It's one thing to put these debates between Al Gore and George W. Bush on TV as a public service for viewers who would otherwise be forced to undergo surgery without an anaesthetic. But it's quite another to preempt "West Wing" to do it.
Why would anybody want to see Gore and Bush clumsily trying to act presidential, when they can see Martin Sheen elegantly succeeding?
And speaking of anaesthetic, what sort of megadose was Al Gore on at the debate Wednesday night? I can't recall such a drastic change in anyone's personality since Grateful Dead fans stopped taking drugs and realized: Jeez, this music is terrible!
In their first debate, Gore was all over Bush, hectoring him. Plus, because of his multiple layers of makeup, Gore looked so waxy that you wanted to strap him to the top of your car and yell, "Surf's up!" Obviously, Gore's handlers told him to "try to be a little less annoying even we want to slap you." But Gore was so tame I thought Bush would give him a biscuit and pet him.
And is it just me, or does Bush always look like he's struggling to read cue cards except there aren't any cue cards. You just know he's thinking, "Dang, I knew this stuff yesterday." During Wednesday's debate he actually said, "Africa is an important continent." (Which in a way relieved his handlers, since earlier in the day Bush identified Africa as "an important food group.") I'm not saying the president always has to be the smartest guy in the room. But Bush may not even be the smartest guy in a phone booth.
Is there any doubt who would get the most votes for president in a three-way race among Gore, Bush and Sheen? Sheen would win in a landslide. What's not to like about Martin Sheen except those two dopey sons of his, Emilio and Charlie, the Chang and Eng of schlock.
I'd also take Sheen's vice president over either Dick Cheney or Joe Lieberman. If Cheney were any more of a fat cat, he'd campaign in a window box, sunning himself. And Lieberman has taken so many new positions it's hard to tell if he's running for national office or posing for the Kama Sutra. On the other hand, Sheen's vice president is Tim Matheson, who was Otter in "Animal House"! It was Otter who was comforted by Fawn Leibowitz's sorority sisters in the backseat of Flounder's car after that terrible kiln accident. It was Otter at the toga party who bagged Dean Wormer's boozy wife. That's what we need in a vice president. A frat boy who can score boss chicks. (Yes, Mr. President, I'm the vice president.)
In recent years we've had lots of actors play the president who I would vote for ahead of Gush and Bore excuse me, Bush and Gore. The only actor who really stunk as president was Ronald Reagan.
I'd vote for Michael Douglas from "American President." He looks like a president. I would vote for Kevin Kline, who played the president in "Dave." When people laugh at Kline, it's because he's actually trying to be funny. Not because he says things like, "Al Gore's plan is so prescriptive we'll need IRA agents" to figure it out. IRA agents? And where would we get them, Belfast? Hello? Hello, is this on?
I'd vote for John Travolta, the president in "Primary Colors." Imagine Travolta dancing at state dinners, like he did in "Saturday Night Fever" and "Pulp Fiction." Now imagine Al Gore doing the macarena.
But Sheen is the one I'd most like to see in the Oval Office. On "West Wing," he has a way of speaking from the heart, even when it's going to hurt him in the polls. Sheen doesn't lie unlike Gore, whose October surprise is probably that he invented pumpkin pie.
In the face of criticism of his overblown claims, Gore said he'd "take responsibility for getting some of the details wrong." For example, if Gore claimed that after a hurricane he flew a relief plane to the hurricane site, and cooked hot meals for folks whose homes had been devastated and it turns out that in fact Gore stayed home watching "When Shaved Poodles Go Psycho IV" on Fox, well, Gore would take responsibility for getting "some details" wrong.
Sheen's president is always very forceful; he knows what he thinks. Unlike Bush, who seems to be in a perpetual fog, like he's trying to figure out how to pronounce "Dahomey," and use it in a sentence other than, "Gimme a gin and tonic, and give Dahomeys whatever they want."
It's distressing when your choices for president are so uninspiring. Perhaps that's why, in its current issue, American Journalism Review asked a panel of respected journalists: "Which journalist would you like to see run for president?"
I won't bore you with the pathetic choices, but a genius, Ken Fuson of the Des Moines Register, said: "My pick for president is Tony Kornheiser. He writes columns. He hosts a popular sports radio show. He appears on ESPN's 'Sports Reporters' show. He can write sad. He can write funny. He can go short. He can go long. And he golfs! The future of the free world would be safe in his hands.'
Modesty forbids me from saying anything other than, "Damn right."
Tony Kornheiser is a columnist for Creators Syndicate.