Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Refining the Debates

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Refining the Debates

Article excerpt

As civil discourse, the first Bush-Gore presidential debate was an easy winner. Both men would make nice dinner-party guests.

As an enlightened exchange, it flopped. Facts and numbers were distorted, issues were muddied, and solutions were too skimpy in detail to grasp. A dinner party like that wouldn't go too late into the evening.

The question of who won matters less than how well the candidates engaged viewers. A president must be able to rouse the masses.

When else but during this event every four years will Americans sit for 90 minutes and think only of how to run the national government?

Sadly, Al Gore and George W. Bush appealed more to selfish interests than to civic-minded thinkers. Elections aren't a Halloween exercise of passing out goodies from the Treasury. They're town meetings to form a more perfect community. Otherwise, the debates turn into class warfare instead of class acts.

The moderator, Jim Lehrer, tried well to elicit core differences (abortion and oil was the easiest). …

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