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Debate between Bush, Hussein not a bad idea

March 5, 2003

By Staff editorial

'Let us debate,' Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein proposed. In an interview with CBS news anchor Dan Rather, Hussein asked for a one-on-one live satellite debate with President George W. Bush. The White House has not responded, and spokesman Ari Fleischer has said that any direct rebuttal to Hussein's interview would put the United States and Iraq on a level of 'moral equivalence.'

Some argue the White House is right. Hussein has had his time on national television, and that already is more than some people on Capitol Hill would have liked. The Iraqi president presented his case, and for all the American public knows, Hussein's answers to Rather's questions could have been rehearsed lies. Another round on national television would be no different, some would say.

We, the American public, have heard -- repeatedly -- what the White House has to say. One probably could guess what Bush's remarks would be in a debate with Hussein. In fact, anyone on the street probably could come up with an outline of anything the Iraqi would say in return.

Nonetheless, a discussion between leaders should take place. Openness may not stave off a war, but a direct encounter between Bush and Hussein would help solidify the opinions of those for or against combat. Iraq may or may not fully disarm, but having Bush ask Hussein directly may have a stronger effect than edicts through third parties. If the United States has made up its mind about declaring war, this is a way to ask for Hussein's last words.

One day our nation will be judged by our actions regarding this war. Regardless of whether history proves Bush right, nations will gauge his leadership and accountability by his willingness to explore all options. While some may see no good in Bush's accepting a satellite debate, there is no harm done either.