Hey, Guys! Enough of This Mushy 'Oprah' Stuff!

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George W. kisses Oprah after appearing on her show

When Congress passed the 19th Amendment back in 1920, American women were finally granted the right to vote. Eighty years later, we're the most powerful demographic in the country; it's impossible to win a national election without our support. And now, reconciled to that inescapable truth, both George W. Bush and Al Gore have dedicated their campaigns to the full-time kissing of our hindquarters.

But a kiss is just a kiss. It's no substitute for commitment.

You'd think with all those votes on the line our concerns would be addressed with a modicum of gravity. Listened to. Consulted. You'd think the candidates would be lining up at our doors to showcase their policies on health care, education, Social Security. But you'd be wrong. Instead of crunching our numbers, the candidates are kissing our babies. They're wearing earth tones and soft pastel ties. They're going on "Oprah," for God's sake.

It makes sense, of course, that the candidates would fall over themselves to appear onscreen with the most powerful woman in America. And in the past week, both Gore and Bush have appeared on the spectacularly popular daytime talk show; each sat down with Oprah herself for 60 minutes of free television time. I sat down to watch the shows, hoping against hope for some substance, a little bit of weight.

I should have known better.

It started with the lighting: Soft, buttery yellow, with that sort of Vaseline-smeared quality favored by Streisand, Walters and Sawyer. And while Diane makes it work, George and Al both looked absolutely absurd with those halogen halos circling their rock-hard coifs. Then the conversation started, and the anguish increased. There was Al, crinkling the corners of his eyes in his best "I feel your pain" imitation and managing only to look like he was in some sort of gastrointestinal distress. And here was George, leaning in so close to Oprah that he looked ready to fall right out of his chair. Both of them waxing saccharine over unnamed schoolchildren in danger of falling behind, but offering no clear solution to the problems of overcrowding and underteaching. Both rhapsodizing over their fairy-tale marriages, their flawless children, their beautiful interior decorating.

At first it was just embarrassing. Then it got annoying. By the end of the interviews, I was fuming. Just who do these guys think they are, anyway? I don't care where either of them "find their spirit" at the end of the day. Once his official business is finished, the President can take a flying leap for all I care. He can frolic in a field of daisies or soak in bubble bath if that's what does it for him. It's the daylight hours that matter to me. And, I imagine, to a whole lot of other women. So here's my message: Sock it to us, George and Al. We can take it. Whole handfuls of policy papers, hard facts, challenging graphs. Show us what you'll accomplish in the Oval Office, not what you'll do to the drapes.

And remember: That lowest common denominator your advisers keep telling you about? Those speeches you're always supposed to dumb down for us? Ignore them. And then walk out onto those stages and give it to us straight. No soft lighting required.