This current circus is all-consuming. It is dominating conversations among Americans of every stripe. From the nightly babble of TV pundits to workers round the proverbial water-cooler.
Celebrities are as prone to pontificate about the topic as the rest of us. I discovered this the other night while working at a celebrity-heavy event in New York. I was interviewing attendees at the annual Creative Coalition Spotlight Awards about their support for a variety of social and political causes. But the topic that really got folks talking was the current imbroglio in Florida.
One of my interviewees was a former inhabitant of the White House. Like one of this year's contenders - he is a son of a living President - though unlike Dubya this man broke free of his father's spell and politics. Looking spry and wearing an ironic smile - was Ron Reagan Jr. He was very clear in his beliefs.
"I hope it's resolved by as fair and complete a count in the state of Florida as you can possibly get - which seems to be going on now. I think that everybody needs to relax. Let this go on. Nobody's upset about waiting another couple of weeks for this thing to pan out. We've got till January 20th. It's not like there's no one in the White House till then."
Was he troubled by the way the matter had descended into a legal morass?
"I hope it's not resolved in the courts. But we're a litigious society... we sue!" He then looked at me and deadpanned "In fact I'm suing you right after this just for the hell of it..."
Point made. I edged over to speak with Spalding Gray who is currently starring on Broadway as a presidential candidate in the revival of Gore Vidal's "The Best Man."
"It's the most interesting thing that's happened in American politics that I remember in my lifetime. Suddenly people are politicized. Normally they would just be over the election and on to everything else. This has caused them to think more about issues. And it's bringing people in to see 'The Best Man' !"
Mercy! The crisis is selling tickets to a play about presidential politics. There is something foul afoot...
Creative Coalition events are noted for the eclectic crowd they attract - so I was not too surprised to suddenly find myself in front of the familiar mustachioed face of Jeff "Skunk" Baxter the guitarist from the Doobie Bros. and Steely Dan. Surprised to discover that his cause was related to ballistic missiles (though I forget now if he was for or against them) I asked him if he was troubled by the legal shenanigans in Tallahassee. Not a bit of it.
"Law took the place of the gun as the great equalizer in our society. I'd rather see the game played with laws than guns."
Or ballistic missiles I suppose.
I next sought the views of the president. The president of the coalition that is - Billy Baldwin. A proud Gore supporter - he nonetheless struck a powerful non-partisan note.
"If Gore was up by 500 votes and Bush was demanding a recount I would totally support that. If we go up by 1,000 votes from Democratic strongholds and Bush demands a recount in the Panhandle - I would totally support that."
Finally - and demonstrating that he places his principles over populist sentiment - he practically advocated recounting half of America. "If we have to recount Oregon, Wisconsin, Iowa and New Mexico... whatever. Until we count this vote accurately and fairly."
After that sobering thought - I caught up with white-soul balladeer Michael Bolton. He pronounced himself another supporter of the recount school.
"I think they need to do it again. The butterfly ballot was against state law. They've got to do those votes over again. I'm not in a hurry to have a president we don't all want. I want it done right."
Mindful that in recent years the courts have given Bolton a hard time and found him guilty of plagiarizing Motown songwriters - I subsequently conducted a thorough Nexus-Lexis search. But I could find no Isley Bros. lyrics which referred to presidents, state law or butterfly ballots - so I am reasonably confident that these were indeed Bolton's own words.
Next I encountered a true journalistic legend - the venerable Walter Cronkite. Obviously wary of joining the recent chorus of bizarre Rather-isms - the seasoned warrior at first picked his words very carefully.
"My best analysis is that we've had a very close election. I can make that statement I think with rather considerable certainty..."
I noticed that the Cronkite eyes were twinkling as he dryly spoofed the premature ejaculations about the presidency made on election night by his successors in the anchor biz.
Then he continued in more serious vein:
"I don't think this is bad for the democracy. it shows that the issues as they were explained by the two candidates have adherents on both sides. I hope that the contest for still doubtful votes does not continue for very long. I think it's not gracious to have to go through a lot of court battles to determine how the vote came out. On the other hand I do think that the Palm County votes should be recounted because of the obvious nature of the mistakes there."
Finally I encountered the be-stubbled emcee for the event - humorist Harry Shearer.
I asked him what he thought about the state of things in Florida. Shearer was characteristically blunt and direct. "I think Epcot is great - I think Tomorrowland probably needs some work..."
And that's the way it is.