Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Perot, St. Louis Share Hope to Join Debates Each Makes Claim - of Bias and of History

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Perot, St. Louis Share Hope to Join Debates Each Makes Claim - of Bias and of History

Article excerpt

Ross Perot and St. Louis share a goal - getting back into the presidential debates.

Perot has President Bill Clinton in his corner and a lawsuit that will test the criteria of the commission that wants to leave him out in the cold.

The best case for St. Louis may be history: Four years ago, Washington University successfully was host for the first presidential debate of the year and did so on eight days' notice. The case against St. Louis also may be history. The city has already had a debate, which is about as rare as hosting an All-Star Game. Both St. Louis and Perot remain jilted for now as representatives of Clinton and Republican nominee Bob Dole negotiate the details of this year's presidential debates. On Friday, Perot filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission contending that the Commission on Presidential Debates should not be permitted to sponsor presidential debates because it wrongly backs Republican and Democratic candidates. Perot said that he will file a suit in federal district court on Monday challenging his exclusion by the commission. "We're going to follow this legal process," Perot said. "It's as fundamental as this: The American people are supposed to be able to select their president. Eighty million people watch these debates. If they can exclude you from the debates - the largest audience that ever focuses on the presidency is at those debates - it's a neat political trick." Former U.S. Rep. John B. Anderson of Illinois was in Perot's shoes 16 years ago, then an independent candidate for president, when he was excluded from the debate between President Jimmy Carter and Republican challenger Ronald Reagan. During an interview last week, Anderson contended that criteria for participation in debates must be changed if third parties are to be given a fair shake. "What this illustrates is the monopolistic position the two parties have attained. They stand astride the highway of public information with Republicans on one end and Democrats on the other. And they don't want anybody in between," said Anderson, who is now a law professor at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. "I guess they worried that the platform would collapse under the weight of more than two bodies," Anderson said. Clinton, who enjoys a double-digit lead over Dole in polls, has been in no hurry to debate. And he has championed the cause of Perot after polls showed that Perot detracts from Dole's candidacy. The warning on Friday by a Clinton strategist that the president is prepared to debate Perot one-on-one showed that Clinton was in the driver's seat as far as debate negotiations. In an effort to protect his lead, Clinton is pushing for two, two-hour presidential debates, one of which would include Perot. Dole wants four, one-hour debates just with Clinton. …

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