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So I’m in the bathroom of a convenience store in Gettysburg, Pa., when I notice the condom dispenser. Only it’s not labeled as such. The sign reads: “Health Care Convenience Center.” Alas, my camera phone was in the car so I can’t provide visual evidence.

Nonetheless, it’s good to see that people outside Washington and Manhattan have been polishing their euphemisms. Lord knows we’ll be seeing plenty today as the House takes up a financial bailout and vice presidential candidates clash in St. Louis

If elected president, John McCain will raise taxes.

Why? Because this election has so many eerie parallels to 1988. The older war hero emerging from the shadows of a two-term Republican. The move to paint his Democratic opponent as an elite tax-and-spend liberal. The young, once-obscure sidekick that many people argue is inexperienced (I can’t wait for Sarah Palin’s first visit to a Central American market or her first speling lesson).

Barack Obama is running hard to escape the trap and become Bill Clinton, not Michael Dukakis. But even Obama has repeated some of Dukakis’ steps. The main one is tapping an experienced Washington senator to be his vice president. Obama’s saving grace is his charisma, which puts him back in Clinton’s league. Clinton also gave a great speech, lest anyone forget.

But the biggest parallels of all are these: Rising deficits, a big defense build-up abroad and a financial crisis requiring the government to cover bad debt.

The Resolution Trust Corp. may very well have ended the savings-and-loan crisis, but the rescue came at a cost. George H.W. Bush was willing to pony up. I suspect McCain will do the same once in office — provided we can expect a war hero not to worry about paying the ultimate (political) price for doing the right thing.

People try to draw connections between campaigning and governing, but the two remain wholly separate. George W. Bush ran as a uniter not a divider, and has been anything but for the last eight years. Some say McCain is running as a divider. That doesn’t mean he won’t be a uniter in office. It’s just unclear whether the distinction will matter on election day.

Let me get this straight. Taxpayers, the new politically correct term for Chinese lenders, are going to bail out Fannie and Freddie so that our benighted mortgage giants can pay back their creditors in, uh, China. It’s sheer genius. I don’t think a country wishing us harm could have put us in a deeper financial hole.

It’s the international version of payday lending — an endless lifeline for the fiscally challenged. Do you think they’d let me go to the bank to borrow money so I can pay my mortgage to the same bank?

Now, if John McCain really believes we need to cut taxes, he should come out against this bailout. Best, however, to discuss “long-term reforms,” preferably of the painless sort. Wake me up when Mr. and Mrs. Straight Talk point out that a streamlined Fannie and Freddie could make it harder for the average American to get a loan or when they discuss the details of how their reforms will keep that from happening.

After all, before these companies existed to enrich MBAs, stockholders, former politicians and foreign creditors, they existed to help Americans.

All this debate about “executive experience” is getting a little stale. Since when did Americans need a president who could order people around? Wouldn’t it be nice if we had a president who could empower us to do for ourselves? Isn’t that what democracy and the free market are supposed to be about?

Ideally, yes. Realistically, I guess not. But still. It would float my boat to see a debate about which candidate — McCain, Obama, Palin, or Biden — would be better able to empower us instead of assume power over us.

Drill, baby, drill!