Boring. Bland. Dull. Unexciting. Tiresome.
These are several words that could have been used to describe the first presidential debate between Republican candidate Texas Gov. George W. Bush and Democratic candidate Vice President Al Gore. It was a miracle that I didn’t fall asleep during this 90-minute snoozefest. However, I somehow managed to watch the entire event, despite being tempted to change the channel to NBC to watch Game One of the Athletics-Yankees playoff series.
The most surprising thing about this presidential debate was that there didn’t seem to be a clear-cut winner. Most Americans, regardless of which candidate they support, heavily favored Gore to win.
Each candidate had his drawbacks. Gore, for example, kept sighing and shaking his head whenever Bush was talking. Gore also kept interrupting debate moderator Jim Lehrer, who did a horrible job of attempting to keep the two candidates within the time limits set to discuss each issue.
Gore’s reactions appeared somewhat childish and couldn’t possibly have helped his cause among swing voters, who have no attachment to either party and reportedly make up approximately 20 percent of the registered voter population.
Bush did absolutely nothing to shake the image he had of not bringing enough substance to the table: unlike his opponent, he doesn’t tell you directly where he stands on all of the issues. At times, he appeared to be slightly hesitant answering questions. But Gore appeared to have a sense of what he wanted to say throughout the debate, always providing quick answers without hesitation.
Another of Bush’s problems was that he seemed to rely too often on stupid catch phrases. Some examples of these are: “My opponent’s running on Medi-scare,” and “The man’s practicing fuzzy math.” Bush used the “fuzzy math” phrase about five or six times during the debate.
Bush and Gore did agree on several points, such as increasing military spending and making prescription drugs more affordable for seniors. Gore was on record as saying that he supports charter schools and thinks that college tuition should be tax-deductible so middle-class families can send their children to college.
They disagreed on RU-486, the controversial abortion pill, with Gore favoring it and Bush opposing it. Bush also proposed tax cuts for all citizens, while Gore claimed that his opponent’s plan would only apply to the wealthiest 1 percent of taxpayers. Gore said that his tax plan would be for the middle class.
Bush had said that he would try not to make personal attacks on Gore, yet he tried to drive home the point near the end of the debate that Gore was involved in the Buddhist temple fundraising scandal. Bush’s performance seemed to be mainly about personal attacks and overuse of stupid catch phrases, without clearly stating how he plans to go about carrying out solutions to lower taxes, save Medicare and fix Social Security.
Two days later, a debate between Republican vice presidential candidate Dick Cheney and Democratic hopeful Joe Lieberman was held. The event was set up in a talk-show format, and neither Lieberman nor Cheney said anything to hurt his own candidate. The mood was generally more lighthearted than the presidential debate, but neither side decided to take cheap shots at the other; instead both accentuated the positives of their candidates. The issues discussed ranged from foreign policy to racial profiling to education. One could argue that the two vice presidential candidates acted more professional than the presidential candidates.