Jewish World Review July 28, 2004 / 10 Menachem-Av 5764

Dan Abrams

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Consumer Reports

Be smart in evaluating candidates, as you would as a juror in court | I am often very critical of lawyers and legalistic arguments. However, with certain conventions coming up and the election around the corner, I think it can be helpful to cut through some of the typical complaints with a dose of courtroom sensibility.

Judges tell jurors that opening statements and closing arguments are not evidence in the case but only the lawyers' summaries or arguments. This same statement can apply to the candidates. For example, take President Bush. What he says he has done or what his opponent hasn't, should not be the evidence because it is just the argument.

In contrast, Senator Kerry would say something along the lines of wanting to avoid cutting social security, while providing tax relief to the middle class, while maintaining the greatest military in the world, while protecting the homelands, while creating jobs and the list goes on.

We the jurors have to keep our eye on the facts. Have the candidates supported policies in line with our own? Do their actions back up their words? Are they credible?

Every day jurors evaluate the credibility of the witnesses. We must do the same with the candidates.

The 9/11 Commission Report is a perfect example of evaluating the evidence. They listened to hundreds of accounts of what happened rather than just accept what was said. Then they compared it to the evidence.

Now most voters can't examine everything has thoroughly as the 9/11 Commission but we can look beyond the pomp and cheerleading of the conventions to the records.

We all need to ask ourselves, "What are my priorities and what issues are the most important to me?" From there we can figure out whether President Bush is living up to our expectations and the evidence needed to clarify our answers.

Senator Kerry does a better job of achieving goals that are most important. Look up his voting record in the senate on the issues that matter most to you. But, I warn you, don't take either one at face value. I don't with lawyers and I don't with political candidates. Both have incentives to tell the jurors or voters what they want us to hear.

In that regard, I presume them guilty.

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JWR contributor Dan Abrams anchors “The Abrams Report,” Monday through Friday from 9-10 p.m. ET on MSNBC TV. He also covers legal stories for “NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokaw,” “Today” and “Dateline NBC.” To visit his website, click here. Comment by clicking here.



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