Said Gandalf: "The realm of Sauron is ended! The Ring-bearer has fulfilled his Quest...As (they) gazed south to the Land of Mordor, it seemed to them that, black against the pall of cloud, there rose a huge shape of shadow, impenetrable, lightning-crowned, filling the sky.

Enormous it reared above the world, and stretched out towards them a vast threatening hand, terrible but impotent: for even as it leaned over them, a great wind took it, and it was all blown away, and passed; and then a hush fell.

A while ago I pondered some sort of pre-election column. That got me thinking about J.R.R. Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings" trilogy that was made into three spectacular movies.

At the time, the "Lord of the Rings" imagery seemed to fit George W. Bush's doomed presidency, especially in these waning months.

That presidency began in fall 2000 with a vote-counting stalemate and election of a candidate who lost the popular vote.

Soon after came the horrifying 9/11. W rose to the occasion. Americans of all persuasions responded to his solemn, dignified leadership.

The same was true in many other lands. For one shining historical moment, W stood for World.

That reservoir of goodwill powered the United States and many allies to rout and disperse -- though not entirely -- the 9/11 enemy base in Afghanistan.

And after that...sadly, after that...W's reign and support collapsed, though it lingered and survived another close election.

His became a dark, combative, isolated reign. Not only at home but abroad, goodwill and sympathy gave way to rancor and division. There are countless reasons for W's fall from grace, but the prime one is The War.

So many boomers like me and those older are confounded that our country is again mired in a far-off, unpopular war led by a misleading, untrustworthy president.

Yes, we understand that today there's terrorism to confront. In the Vietnam War era, it was confronting the threat of global domination by communism.

Both wars, Iraq and Vietnam, were poorly managed and lacked an endgame strategy.

At least in 1968 LBJ had sense to not run again as president. That produced Nixon and five years of conniving secrecy, more war and national discord until he was forced out and disgraced.

So the "Lord of the Rings" pall that spread, shrouded and bedeviled those fictional creatures seemed apt for our situation today. On top of that, we have the growing hardships of an economic meltdown and contemptible political campaigning.

This morning I motored over to Kinnickinnic Town Hall. Getting out it felt invigorating to breathe the cool, crisp air being warmed by a bright sun.

Town Clerk Lola Higgins accepted my absentee request form, then I sat in a chair, made some black marks on the ballot before sealing it in an envelope and returning it to Lola for filing until Nov. 4.

Leaving Town Hall, I again felt that intake of fresh air, literally and figuratively. Ahhh, breathe deep. It's over, done with.

John McCain, Barack Obama, Bob Barr, Ralph Nader...Whoever you decide to vote for, one of them will succeed W. That alone represents a new beginning, a breath of freshness.

The new president will bring "changes." Some things are bound to get better. They usually do. Like Nixon and LBJ, W will consigned to the history books.

On Nov. 4, voters can't be faulted for feeling like the hopeful hobbit after Gollum and his obsessive ring perished in the fiery depths of Mordor: "...Frodo, pale and worn, and yet himself again; and in his eyes there was peace now, neither strain of will, nor madness, nor any fear. His burden was taken away."