Al Gore and George W. Bush have a lot in common: They’re both spoiled rich boys and sons of famous politicians; both are party animals. I thought it could not get any worse, but I was wrong. The first rule of American politics is that it can always get worse and usually does.

Both Gore and Bush were challenged by the left wings of their parties: Gore, by Mr. Basketball Jones himself, Bill Bradley, who wanted to put his personal race obsession at the top of the American agenda and to socialize whatever sectors of economic life were still in private hands; Bush, by the reform-minded friend of Charles Keating and Joe Bonnano, a divorced philanderer who offered himself as the moral alternative to Bill Clinton.

John McCain’s worst liability was not his smarmy hypocrisy—he is, after all, a member of Congress—but his megalomaniac foreign policy: Crank up the war machines, arm the Muslims against the Christians, destabilize Russia.

As if to prove just how unstable he is, McCain not only campaigned for the Democratic vote—against his own party—but at a key point in his campaign, he denounced the so-called Religious Right, which is his party’s core. Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson deserve criticism for the Christian Coalition’s suicidal support for Bush senior and Bob Dole, but a primary campaign is not the proper occasion for a self-criticism session. Whatever else it may have accomplished, McCain’s candidacy will certainly strengthen the influence of the Christian right over the GOP, and it may even cost George W. Bush the election.

In the end, nearly every state outside the regional lunatic asylum known as New England went for Bush. In fact, the Bush people should not have worried about McCain: Once Bill Kristol and Co. decided to back the Arizona senator. Bush was a sure thing. In an hilarious attempt to reinvent the candidate, the editors of the Weekly Standard portrayed the aging and grumpy liberal as a dynamic populist outsider who was “taking on the GOP establishment. . . . [He] makes the corporate and lobbyist types nervous.” About what—that he might want to squeeze more out of them?

Mr. Kristol has a perfect batting average of .000, both in primaries and in general elections. From Dan Quayle to Colin Powell to Steve Forbes to Bob Dole, the neocons always know how to pick a loser—and they do it with such style. After the New Hampshire primary, the Weekly Standard‘s editors were dribbling their formula down their bibs, cooing over the new Republican front-runner. Not so long ago, they were going platinum on their airline mileage, flying down to Austin to cut deals with the governor. Mr. Bush, apparently, is his father’s son, and while welcoming neoconservative support—just as he welcomed the support of Bob Jones, III, in South Carolina—he apparently did not promise to make Kristol II the secretary of state or John Podhoretz chairman of the national physical fitness program. Disappointed, tile neocons took the first opportunity they had for stabbing their adopted party in the back.

What did they expect? When Midge Decter called Bush senior an antisemite, the neoconservatives either backed her up or stared at their feet in embarrassed silence. Most of them knew the poor woman had been off her rocker since the 60’s, but they could not afford to alienate either her or her equally Christophobic husband. The Kristol-Podhoretz circle has, over the years, accused not only George Bush and Pat Buchanan of antisemitism, but even the Pope. What Republican in his right mind would ever trust them after their embarrassing displays of intemperance and bad manners? Who but Rupert Murdoch could ever pay attention to their political analysis? Even Murdoch may be getting cold feet, since rumor has it that the Weekly Standard‘s editors have been told that he will pull the plug if they cannot raise the publication’s circulation to a respectable level. Rumor also has it that another leading neocon monthly is up for sale because its high-living, big-spending editor failed to deliver on a ridiculous promise to unhorse Bill Clinton.

Who says we are too melancholic? All in all, the millennium is shaping up nicely.