(CBS) This was far deeper, far more controversial, far more riveting than wondering whether Mitt Romney or Rick Perry were right on immigration.
For this was 16 anonymous, stateless human beings given the chance to gain an exalted level of citizenship - that of Person of Whom You Might Have Actually Heard.
In case you have been subject to protracted negotiations between Israel and Hamas over the last few weeks, you might not know that "The X Factor" - Simon Cowell's latest attempt to make money out of human gullibility - was making big decisions Tuesday night. The four very wealthy judges - together with their extra specially wealthy guest judges like Rihanna - had to finally decide who would reach the last 16.
The NBA lockout negotiations had nothing on this tension. For the candidates had been forced to sing by their mentors' pools and generally lower themselves to the level of wannabee wannabees.
Now we were waiting for a decision. Was this really going to take two hours? Over half a World Series game for a simple announcement? Yes, it was. This was gall beyond blather. This was the arrogance of the narcissist. This was no surprise.
Not in the case of car mechanic Tora Woloshin. A mere nine minutes into the show, Cowell told her - with all consummate cold-bloodedness - that she hadn't made it. Cue the tears. Cue the phone call to momma. Even her tattoos were weeping.
On the other hand, Simone Battle, who was already weeping, got good news. She called her momma too.
Drew Ryniewicz, aged 14, was next. Ryniewicz is one of the genuinely promising talents on this manipulative, freaky show. Cowell - cruel, wicked man that he is - made her hang on his every word. Having told her that she was best teenager, he revealed she had been "the best contestant of the whole day."
Ryniewicz called her momma. Are you getting the sense of a pattern here? Would you make a party dress out of it? Or perhaps something more akin to a Crate and Barrel pillow case?
So two of the four girls were revealed. (Ah, that meant the last decisions would be controversial.)
We switched to Nicole Scherzinger and the over 30s. Josh Krajcik, by far the most talented contestant of all, was first to be told his fate.
"Last year I made 12, 13, 14 thousand dollars," said the burrito maker. With his hair looking as if it still was held together by burrito grease, Krajcik sat next to his mentor, a woman at least five times less talented than he and millions of times richer. (That's what's wrong with America, people.)
She tried to string it out. She tried to be dramatic. She failed with all the misery of Kathy Bates. Krajcik was in. He cried. He called his momma. Yes, really.
"I think life has drastically changed for us," he said. One can only hope.
For the rest, Scherzinger made it seem as if this was more painful for her than it was for those whom she rejected. A waiter and a hairdresser fell by the wayside. For some inexplicable reason - oh, it couldn't be because it would make fine, dramatic TV, could it? - she admitted 49-year-old Dexter Haygood. Haygood's poolside audition was quite the worst of them all. So he jumped into Scherzinger's pool, fully clothed. Haygood had been down on his luck, living in his car. Surely the marketing people could make something out of that.
Paula Abdul had the most difficult task of all the judges. How could she find even one group to allow through to the live performance? On the evidence of the auditions, most of these groups were no better than a table for four in any Ohio restaurant on any given Friday night.
Still, Abdul had to choose. She went for the competent Brewer Boys, but not the prosaic 4Shore, who wore their own custom T-shirts to their execution.
Suddenly, we were in the Hamptons at the home of L.A. Reid. Quickly, he admitted 14-year-old blowhard rapper Brian "Astro" Bradley.
Reid no longer had Rihanna at his side. She had seemed largely unimpressed with most of what she had been asked to endure and had, perhaps, gone shopping.
He rejected clumsily-coiffed Nick Voss and black country singer Skyelor Anderson. Oddly, though, he chose Sinatra-lite Phillip Lomax. Lomax' trilby almost fell off, but not quite.
Back to Cowell. He softened up 16-year-old Jazzlyn Little. He told her she was wonderful. Then he brought the axe hard down upon her. She cried. She didn't call her momma - at least not on camera.
The producers cut Scherzinger and the over 30s into sections in precisely the same manner as the Final Rose episodes of "The Bachelor." They tossed in bits of dialogue: "I just don't know whether you want it enough", "I've had to make everything into consideration" and "I've made my decision."
And we didn't know to whom she was talking.
Finally, we saw the crestfallen chops of Tiger Budbill, who said his heart had dropped. But not the signal on his cell phone - Tiger called his wife.
Sixty-year-old Leroy Bell, on the other hand, was accorded Cleopatra's assent. We didn't see him call any grandchildren.
Before we had time to consider that, Reid let recently out of rehab Chris Rene through, despite an abjectly mediocre performance by Reid's pool. He called his sister.
Meanwhile, in an act of desperation, Abdul chose two groups full of teens who wish they were Justin Bieber. They called their moms.
Tiah Tolliver made it too. The other judges didn't think much of her, but Cowell has had a little thing for her from the very beginning. When Cowell has a little thing, it's a big thing. Power works like that.
Reid's last choice was Marcus Canty, who called his mom. Reid really wasn't in the mood to have country singers, so Tim Cifres had to go.
At least he didn't have to sing in front of Abdul's Santa Barbara waterfall. The groups did. The last one Abdul chose was Stereo Hogzz. Not that it matters, but they did jump into Abdul's pool. Oh, and they called their mommas.
But when you're a momma already, who are they going to call? Ghostbusters? For the last place among the over 30s, it was between Elaine Gibbs and Stacy Francis. Scherzinger wallowed in her own gratuitous pathos. "This has been the hardest decision of my life," she claimed, appallingly.
Less appallingly, she chose Francis. More appallingly, it was Scherzinger we were shown weeping, not Gibbs.
But what of Cowell? Would he choose 13-year-old Rachel Crow or 18-year-old Melanie Amaro? Amaro really wanted to call her mom to tell her she'd made it. Crow just wanted a new bathroom and a large TV. Anyone who believes either of these two is less talented than Tiah Tolliver has no ears, no eyes and the brains of a lobotomized salamander.
Cowell rejected Amaro, which, some might feel, was entirely insane.
"I hate this job sometimes," Cowell said, mendaciously.
Amaro called her momma. This was not pleasant television. Her momma was worried about her.
After Cowell gave Crow the good news, he crowed that he loved his job.
But of course there had to be a big finish. Suddenly, Cowell realized he'd made a mistake. Fortunately, the cameras were there to witness Cowell realizing he'd made a mistake.
What was he going to do? What mistake could he have possibly made? No, this was a big mistake. Horrific, even. And we only had five minutes left of the show.
There was, apparently, an immediate conference call. Or perhaps a carrier pigeon had been flown from France to the Hamptons, Santa Barbara and Malibu, and then back again.
So Cowell got on a very pretty private jet, flew to Sunshine, Florida in order to plead forgiveness. Who was supposed to forgive him? Why, Amaro. But she didn't know.
Of course this wasn't manipulative television. This was embarrassingly manipulative television.
Just like that nice man who used to arrive with that large check from the Publishers Clearing House, Cowell turned up at Amaro's door.
She had, allegedly, no idea he was coming. But someone else in her house did, because he immediately let Cowell in. Sadly, he didn't get down on his knees, but he did ask her to be the 17th finalist.
One of her family members excitedly said of Cowell: "He has a heart."
Call your momma and ask her what she thinks.