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Jewish World Review Oct. 11, 2000 / 12 Tishrei 5761

Don Feder

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Consumer Reports


Why I won't watch the next presidential debate

http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- I REFUSE to watch the second presidential debate this evening. What I saw last week was quite enough. I don't know which was worse, being forced to endure 90 minutes of Vice President Al Gore graciously sneering and sighing into his microphone when his opponent was talking, or listening to Gov. George W. Bush demonstrate his need for speech therapy and play hide-and-go-seek with his few conservative positions.

Gore should wear a name tag that says, "Hi, I'm an arrogant male reproductive organ," in case there's still a doubt in anyone's mind. He's the smart-aleck third-grader whose hand shoots up before the teacher even finishes asking the question. ("Teacher, teacher -- George would spend more on tax cuts for the wealthiest 1 percent than all of the new spending he proposes for education, health care, prescription drugs and national defense.") He's such a little showoff the other kids can't wait until recess to smack him around.

Bush has such a hard time expressing himself you'd think English was his second language. Thus, instead of judicial activism, he spoke of judges "who misuse their bench" -- which sounds like something kinky Clinton might be into.

The GOP standard-bearer looked like a deer caught in the headlights of an unscripted event, and sounded like a heavily medicated man coming out of a coma. To all of the Republicans who are saying that W. won the first debate: Your flight for Fantasy Island is boarding now.

The vice president behaved predictably. He exaggerated, fabricated and outright lied -- like claiming to have visited a disaster scene in Texas with the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Maybe he invented FEMA. Perhaps he discovered Texas.

Gore told tall tales about a little girl without a seat in her classroom (it was the first day of school, and they were unloading $100,000 of new equipment) and a little old lady who is reduced to collecting returnable bottles to pay for her prescription drugs -- but can inexplicably afford to drive a Winnebago across country.

The vice hooker, which is appropriate, considering what he's willing to do for the support of teachers' unions and trial lawyers.

Bush was also true to form. When asked for an example of leadership, he fell back to the compassion 10-yard line and punted -- describing how he'd visited the scene of a flood in Texas, and hugged and wept with a man who lost his home. Forget decision-making, courage under fire and commitment to principle. The ability to emote is the essence of leadership in Oprah's America.

Bush's principles are on the endangered-species list. The absolute low point in this abysmal debate was when moderator Jim Lehrer asked the avowed pro-lifer if he'd do anything about the Federal Drug Administration's recent approval of the RU-486 abortion pill.

"I don't think the president can unilaterally overturn it," the governor stammered. (No one suggested he could.) Governor, let me make sure I understand your position on RU-486, Lehrer said. If elected president, you won't use appointments to the FDA or legislation to overturn it?

Bush repeated his feeble cop-out about a president not being able to "unilaterally" reverse the FDA. "Once the decision's made, it's been made, unless it's proven to be unsafe to women." How about the unborn children you claim to care about so much, Governor? Is the abortion pill "unsafe" for them?

Bush also showed his mettle on economic issues, by refusing to challenge Gore's defense of big government. Instead of indicting the veep as a typical tax-and-spend liberal and fighting for his own tax-cut proposal , Bush pleaded that he only wants to return roughly a quarter of the surplus to the people it belongs to.

He tried to argue for school choice without using the word "vouchers." Bush: "Federal money attributed to the child will go to the parent for public school or charter school or tutorial or Catholic school. What I care about is children." How many viewers knew what the hell he was saying?

I can't take another hour and a half of that kind of torture. Isn't it enough that I'll be forced to listen to one of these guys for the next four years? you.

JWR contributing columnist Don Feder's latest books are Who is afraid of the Religious Right? ($15.95) and A Jewish conservative looks at pagan America ($9.95). To receive an autographed copy, send a check or money order to: Don Feder, The Boston Herald, 1 Herald Sq., Boston, Mass. 02106. Doing so will help fund JWR, if so noted. He is also available as a guest speaker. To comment on this column please click here.


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