"Gentlemen, let's take a break and see what kind of reaction our voter sample is having to all this."

"Jim, it looks like they're all asleep. In fact, one may be dead."

"Damn. We were hoping to reuse this group for Cheney and Lieberman."

Copyright 2000 by Garry Lee Wright. All rights reserved. GLW's on WGN (AM radio 720) Chicago and wgnradio.com.

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