Fellow Americans, bloggers, and bitter gun clutchers: In the past tumultuous weeks, I have been asked:

“How does an educated man like yourself, a person of taste, culture, and intellect, a registered Independent since 1964, support the Republican ticket over the Democrat? How can you be a one-issue voter?”

Or, more directly: “Have you lost your f*****g mind?”

My friends, I am paid to write about guns, hunting, and politics as it applies to guns and hunting. My mandate does not extend further. Because of this, I’m a captive of circumstance. The Democrats nominated an atrocious pair of anti-gunners, and the Republicans nominated one neutral and possibly the strongest pro-gun candidate ever. All I can do is report on what they say; however, this does not mean I’ve ignored their other qualifications, or lack thereof. So, lest I be thought shallow and superficial, here is how I rank the four candidates, quite apart from firearms.

Overall, the situation was summed up by Carl Hiaasen, who said of another election that you could throw a net over a park bench and do better. In a time when we stand in greater peril than ever before, the men and women who really could do the job are not stepping forward. What persons with an ounce of self-respect would subject themselves to being a presidential or vice-presidential candidate in the year 2008?

But, my fellow Americans, lest I be thought superficial, here is a brief summation of each candidate as I see him or her:

John McCain: A mid-20th-century man trying to get a handle on the 21st century and failing. Sort of like me. However, I know how to send an e-mail. He is about as interested in gun legislation as he is in acquiring a third wife with no money.

Sarah Palin: I would go moose hunting with her any day, but as for the rest of it…

Barack Obama: Our best orator in years, provided he has a teleprompter. He ran a fine campaign against Hillary, who ran a terrible campaign. His major qualification seems to be the 143 days he has spent in the Senate.

Joe Biden: I had thought of him as merely one more spavined Senate hack. However, he is proving himself to be a major buffoon. I expect that any day now, he will claim he owns the laptop on which Lincoln composed the Gettysburg Address. Biden has it in him, if elected, to take his place alongside Dan Quayle and Spiro Agnew in the pantheon of Truly Embarrassing Vice Presidents.

And so, my friends, let me close by borrowing a page from blogger Clay Cooper, and present you with three quotes that sum things up with an eloquence far greater than my own:

“The party’s over.”—Willie Nelson

“Indeed, I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just.”—Thomas Jefferson

“And in that time shall men seek death, and shall not find it, and shall desire to die, and death shall flee from them.”—The Book of Revelations

“Things fall apart. The center cannot hold.”–W.B. Yeats

Thank you, and good night. And will the last person out please turn off the lights?