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Bush, Gore square off in 1st debate

Oct. 4, 2000

Viewers' reviews split along partisan lines

By NORA FROST

Reporter

Baylor political activists saw their candidate as the winner in Tuesday night's debate, but activists on both sides of the party lines conceded the opposing candidate also performed well.

'I don't believe there was a clear, definite winner in this debate,' Josh Tetens, chairman of the Young Conservatives of Texas said, even though he is a confirmed supporter of Bush. Still, Tetens was able to critique his candidate.

'I thought the [Bush] weakness was his speed in his rebuttal,' Tetens said. 'He took longer to respond. I think he would have been more effective if he was faster.'

Brittanie Magaw, president of the Baylor Democrats, was pleased with the debate.

'I think they both came off as being good debaters,' Magaw said. 'My expectations were met.'

The debates exceeded the expectations of Joshua Flynt, chairman of the College Republicans.

'Bush did far better than anyone expected,' Flynt said. 'Gore did not live up to the expectations people had set for him.'

John Cullar, chairman of the McLennan County Democratic Party, said the clear victor was Gore. He said the governor never denied that the majority of the proposed Bush tax cut is going to people making over one million dollars.

'And the vice president pressed him on that,' Cullar said.

Ramsey Farley, the Republican candidate for the seat in Congress held by Democrat Chet Edwards of Waco, said that Bush did an excellent job and did a great job alluring young people.

'I thought Bush did an excellent job,' Farley said. 'He presented his vision and said what we needed to change. He gave a positive future image about America.

'The debate was a good interchange,' Farley said, adding that Gore also handled the debate well, and that he was disappointed that Gore was allowed to dodge questions about the administration's fund-raising scandals.

In the opening moments of their first debate of the fall campaign, Gore said Bush's plan would ``spend more money 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 all combined. I think those are the wrong priorities.,' But Bush, standing a few feet away on a debate stage, said Gore's economic plan would lead to ``dramatically'' bigger government with 200 '`new or expanded programs'' and 20,000 new bureaucrats.

'It empowers Washington,'' added the governor, who hastened to tell a national viewing audience he was from West Texas -- not the nation's capital. Gore and Bush met for the first of three presidential debates over the next two weeks, pivot points in a close race for the presidency. Poll after poll has the two men separated by only a point or two in the battle to succeed President Clinton.

Their vice presidential candidates, Democrat Joseph Lieberman and Republican Dick Cheney, debate Thursday in Kentucky.

Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader, shunned by the presidential debate commission, scored a ticket to Tuesday night's debate but was turned away at the door.

'It's already been decided that whether or not you have a ticket you are not welcome in the debate,'' John Bezeris, a representative of the debate commission, told Nader. The commission had excluded all but Democratic and Republican candidates.

'I didn't expect they would be so crude and so stupid,'' Nader said after being turned away. ``This is the kind of creeping tyranny that has turned away so many voters from the electoral process.'

Reform Party candidate Pat Buchanan, meeting reporters in his Boston hotel,said it was unfair to keep his party out. He and Nader were appearingseparately on Fox News. Channel after the debate.

``I feel like Slippery Rock State Teachers and we made the Final Four

of the

NCAAs and they won't even let us in the gymnasium,'' Buchanan said.

Bush blamed Washington for failing to

pass

legislation, and touted his own plan to have states offer

benefits. ``You've had your chance, Mr.

Vice

President,'' the governor said.

But Gore, who favors a prescription drug

benefit available to all

Medicare recipients, said that under

Bush's

plan only low-income

seniors would receive immediate help.

Everyone

else would have to

wait up to four years, he said. In

addition, he

added, seniors could be

forced into HMOs to get a prescription

drug

benefit.

``I cannot let this go by, the old-style Washington politics,

trying to

scare you with phony numbers,''

Bush swiftly replied. He accused Gore of ``Medi-scare.''

``This is a man who has great numbers,'' he said of the vice

president.

``I'm beginning to think not

only did he invent the Internet, he invented the calculator.''

Asked about a recent FDA decision approving the use of the abortion

pillRU-486, Bush said, ``I don't

think a president can'' overturn such a decision. He then restated

his

willingness to sign legislation

banning so-called ``partial birth abortions,'' and said Gore

wouldn't.

Gore said he would ban such late-term procedures,

but

only if it included

exemptions to protect the life or health of the

woman,

the position Clinton has

taken in vetoing two bills on the subject from

the

Republican-controlled

Congress.

Eager to regain the offensive on a volatile

issue, Gore

said Bush would appoint justices to the Supreme Court who

would overturn a 1973 ruling that legalized a

right to

abortion. ``I support a woman's right to choose. My

opponent does not.''

Bush said he was ``pro-life,'' but disputed any

suggestion that he would use the issue as a litmus test for

appointments to the high court.

Nader, who took the subway to the debate site, had received the ticket

as a

gift from Todd Tavares, a 21-year-old

Northeastern University student who said he got it from a roommate.

When he arrived at the site of

the

debate at the University of

Massachusetts-Boston, Bezeris,

surrounded by several police

officers, told Nader he could

not

enter because he was not an

invited guest.

Nader was among a trio of

third-party

candidates who did their

best Tuesday to keep the

Republican

and Democratic nominees

from stealing the show.

``The plaintiffs have slept on

their

rights by waiting until the last minute to seek relief,'' Suffolk

Superior

Court

Judge Gordon Doerfer ruled. He

said

intervening in the debates would deprive the public of information it

needs

about the candidates.

The lawsuit claimed Browne

should be

included because Massachusetts, which officially recognizes the party,

spent $900,000 to help pay for the debate.

Nader also criticized the commission's decision to limit the debate to

candidates with more than 15 percent support in national polls. Only

the

Democrat, Vice

President Al Gore, and the Republican, Texas Gov. George W. Bush,

qualified

to participate.

``They have the keys. This debate commission is a private company

created by

the two parties,'' Nader told about 1,000 supporters. ``The thing is

why do we

as a

society let them control the gateway? Why don't we have many gateways,

many

debates?''

As he concluded his remarks some students chanted ``Let Ralph debate!

Let

Ralph debate!''

``They

won't

even let us on the gym floor to show what we can do.''

Buchanan, who has more than $12 million in federal campaign funds to

spend,

outlined plans to launch an advertising campaign next week in states he

says

have been abandoned by Republicans, including California, New Jersey

and most

of New England.

He is aiming for 5 percent of the popular vote in the Nov. 7 election

to

guarantee that the Reform Party gets federal matching funds again in

2004.

Buchanan said

the ads would run mainly on Christian radio stations and would

highlight

local concerns, such as immigration in California and Arizona.

BOSTON (AP) Ð Al Gore and George W. Bush clashed over tax cuts Tuesday

night

in

campaign debate, the Texas governor declaring that all taxpayers

deserve a

break in a

time of budget surpluses, and the vice president saying he wanted

to

target middle

class families for relief.

In the opening moments of their first debate of the fall campaign,

Gore

said Bush's

plan would ``spend more money on tax cuts for the wealthiest one

percent

than all of

the new spending he proposes for education, health care,

prescription

drugs and

national defense all combined. I think those are the wrong

priorities.,''

But Bush, standing a few feet away on a debate stage, said Gore's

economic

plan would

lead to ``dramatically'' bigger government with 200 ``new or

expanded

programs'' and

20,000 new bureaucrats.

``It empowers Washington,'' added the governor, who hastened to

tell a

national

viewing audience he was from West Texas - not the nation's capital.

Gore and Bush met for the first of three

presidential debates over the next two weeks, pivot points in a

close race for the presidency. Poll

after poll

has the two men separated by only a point or two in the

battle to succeed President Clinton.

Their vice

presidential candidates, Democrat Joseph Lieberman

and Republican Dick Cheney, debate

Thursday in

Kentucky.

Jim Lehrer of PBS was moderator,

operating

under strict rules negotiated in advance by the Gore and

Bush camps. It was, he said at the

outset, the

first of three 90-minute debates between the twomen Ð a

format that excluded Ralph Nader and Pat

Buchanan, running as minor party candidates but locked

out of the proceedings.

In addition to tax cuts, Bush and Gore

clashed

over prescription drugs for the elderly, an issue that

ranks high in importance with voters,

particularly in the key battleground states of the Midwest.

Bush blamed Washington for failing to

pass

legislation, and touted his own plan to have states offer

benefits. ``You've had your chance, Mr.

Vice

President,'' the governor said.

But Gore, who favors a prescription drug

benefit available to all

Medicare recipients, said that under

Bush's

plan only low-income

seniors would receive immediate help.

Everyone

else would have to

wait up to four years, he said. In

addition, he

added, seniors could be

forced into HMOs to get a prescription

drug

benefit.

``I cannot let this go by, the old-style Washington politics,

trying to

scare you with phony numbers,''

Bush swiftly replied. He accused Gore of ``Medi-scare.''

``This is a man who has great numbers,'' he said of the vice

president.

``I'm beginning to think not

only did he invent the Internet, he invented the calculator.''

Asked about a recent FDA decision approving the use of the abortion

pill

RU-486, Bush said, ``I don't

think a president can'' overturn such a decision. He then restated

his

willingness to sign legislation

banning so-called ``partial birth abortions,'' and said Gore

wouldn't.

Gore said he would ban such late-term procedures,

but

only if it included

exemptions to protect the life or health of the

woman,

the position Clinton has

taken in vetoing two bills on the subject from

the

Republican-controlled

Congress.

Eager to regain the offensive on a volatile

issue, Gore

said Bush would appoint justices to the Supreme Court who

would overturn a 1973 ruling that legalized a

right to

abortion. ``I support a woman's right to choose. My

opponent does not.''

Bush said he was ``pro-life,'' but disputed any

suggestion that he would use the issue as a litmus test for

appointments to the high court.

Gore sighed audibly when Bush said that, as if to

register disbelief.

On the first foreign policy issue to come up, Gore and Bush agreed

they

would not use force to try and remove Slobodan Milosevic from

power in Yugoslavia, even though they agreed he had been defeated

in

recent elections and should give up power.

Asked about energy policy, Gore attacked Bush for proposing oil

drilling

in the Arctic National Wildlife Area.

Bush said such domestic oil exploration was preferable to

continuing to

import a million barrels of oil a day from Iraq's Saddam

Hussein.

To keep the candidates cool, university officials turned the

thermostat

inside the Clark Athletic Center gym well below 65 degrees.

That's the show-time temperature, once the lights were flipped on

and

seats filled, that was required under contract by the Commission

on Presidential Debates.

The bipartisan group is sponsoring all four debates with the idea

that

they will be shown on as many TV networks as possible. Most

were carrying the first one, but NBC gave its affiliates a choice

between

the baseball playoffs and the debate, while FOX went with its

series premiere of ``Dark Angel.''