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Archive for Thursday, December 30, 1999

DEBATE DEBACLES

December 30, 1999

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Al Gore's notion of bi-weekly debates is ludicrous.

Vice President Al Gore and Democratic presidential contender Bill Bradley were in a face-to-face confrontation on a recent television show. Gore called for Bradley to agree to debate him twice a week to get "the issues" before the public.

To his great credit, Bradley brushed off the grandstand ploy with disdain and a sneer. Gore, of course, considers himself a master debater and seems to welcome the chance to get opponents into a one-on-one format. A little luster was rubbed off that reputation by Bradley's handling of the occasion.

How silly it would be for any two candidates for a fall of 2000 election to begin going before the public twice a week between now and the party convention later next year.

People are bored enough with the posturing and positioning of those running for the presidency which Bill Clinton must vacate after 2000. Campaigns are too long, too costly and too bothersome to most citizens. If a candidate cannot let people know what he or she stands for in six months, he or she has little to offer. Imagine the droning and boredom if the public was subject to bi-weekly "debates" with constant rehashes of real or alleged views, many of which would change quickly if the person ever gained office.

Gore is clearly struggling as Bradley continues to make inroads on whatever advantage the vice president might have had. And Gore could become quite an oddity -- a vice president who failed in a bid for his party's nomination. Richard Nixon, Hubert Humphrey and George Bush Sr. all cleared at least that hurdle.

But when Gore gets so desperate he comes up with such a debate proposal, then his confidence must be shot. Bradley said that he is not into the kind of "theater" that debates tend to generate and would much prefer he spend his time and dollars talking to people and getting ideas firsthand. He does not believe "debates" come close to achieving what that can do.

He is absolutely right. All things considered, we need fewer debates and more forthright declarations of intent to which the candidates can be held accountable.

Better leadership we need, more "theater" we don't. We've had enough of that from Clinton the past seven years.

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