Okay, I admit it. As the election approaches, I amfeeling a creepy sense of paranoia. My right brain reads the newspapers,studies the polls and thinks we are looking at a blow-out next month–Dems conquer at last. My left brain hoots in derision. Get real, sucker.

The run-up has been pure fun for me: Generals leak the NationalIntelligence Estimate. Rep. Foley falls from grace. Senator Macaca blowshis lead. The reports from the field are more than promising. The hardnews has trumped every move by Bush-Rove to win once again on theirusual fear and smear campaign.

Yet the least little thing jerks away my optimism, like ripping off ascab that’s not quite healed. When I heard the news flash that a planehad crashed into a Manhattan apartment tower, I didn’t think, howhorrible. I said to myself: those rotten bastards in the White House.

I wasn’t thinking terrorists. I was thinking the Bush regime had gone tonew extremes in its search for a believable “red alert.” That tactic isworn out, it’s been used so many times in election seasons. Instead, whynot blow up a chunk of New York City to remind folks how scary life canbe in these United States? Okay, that thought is irrational (alsoslanderous). But office conversations the next day told me I was notalone.

Like Alex Cockburn, I don’t play conspiracy-theory games. Theplots are always too complicated and assign too much skill and foresightto the alleged conspirators. If wicked politicians or the “ruling class”were that smart, America would never lose a war.

But, boy, am I feeling vulnerable these days to ugly surprises. The lastfew weeks, helicopters and small planes have been buzzing heavily overmy neighborhood in northwest Washington. What’s that about? I asked aneighbor and he laughed weakly. Maybe Cheney had a heart attack andthey’re flying him to Bethesda Naval Hospital. Maybe it’s just a trialrun for the big one.

In the office elevator, I bumped into an old friend, a reporter fromDow Jones. (Yes, the Wall Street Journal and The Nation can co-exist inthe same building (this is incestuous Washington and we all think ofourselves as kindred insiders). My friend is a smart and observantconservative who doesn’t peddle cheap partisan opinions.

Democrats, he told me, won’t get more than eight to ten seats in the House,forget the Senate. What? Why? Money and method, he said. Betweenblanketing TV with killer ads and turning out the righteous right-wingbase, the Republicans are in the process of buying it one more time.

I got off the elevator and found myself trembling. Didn’t want to arguewith him, didn’t want to hear more about what he knew.  He mightconvince me.  

Forget facts. I just want it be over. Soon. Actually, right now.