I watched every minute of every presidential debate. I suffered through each sigh, grimace, nod, head fake and eye roll. I observed the moderator, Jim Lehrer, get tossed around like a toy doll. I saw three different Al Gores over three successive weeks, and I know more about what's in George Bush's heart than his own cardiologist.
I listened to postdebate "average Americans" reveal their "final answers" concerning the election, and witnessed our great national experiment in democracy devolve into a TV game show. I noted every pundit and talking head blather on and on about lower "bars" and higher "expectations" and who needs to do what to attract the few remaining undecideds, who probably can't figure out what to have for dinner, much less who to vote for.
I have read articles and editorials that breathlessly enumerate the "stark" differences between the two leading contenders, and then noticed how quickly their respective parties came together to freeze out others (Buchanan, Nader, Browne, Hagelin, Phillips) who might have dared to contest their centrist, status-quo positions.
I have visited the websites, read the mailers and taken the phone calls. I've sorted through the "spins," touted up the tax breaks and mastered the ever-changing maps of electoral votes. I've collated the colored bar graphs and put up with the paid political announcements as they tortured the facts, twisted the truth, tweaked the numbers and tarnished the television in my family room.
With two weeks still to go, I'm over stimulated, unfulfilled, beaten up and battle-scarred. But I finally know for whom I'm going to vote. There is only one man in America who can lead us with the passion, conviction and humility that I require; one man who mirrors my politics, has already earned my trust, and who will nobly serve as a staunch champion of liberty, not to mention undisputed leader of the free world. I'm going to vote for Martin Sheen.
Yes, my choice for president is the man who already has held the office for the past two TV seasons on "The West Wing," and who easily possesses the most impressive "numbers" in America (Nielsen numbers, that is!) -- that intelligent, self-effacing, Nobel Prize winner in economics, ex-congressman, former Democratic governor of New Hampshire and scion of one of America's founding families, Josiah Bartlet. He's the "real" thing.
How often have I watched Sheen as Bartlet, even in times of crisis, exhibit his "compassionate liberalism" toward his own staff of talented, committed do-gooders, as well as the viewing population at large. My God, the man even lets his daughter date a black boyfriend! Could he be more politically correct? And who else could take a bullet in the gut, like he did in this season's premiere, with the grace and style of Ronald Reagan, all the while worrying about his Secret Service agent's hand wound?
I used to think that Michael Douglas would be the best president (or maybe even "Dave's" Kevin Kline). But when Sheen skewered that conservative, homophobic talk-show host in episode two, quoting scripture like Jimmy Carter -- "My chief of staff, Leo McGarry, insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly says he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself or is it OK to call the police?" -- I knew I had found my man.
We already know and love the people who work for him. No worries about presidential appointments! There's the aforementioned McGarry, the president's closest ally and confidant who, according to NBC's web page, "possesses the sort of street smarts that enable him to keep in touch with the sentiments of the nation." And what about press secretary C.J. Cregg, who "spends most of her time deflecting the press' questions with grace and skill, working alongside Toby Ziegler, the rumpled and sleepless communications director whose cynical sense of humor gets him through many dicey political situations?" We even have Rob Lowe working for us in the White House!!!!
I mean, if it's all television anyway, why not have the best in the world determining the fate of the planet for generations to come? Look ... these guys won nine Emmys! What more do you people want? OK! Anyone who thinks that George Bush or Al Gore would make a better president than Martin Sheen, raise your hand. See? Enough said.
So, do the right thing on election day. Vote for the best America has to offer. Vote for Bartlet! And consider this: After years of scandal, you'll always know what's going on in the West Wing -- well, at least on Wednesday nights.