WASHINGTON -- Every week, millions of Americans watch with bated breath as Regis Philbin asks his TV game-show contestants the big question: "Is that your final answer?" If an aspiring tycoon hesitates, while the strobes flash, the lasers sweep and the techno-music pulses, the show's host offers the flustered contender a "lifeline." On Tuesday, about 100 million Americans will enter a voting booth, close the curtain, and without the aid of glittering lights or thumping music, be asked for their "final answer" to a question far more important than any ever posed on "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?": "Who shall be the next president of the United States?"
Unfortunately for some, Regis won't be in the voting booth with a "lifeline." If the pollsters and pundits are correct, on the eve of the closest presidential election in decades, millions of Americans have not yet decided for whom they are going to vote. Apparently, these "undecided" haven't been listening for the past two years, as the presidential candidates have campaigned, as their positions have been explored, their personalities probed and their policies debated. And now, because this race is so close, these nice folks who have yet to make up their minds are going to decide for the rest of us who will be the next head of state, chief executive and commander in chief.
Like the audience for "Millionaire," everyone wants these "contestants" to choose the right answer. And in that spirit, I offer the following "lifelines" to those who are undecided. If you are one of them, please clip this column and take it with you to the polls on Tuesday.
Let's start with the four possible answers to the question, "Who should be the next president of the United States?" They are: A) Republican George W. Bush, B) Reform Party candidate Pat Buchanan, C) Democrat Al Gore and D) Green Party nominee Ralph Nader. This many choices is apparently a cause for confusion among undecided voters. So right off the bat, let's use our 50-50 lifeline and have the computer eliminate two of the wrong answers. (Readers should make appropriate sound effects here.) Because my computer has been programmed to use Common Sense, it eliminated Pat Buchanan and Ralph Nader who have no chance of winning. That leaves us: A) George W. Bush, the Texas governor, and C) Al Gore, the master story-teller.
For those who are still "undecided," we have the famous "audience lifeline." But there's a problem. Our audience has been barraged by nasty Democrat political ads pitting young against old, workers against employers, black against white -- the best Tinseltown can offer to support their pal, Al.
The seniors in the audience have gotten crank calls from Hollywood liberal Ed Asner, falsely asserting that George Bush will cut their Social Security benefits. Union members in the audience have received hysterical warnings that "Al Gore won't take your guns away, but George Bush will take your union away." And the NAACP has treated the audience to one of the most vicious TV ads ever aired, suggesting that Republicans in general, and George Bush in particular, are all racists. This is vintage Gore-Clinton politics: threaten, intimidate and divide. Is that the atmosphere we want in Washington D.C. for four more years?
Democrat commercials have painted Texas as the worst place on the planet to live, work and raise a family -- a place where the air is unfit to breathe, the water is poisonous, the teachers can't teach and the kids don't learn. Thanks to negative TV ads run by Al Gore and his "slaughterhouse" buddies, the audience now thinks the Lone Star State is harder than a rodeo ride on seniors in nursing homes. The audience wonders why the people of Texas elected George W. Bush governor and now overwhelmingly support him for president.
And some are convinced that the best public kisser will make the best commander in chief. The audience is split, and there's no help for the undecided voter.
Thankfully, there is one lifeline left -- where the uncertain contestant gets to phone a friend. Don't call a politician -- call a soldier, sailor, airman or Marine. Ask one of them what they think of Al Gore's secret deals with the Russians to arm our enemies. Ask one of the men or women of our armed forces what it's like to serve under foreign officers in a UN blue beret. Ask someone in uniform who they think will best provide the weapons and equipment they need, and the pay they deserve. Or just keep it simple; ask one of them who they want as their commander in chief.
After utilizing all your lifelines, you will realize that George W. Bush's proposals for smaller government, lower taxes, meaningful reform in Social Security, education and a stronger military must be embraced. At the same time, America should reject Al Gore's record of lies, deceit, corruption and division. The answer is clear. George W. Bush should, and will be the next president of the United States. Regis, that is our final answer.