Farewell To An Entertaining Race

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Anticipating that the contest "Who Wants to Be a President" will be over soon, CBS News Sunday Morning Correspondent Rita Braver reflects on its entertainment value. Here's her thoughts on the lighter side of the election-year match. An archive of The Braver Line is available. Rita Braver's email address is rbc@cbsnews.com.
Forget the new television season, the movies, the plays, the operas. For sheer entertainment value these days, nothing beats the campaign for the White House.

There was the third and final debate, with a recharged Al Gore striding around the stage like a prize fighter preening before a title bout and a cautious George W. Bush trying desperately not to say or do anything that would make anyone, anywhere not like him.

There was the Bush visit to David Letterman's program, wherein Letterman grilled an obviously uncomfortable Bush on subjects like the death penalty, and air pollution in Texas. "It's getting better," Governor Bush said.

Then there was a face-off between the two candidates at the annual Al Smith dinner in New York City. This is an event that raises money for Catholic charities, and it was delightful on so many levels, not the least of which was that dress for the evening was white tie and tails. What a dilemma it must have been for the campaigns. After all, both Gore and Bush have been vying for the title of "Elite-Bashingest Man of the People."

They both probably would have preferred if the dress had been overalls and one of Lamar Alexander's leftover plaid shirts. But could either candidate pass up the chance to kiss up to Catholic charities, even if the required outfit had been bathing suits and peanut butter? No way.

Then there's been the flap over whether Al Gore really loves, needs and properly honors Bill Clinton. The answer seems to be a resounding "No," since the vice president can't seem to even pronounce the name "Clinton," anymore, and has even dropped the word "president" from his vocabulary when it applies to the current commander-in-chief, as when Gore started to mention the "p..." and quickly switched to "administration" during the last debate.

Clinton groupies have obviously been pushing the "Al is being mean to Bill" story line, in an effort to absolve the president from any role in a possible Al Gore loss, and/or to get the vice president to beg Mr. Clinton to get out on the campaign trail and save the day.

All of this is going on in public, so you are getting to experience it for yourself. But reporters are being treated to a thrilling behind-the-scenes email war. Our computers have become individual battleground states. We arrive in the morning to find to find missives attacking the other guy's programs and proposals, statements and statistics. Soon they'll be bad mouthing each other's fter shave.

On just one day for example, I received a combined total of 21 emails before noon. The Bush campaign puts out "The Gore Detector," "Billed as a Regular Report on Al Gore's Adventures With the Truth."

The Gore campaign sends out its own rebuttals, including one called "Bush Takes Truth to the Cleaners," which claims that in a television interview Bush denied having a stake in three dry cleaning establishments, when if fact he does. Really. I'm not making this up.

And just think, in just a few weeks, the best comedy of the new season will be history. I don't know about you, but I'm going to miss the George and Al Show.