Click your heels three times fast and say hope and change…

I woke up extra early today, it being Election Day and all. Like the candidates, I didn’t sleep particularly well last night. Unlike the candidates, my restlessness had more to do with beer, hot wings and Monday Night Football than nerves over whether I’d become the next president. While some loyal and apparently deranged PWB readers have announced they’ll write me in as their presidential choice, I suspect we’ll be shy of the numbers required to claim victory.

So there I was at 0-dark-thirty this morning, fumbling with the coffee maker and watching the sun come up over the back forty. While Idiot the dog sat faithfully at my side waiting for me to drop bits of my pop-tart accidently on the floor, my mind wandered back over the past many months.

Has it really been almost two years and almost 14 bajillion dollars since this campaign thing started? And why can’t you find basic brown sugar cinnamon pop-tarts without icing anymore in the supermarket? Icing on a pop-tart is the classic definition of overegging the pudding.

It seems like just yesterday all the pundits in Punditsville declared we’d be looking at a Rudy-Hillary battle on Nov. 4. That battle failed to materialize when the Republicans decided they couldn’t seriously have a president named Rudy and Democrats opted for style over Balkans combat experience.

And what of the others? Remember John Edwards? No? Pageant hair… trial lawyer… cheated on wife… not ringing any bells? How about Fred Thompson? At one time many Republicans pointed to him as the best hope. “Oh, if only Fred would throw his hat in the ring” said many conservatives. Turns out Fred had about as much spark as Wilfred Brimley. Dennis Kucinich? Too wonkish. Mitt Romney? Too Mormon. Bill Richardson? Christopher Dodd? See Fred Thompson. Mike Huckabee? Too normal.

Eventually, I believe it was around the summer of 1997, the field was whittled down to McCain and Obama. Since then we’ve been treated to what the pundits now refer to as a “historic” election season. Historic on many levels… historic because one of the candidates is African American and young-ish, historic because one of the candidates is a former prisoner of war and old-ish, historic because we’re in an economic downturn of supposedly “historic” proportions and historic because pundits tend to be drama queens and the word historic adds a certain buzz to the process.

Oh, it’s also historic because of the amount of money raised by the Obama campaign — some $600 million dollars. Obama raises $600 million to get elected and it’s called "historic." If McCain had raised that much it would be called “typical Republican excess” or something similarly derisive. What a load of crap.

McCain, who stuck with the public financing system, was limited to $84 million. Honestly, what the hell can you buy nowadays for $84 million? Certainly not high public office. You need real jack for that, pal.

Apparently, the extra $516 million clams in Obama’s billfold was instrumental in gaining anywhere from a two to a seven point lead over McCain in the final national polls. Even if we go with the more generous seven point lead in the polls, that means that each percentage point lead, after making our way through the entire campaign, costs the Obama camp approximately $73 million. A big thank you to Bobo the talking intern for crunching the numbers.

Interestingly, the Democrats, who may soon control the White House, the Congress and the Senate, were traditionally all about campaign finance reform. In a surprising development, the zeal for strict public financing controls is inversely related to the amount of money a candidate can raise through private financing.

Some of the most self righteous Dems, including folks like Sen. Bob Kerrey, are now spinning wildly in an effort to match their excitement for newly found fund raising abilities with their old pronouncements decrying excessive campaign spending. I don’t know, but I think when money influences political positioning it’s sometimes called "business as usual." Regardless, who knew that the "Change We Can Believe In" would come with a $600 million price tag.

Since I’m writing this column early in the morning of Election Day, I have no idea what the outcome will be. True, I have consulted the Magic 8 Ball, which over the past year has proven as or more accurate than 87 percent of all television pundits. During yesterday’s PWB staff meeting we all gathered round the 8 Ball while Lola, our erstwhile but mediocre office manager, asked the question "Will McCain win the election?" Lola shook the beejeebees out of the ball, waited a moment and watched as the answer appeared “Ask again later."

She handed the ball to Number Two, who asked "Will Obama win the election?" Appropriate shaking, a moment of silence and then "Can’t predict now." That’s the thing about the Magic 8 Ball, there’s a lot of gray. It’s open to interpretation and, in that regard, is about as useful as any of the polls we’ve been consumed with over the past two years.

Anyway, it seems that now, in the quiet of the morning on the day when we’ll choose our 44th president, is a fine time to ask ourselves, "What did we learn from this campaign season?" And so, the PWB is pleased to present our top ten list of stuff we learned:

10. There is no limit to how much smoke you can blow up the American voter’s butt.

9. Keith Olberman and Chris Mathews seem to favor Obama and it looks like Rush Limbaugh is leaning towards McCain. While surprising, it appears that the media isn’t objective after all.

8. In today’s America, a decent politician such as Norm Coleman can end up in a tight race against a caustic windbag like Al Franken.

7. Every politician in Washington says Washington is broken while refusing to take responsibility for being part of Washington.

6. If you say hope and change three times fast while clicking your heels you’ll find yourself back in the Carter years.

5. Anyone can be a debate moderator. Next election year, let’s hold a nationwide lottery to choose the moderators from the public. If the candidates go over their allotted time, Jamie Farr will stand up and hit the gong.

4. Feminists are all about the advancement of women unless we’re talking conservative women. Conservative gals need to leave the deep thinking to liberal women who don’t have funny accents.

3. The McCain campaign staff couldn’t organize panic in a doomed submarine.

2. If Obama is elected, the honeymoon will be brief and the divorce from the press will be particularly nasty.

1. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. Still don’t get it.

There you have it… stuff we’ve learned during the long, plodding campaign season. The coffee’s done, I’m heading out to the local school to vote. Regardless of the outcome, let’s all meet back here next week for a look at the future.

And while you’re voting, take a moment to think about all those who’ve fought and died to protect our freedoms. This nation is built on the sacrifices of generations past. Times are tough, but our parents and their parents have seen tougher.

By the way, let us know what you’ve learned during this campaign. Send your e-mails to peoplesweeklybrief@hotmail.com.

Mike Baker served for more than 15 years as a covert field operations officer for the Central Intelligence Agency, specializing in counterterrorism, counternarcotics and counterinsurgency operations around the globe. Since leaving government service, he has been a principal in building and running several companies in the private intelligence, security and risk management sector, including most recently Prescience LLC, a global intelligence and strategy firm. He appears frequently in the media as an expert on such issues. Baker is also a partner in Classified Trash, a film and television production company. Baker serves as a script consultant, writer and technical adviser within the entertainment industry, lending his expertise to such programs as the BBC's popular spy series "Spooks," as well as major motion pictures.