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And The Winner Is...


The TV debating season, which seems to be running as long as the run up to the Football World Cup, gets a shot in the arm tonight with the debut of Fred Thompson as a player. He had surprised everyone by throwing his Screen Actors' Guild card into the race last month by debating Jay Leno on "Tonight," but this was show time!

It won't affect my mind about the candidates. If I wanted an actor as president, I would vote for somebody who at least has acted the role on TV. I would vote for my favorite TV president of all time: David Palmer of 24. That actor Dennis Haysbert--WAS the president!

This will not be Fred's shining hour. He is up against those veteran troupers, the Mitt & Rudy act, aka Romney & Giuliani, the tango team that has entranced voters so far at these Republican dance recitals. Three's a crowd on the dance floor, as well as TV debates.

As the political version of Dancing with the Stars goes along, Rudy Giuliani's star glows ever more brightly. He is more and more relaxed, showing us the Rudy Giuliani we knew as Mayor of New York City. In the old days he had suffered from an Il Duce complex, always delivering pronuncimentos on issues. He doesn't need a balcony these days. He has TV. These debates allow him to stick his chin into every camera angle.

But I've already made up my mind.

Let me tell you how effective these debates have been in making it possible to pick the best man for the most important public office in the land, if not the world. Thanks to the 19 or so debates I've already watched, I've narrowed it down to two people.

For a while there I thought Obama was my man. But then he said we should bomb Pakistan. Or maybe it was invade.

I see the race now as a battle between Dennis Kucinich and Ron Paul.

Rep. Kucinich beat Mike Gravel in the Democratic race. Because of his wife. Mrs. K is the lady in the red hair that the TV cameras amazingly always seemed to focus on in the rare moments Dennis got to speak. Jon Stewart has done the definitive study of this coincidental editorializing in this part of the debating process, and his astute analysis of these coincidences on The Daily Show should be studied in future poly-sci courses.

I'm always moved by these arguments. The only reason I would watch Dallas football, the nation's team as the flacks told us, was the fleeting glimpse of the Dallas Cowgirls. I'm a sucker for pom poms.

It's not a dirty trick by the Kucinich campaign so much as a Democratic tradition. JFK also played the wife card with Jackie in the 1960 election.

Kucinich also happens to be the most provocative candidate, whose only rival in making the most sense is Mike Gravel, the guy who is always telling us the emperor has no clothes. But the TV debate producers treat him as a clown.

Dennis Kucinich has something most of the other candidates don't have. He's sincere. He thinks diplomacy is important, although he may not appreciate that a lot of those people aren't interested in being our buddies. He is a fresh voice worth listening to in the nano-seconds he gets in these debates where theoretically all candidates are equal except some are more equal than others.

In the Republican debates, Rep. Ron Paul has won my vote. He is electrifying. What he has to say shocks the others on the bandstand. He especially makes Rudy's hair stand on end. In the rare moments Paul gets to speak, he actually says something.

Ron Paul is one of those political figures who has a lot of trouble getting network face time in this system of free speech. But he's all over the Internet, saying real things that make a lot of sense. If the polls were open to only those who are Internet connected --not a bad idea-- Paul would win in a landslide.

Whenever the establishment political analysts mention Paul's name they always note that he is at 1% in the polls. The worst example of loading the deck against the lesser-known candidates I've seen was during the Aug. 19 debate hosted by George Stephanopoulos on ABC News' This Week. They actually posted the candidate's latest poll numbers on their ID's. How would George and ABC News executives like seeing their latest Nielsen numbers next to the ABC logo every week?

Anyway, these early poll results are as reliable as telephone polls. I mean the actual telephone pole, not those pseudo-scientific phone conversations conducted with the few people who happen to be home and don't hang up on them as telemarketers.

Rep. Paul has been a lone voice in Congress for some time. One of his jobs was service on the House Committee, overseeing public housing. I remember the day the committee was investigating HUD, and he said, in effect, "Why don't we just abolish the whole department." Phones starting ringing all day on the Hill, from contractors worried the gravy train would stop.

Ron Paul is not the most telegenic. But he is not a phony. Some Republicans are flip flopping around so much that if they were windmills they could generate enough electric power to run our TV sets. Ron Paul sticks to his positions.

So I guess this makes me a Paulist. Until I catch Rep. Kucinich speaking in the next debate and see the lady in the red hair.

What worries me so much is not who will win the dancing with the stars debating game show but how shocked the American TV audience will be come this first Tuesday in November. You mean, the election won't take place until 2008? So what are they flapping their gums so much on the TV news shows about who is ahead in the polls and other nonsense that passes for political discourse these days?

Why don't they just say, in the words of the most authoritative political commentator of all time, Emily Litella, "never mind."