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'HURRY SUNDOWN -- LET'S BE DONE WITH IT'

Well, it's all over but the voting, and then acceptance of the reality that Bill Clinton is going to be president for four more years.

Bob Dole had his last, best chance to dethrone the Arkansas Democrat Wednesday night with a no-holds-barred attack on Clinton's character. But Dole failed, partly because his attack was tamer than some fights I've seen in church, and also because American voters long ago discounted the "scandals" of Arkansas land deals, FBI files, White House travel office firings and presidential sexcapades.

It is noteworthy that not one citizen on the town-hall panel asked the president a single potentially embarrassing question about any of those things, which Dole says make Clinton ethically unworthy of the presidency.

It became clear during Wednesday night's debate that voters are looking more at Dole's old, unfair GOP views than at Clinton's flaws.

Take the issue of a law to prohibit firing people simply for being homosexual. Clinton said flatly, "I'm for it. That's my policy." Dole lapsed into typical Republican double talk: "Well, I'm opposed to discrimination in any form, but I don't favor creating special rights for any group."

All but blind homophobes would find it impossible to cast a ban on firing people just for their sexual orientation as a "special right."

It's well-known that I've had deep dissatisfactions with Clinton, who has yet to convince me that, morally and ideologically, he is more than a political opportunist. I've waited for the Dole-Kemp ticket to show reasons why I and millions of other Americans ought to dump Clinton and vote Republican. But in dozens of ways Dole has indicated that he is hopelessly bound to GOP policies that are frighteningly hostile to Americans who are poor or not of the dominant white-male fraternity.

Dole seemed a relic of an unfair past when he again stood against the Family Leave Act. He said he supports an employer's right to deny an employee time off to attend the birth of a child, or give help during a serious family illness.

And Dole played shamefully to a "white backlash" in California and elsewhere when he characterized affirmative-action programs as "preferences and quotas" -- a stance that kept him diametrically opposite the views of Gen. Colin Powell, the black "catch of the decade" for the GOP.

Women -- especially white women -- have been the greatest beneficiaries of affirmative-action programs in America, so Dole has only widened the "gender gap" with the spurious argument that he favors equal opportunity, "but we cannot guarantee equal results in America."

Dole insists on staying in denial about the amount of racial and gender discrimination that still exists in America. Can he really not know that "equal opportunity" is not a reality? Where does he find any affirmative-action program that guarantees "equal results"?

Dole has displayed an incredible lack of information and sophistication regarding the great social issues. That has kept him miles away from any chance of ousting Clinton.

So this campaign has been a dreadful bore, yet terribly divisive, leaving me to say, "Hurry, sundown. Let's be done with it!"

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