|... Politex's||for JANUARY DEBATES|
by Bill Brasin
Manchester, New Hampshire
Wednesday, Januray 26
In a no-nonsense debate that could very well affect the New Hampshire GOP primary vote next Tuesday, George W. Bush fell into a new trap of his own making. In half of his 12 articulations (8.3 points each), he managed to mention things about TEXAS, things like he was the governor of TEXAS and the people of TEXAS voted him in as governor of TEXAS and he had a record of experience in TEXAS that should indicate to the nation of non-TEXANS that he would be quite capable as the president of the United States of turning the nation into a kind of large TEXAS. It's doubtful that this is what Americans want. (Disclosure: I live in TEXAS.) His old traps--irrelevant jokes, smirks and other such faces, statements of chop-logic, answers that didn't match the questions, short responses and flat phrasing, and weak debate retorts--were still in evidence. His low points continue to be debate interchanges. This evening he had one with Forbes over his TEXAS record and twice gave a non-answer to McCain about federal pork spending. Here's how it went.
Question #1 This one to all, with Bush answering first: If you could add two sentences to the U.S. Constitution re abortion, what would they be? That every child is welcome to life and every child's life is protected by law. That will keep the lawyers and judges busy. Bush says judges should follow constitution law, not make it. Of course all law is based upon a history of interpretation. However, Bush tells us he's not a lawyer. Clear as mud? Follow-up: will the most recent GOP abortion plank be your bible? I brought people together in TEXAS and I can do it for the nation. This, or course, assumes that the national GOP and Dems have a history of close cooperation and general conservative agreement as is the case in Texas. Tell it to Newt. (5.8 points)
Question #2 Population predictions suggest that the terms "minority" and "majority" will soon be irrelevant. How would this affect your role as president? Asked of all, with Bush answering first. When Bush doesn't have an immediate answer to a question, he pauses, says, "That's a good question," pauses, then attempts an answer. Look for it. His answer: "majorities" and "minorities" in TEXAS get along just fine. (Bush didn't make it to Jasper, said all crimes are hate crimes, and claims he phoned the family of the dead black man, but the family does not recall his phone call.) (4.2 points)
Question #3 A pretty complicated interchange between Forbes and Bush about Dubya's TEXAS record. Forbes pointed out that he ran in '94 on a promise to cut Richard's state employees (13,000 more than N.Y.) and, by implication, the state's expenses. Instead, as governor, Bush ended up with 36,000 more employees than N.Y. and expenses rose 36%. Bush responded that inflation and population growth accounted for the rise in both figures, but offered no comparable statistics to refute Forbes' figures. (Since Forbes indicated a ratio between TEXAS and New York, generalizing on inflation and populaion is irrelevant, because N.Y. also had inflation and population growth.) The same thing happend with taxes. Forbes said Bush's own people reported that 6 out of 10 citizewns saw no tax cut of any kind in the last round. Bush responded that he cut property taxes by $1 billion in the first term and nearly $2 billion in the second, but was unable to account for the fact that most of the citizens have not see the claimed tax cuts. (Hint: it has something to do with wealthy property owners getting the most in tax cuts and poor, singele, non-property owners getting...nothing.) The governor of the state had no figures to back his generalizations. None. Nada. Zip. Forbes had lots and he doesn't even live in TEXAS. Nor is he the governor of TEXAS. (2.5 points)
Question #4 Bush was given an opportunity to ask a question, and, surprisingly, he didn't talk about TEXAS. He could have selected Forbes, but he chose Keyes. Why? Because he could toss Keyes a softball and stay out of trouble. With Forbes, he would have had to debate. He would have had to defend himself. He started out with a mosh pit joke, then he asked a real tough one: What is your view of health care? His response question was equally general and insipid. A few minutes later, with Bauer attacking Bush and his China policy in an aside, the camera caught Dubya making a funny face at Bauer, complete with a mocking gesture. Busted! (4.2 points)
Question #5 The question put to everyone was did they agreed with the administration's decision to provide computer subsidies to low income families as a way of overcoming a possible "digital divide." Bush came last, so he had time to figure out how to avoid mentioning the name of the world's fifth wealthiest man, who happens to be a campaign contributor and whose machines are ubiquitous in Texas goernment offices, Michael Dell. (He's also a TEXAN.) Bush said he didn't think the government should help the poor get computers because the technology changes so quickly and government programs are so slow. ( As if the poor are interested in cutting-edge computer electronics.) However, Dell machines appeared in Texas government offices pretty fast, so it may depend upon who gets the benefits. Bush went on to discuss rural "broad-width" (broad-band ?) technology in TEXAS, which did nothing to demonstrate the point he was making, but allowed him to bring in TEXAS. (5 points)
Question #6 Given the cold weather and the rising cost of oil, wouldn't this be a good time to tap our emergency oil reserves? Bush said "no," indicating that such reserves should be held for wartime circumstances. To deal with the oil shortage, however, he suggested that as president he would jawbone OPEC. He would also make sure there was no collusion among the big oil producers. 'Course, Dubya reminded us that in TEXAS he was little oil, forgetting that when his father was President of the United States his little oil company managed to make a deal with Baharain for off-shore drilling rights in spite of the fact that the company, Harken Energy, had no off-shore drilling experience and that the company had to beat out such big oil producers as Amaco for the contract. As governor of Texas, Bush's policy of jawboning energy producers has failed, which is why Texas, oops,TEXAS now leads the nation in a number of pollution categories. If he couldn't do it in TEXAS, what makes him think he could do it as president? (8.3 points)
Question #7 Another question for all, with TEXAS Governor Bush answering third: "Should it be a felony for the president to lie to the American people?" Dubya informed us that "Lying under oath is a felony." With that as background he...wait a minute, that was his answer! We've all heard the rest of the stump speech, dignity...pledge...America...laws of the land. A flat, short, near-relevant response. (5.3 points)
Question #8 McCain to Bush. You supported last year's Washington pork bill where the $14 million surplus was spent. In fact, you said you would have signed it as president. As president, "what corporate loopholes would you close and what spending cuts would you make?" Bush told McCain to come to the Oval Office and suggest what corporate loopholes should be closed. Now, let me get back to taxes. McCain tried again in a follow-up: George, you see your role as president as being a "hapless by-stander." Ok, I'll try again, "we don't have unlimited funds. Tell me, is their any military program that you would reduce spending on?" Bush would call for a military review, although the Crusader Howitzer program looks "too heavy." But that's not the problem because "it's the president's job to make sure Congress doesn't have the money to spend in the first place." Governor Bush's very first significant action at the beginning of his present term was to have passed a governor's emergency tax cut bill to benefit his oil bidness buddies. This form of pork came long before he proposed more far-reaching tax cuts for some, but hardly all, of the citizens of TEXAS. (Zero Points)
Question #9 Bush to McCain. After a 100 word introduction outlining Bush's plans for federal education, which he said was based on his successful program in TEXAS, he asked McCain why he didn't think the plan would work. McCain answered that Bush puts too much authority in the hands of the feds. Bush responded, then you would continue the present system of sending money to the states without more accountibility measures. McCain answered, no, I would put the accountibility on the state level. Bush concluded, "Well, that's what my plan does, John." That's not what your plan does, George. In a follow-up, Bush made his point clearer: he's for states' rights in education, except for accountability, because he wants to establish a voucher system on the federal level in the name of accountability. (On the other hand, his plan does not provide an accountability system for the non-public schools where the vouchers will be used.) He doesn't appear to believe that the states as a group will ever create a voucher system (he tried, but failed, in TEXAS), but on the federal level he can. This, of course, is an appeal to the religious right. (5.8 points)
Question #10 To everyone, with Bush answering second: the presidential debates committee has decided that a candidate has to have a poll rating of at least 15 percent to be included. Do you think that's fair? Everyone but Bush thought it was unfair. After all, remarked the man who is the primary jokester in the crowd now that Hatch is gone, if there wasn't some control the debates would become something out of Oprah Winfrey or a discussion about who feels someone's pain the most. What George says he wants the debates to be are "straightforward dialogues based upon the philosophy." Sure, George. Last week when members of the press attampted to carry on such straightforward dialogues based upon philosophy, he decided to cancel all formal press conferences until further notice. Oprah and pain have little to do with George's desire to avoid Jessie, the Donald, Pat, or even TEXAN Ross Perot. Further, this past week the Bush people in New York have been able to keep McCain off the ballot in parts of the state. Based on Bush's answer, McCain reminded him of his offer to debate one on one. George declined, saying he would miss Keyes and his other buddies. (5 points)
Question #11 Since some judges suggest federal sentencing guidelines are too inflexible, given the circumstance of some cases, would you restore greater discretion as president? No. Bush's problem is that too many judges would use their position to create the laws. Under federal guidelines many non-violent first-time offenders are given what some see as harsh punishment. "Is that necessary?" Not knowing the relevant federal laws, Bush claimed he was unable to respond, so he said that in TEXAS the judges are allowed to be lenient with first-time offenders. Still, he said he didn't trust federal judges with the same latitude. While there is a difference between appointed and elected judges, the more important difference in Bush's mind may be that state-level TEXAS judges are Republican with a very few conservative Democrats, while Federal judges are more representative of both parties. The back-story to such questioning, of course, is the question about Bush's use of drugs as a "child" in his mid-twenties and the harsh reality of what happens to first-time drug offenders in TEXAS with Bush as governor. (4.2 points)
Question #12 McCain was asked why the Republican establishment generally opposes his candidacy. Because, McCain answered, the iron triangle in Washington of money, lobbyists, and legislators deprive the people of representation, and Bush is a defender of that system. Bush responded for the enth time that he can't agree to reform the system because the unions would then have an advantage, and McCain responded to that for the enth time that the unions are just like the lobbyists and his plan covers them. McCain went further and implied that Bush-backed soft money campaign plans work pretty much like the lobbies and the unions, and his TEXAS-based soft-money committee for the general campaign would be banned, also. (For an explanation of what McCain means here, see this.) (2.5 points)
Total Points = 54
Transcript of Debate
BUSH GETS BLANQUILLO ON HIS FACE WITH A 56% SCORE.
By Bill Brasin
George W. Bush seemingly had it made in the sleepy, homespun, Iowa debate this afternoon. Sponsored by the "Des Moines Register," run by the Register's" Dennis Ryerson, and featuring questions from its readers and local community college students, it had all the makings of a yawn-fest. Then there was the fact that the 6 out of 10 questions asked of Bush (each worth 10 points) gave him much time to prepare an answer. He was last twice and next-to-last four times in questions asked of the group. His strategy seemed to be to tell a joke, rapidly shoot out details from a relevant position paper too fast for much to be written down, and stop. (Also, a recent DMN story on George's gift of garble may have had something to do with it.) It spite of it all, Bush managed to show weaknesses in the few actual debates with his rivals for the GOP presidential nomination. Keyes took him to school in Spanish, McCain on taxes, and Forbes on his record in Texas.
Question #1 What would you do as president to ensure affordable long-term medical care, regardless of age and income? As has often been the case in recent debates, Bush begins an answer by blaming Washington. The first thing he would do would be to prevent the federal government from "rationing" health care. Then he proposed specific federal programs for both the elderly and the boomers. When later asked to rebut his rivals' plans, he just went on describing his own. It's possible he didn't hear his rivals' plans while he was crafting his own response to the question. 7 points
Question #2 Keyes asked Bush about the small town in South Texas that decided to carry on administrative activities in Spanish, rather than English. Keyes asked Bush why he hadn't done anything to be sure that English is the primary language in this town. Bush answered, "That's not true" in Spanish. Rather than accuse Bush of pandering with a Spanish answer, Keyes shot back a rapid-fire paragraph of Spanish, including, "It's the truth." Stammering, the governor told Keyes that he had checked with the Attorney General in Texas to be sure everything was legal. He also said that he had expressed "concern" to the city fathers. But the damage was done. Keyes threw a follow-up: would Bush join with him in asking for a repudiation of and an apology by Bush's South Carolina backer who called the NAACP "retarded." Bush quickly joined in a repudiation, but ignored the question of an apology. 6 points
Question #3 Bush began his question to McCain with an irrelevant statement about ethanol. The audience assumed that he was going to ask about McCain's ethanol position, but the question became one about why McCain favored taxing employee benefits such as those that might be given to a single mom whose transportation has been paid for by her employer. McCain responded that his tax plan supports single moms more than Bush's does, and went on to note that single mom's need social security, medicare, and the pay-down of the national debt, while Bush's plan doesn't do those things. McCain called Bush "All hat and no cattle." A flustered Bush responded with the same question that he originally asked, adding that his plan includes social security, ignoring medicare and the national debt. McCain accused of doing the "Texas 2-Step" with 1/3 of his tax cut going to the wealthiest 10%. 5 points
Question #4 What would the candidates do as president to protect the family farm? Bush mentioned six things he would do, including the elimination of "death taxes," which is the GOP phrase for the elimination of inheritance taxes for those estates that still have to pay inheritance taxes. Such estates are hardly what most think of as "family farms," because the only families that pay estate taxes any more have to have estates of over $650,000. Later, Bush added that federal money to "R+D" to study "renewable resources" would be a good way to protect the family farm. 8 points
Question#5 From a student to all: How would you restore dignity to the Oval Office? With five minutes to think about that one, Bush came up with stump speech, hand on pretend Bible, right hand in air, "swear to uphold...," yawn. That killed 20 seconds, so he added that he will appoint honest, decent men and women to...yawn. 30 seconds...better stop. 8 points
Question #6 From another student to all: In essence, what should be done to keep federal government's nose out of state education? With five minutes to plan an answer, it was another short yawner from the stump playbook. So short, in fact, that Bush forgot to explain his last point. If the schools "fail," we must "liberate" the parents from failure. How do we do that, George? You still have 20 seconds. Hint: McCain previously said Bush's education plan includes the use of the word "voucher." In French. 7 points
Question #7 Another question that gave Bush 5 minutes to construct an answer: What's fair about married couples paying additional taxes? Bush heard the word "taxes" and rattled off a quick overview of his tax plan with an emphasis upon blaming Washington for somehow spending the people's money foolishly. That was not the point of the question asked. McCain later pointed out that the President is not a bystander in the process, which Bush implied. McCain was suggesting that Bush sees himself as ineffectual in the role of President, and the premise of the Texan's tax plan did not contradict him. 6 points
Question #8 Forbes to Bush: How can you say you have cut taxes in Texas when most Texans have never seen your property tax cuts? According to Forbes, six out of ten districts have never had their taxes cut. Bush's response was that his 1999 tax cut plan must have worked or the people wouldn't have voted him in as a second term governor in 1998. Under Forbes' questioning, Bush appeared at a loss for words. He went on to call attention to today's ad by Bob Dole in which Dole calls on the party rivals to avoid negative advertising. This, naturally, has stimulated thinking about a possible political relationship between Bush and Bob Dole, leading many to wonder what Dole would get out of joining Bush's attack on Forbes' so-called "negative" advertising. At any rate, Bush went on to repeat that his 1999 tax plan must have been helpful to Texans or the people would not have voted for him in 1998. Bush appears to have ignored the point that Forbes was talking about recent studies of the 1999 tax cut, such as the one in today's San Antonio Express News. 1 point
Question #9 Again, Bush had 5 minutes to thaink of an answer to this one, and came up empty: How could you post "The Ten Commandments" in schools without calling other religions into question? Bush noted that "Thou shalt not kill" is "pretty universal," not explaining why such a statement from, say, "The Koran" couldn't be posted, instead. He mentioned that "The Ten Commandments" contains "good ideas," but so, too, do other religious books. Neither answer addressed the question asked. He then gave up on the question, finishing his response with appeals for the teaching of Character Education and the need for "Faith Based" institutions for after-school help. Bush did not appear to understand the Church/State problem inherent in the question, or he simply didn't want to address it. Zero points
Question #10 Bush was asked what laws he would use as President to protect the environment. He responded that the laws should reflect science, not emotions, the polluters should be given time to change, and they shouldn't be sued for their behavior, but encouraged to mend their ways. There was no time for questions nor follow-ups, but from his short answer it seems clear that Bush would apply the same environmental standards he uses in Texas to the nation as a whole.8 points
TOTAL SCORE = 56%
Guru Karl Rove Repeats Bush Tax Claim Error Sunday morning on Sam and Cokie, Karl Rove, George W. Bush's political strategist, repeated the error in chronology Bush made in the Iowa debate as he responded to a Forbes comment about the Bush 1999 tax cuts never reaching most Texans. Rove said that the major tax cut in Texas must have gotten to the people or they wouldn't have voted him into a second term in office. First, studies are now being published that show most Texans have not received the tax cuts Dubya brags to the nation about. These deal with the spring, 1999 tax cut bills, which make up 65% of all of the tax cuts Bush made during his time as governor. Previous studies have indicated that the lion's share of previous Bush tax cuts had suffered a similar fate. Secondly, since Bush was elected to his second term as governor in the fall of 1998, the voters did not elect him on the basis of tax cuts that were made 6 months later in the spring of 1999, which is what both Bush and Rove suggest.--Politex, 1/16/00
Which NYT Iowa Debate Quotation is Correct? Richard L. Berke Quotes Bush: "Alan Keyes, a former State Department official, asked Mr. Bush about the town of El Cenizo in Texas, which he said had passed rules to conduct all its business in Spanish....Mr. Bush countered that he had consulted with the attorney general of Texas and that all of the town's meetings are now [quote] 'conducted in English under the laws of Texas.' [unquote]"--1/16... NYT Transcript of the Same Bush Quote: "I've talked to our attorney general, General Kornan, to make sure that this town was conforming to all the laws, that they have -- that they have -- that -- that they -- that they open their -- their meetings be conducted in the -- in the -- in the laws of Texas. And so I did express concern about it and I do express concern about it."--1/16
BUSH DOES A JEB ON THE RACE QUESTION--EARNS 44%.
By Bill Brasin
It must have been a shock to George W. Bush to make a disparaging joke about Harvard professors, only to get a blank look from a respectful audience at Calvin College, the site of tonight's debate. Perhaps Bush expected another mob of "unrully drunks," the ranking South Carolina GOP politicos who had set the tone for Friday's debate, allowing Bush to play the college cut-up. Instead, this Michigan audience wanted something a little...presidential, and Bush couldn't deliver. He spent much of the debate with distracted looks and stumbles, seemingly mailing in most of his performance from somewhere beyond Pluto. He was even wobbly at the end with his mini-stump speech. Perhaps his most egregious response was in answer to a Tim Russert question about what he would do as President to deal with the country's racial problems. His answer, like his brother Jeb's in his losing run for the Florida governorship in 1994, was nothing. Unlike Jeb, Bush didn't say "nothing." He just didn't say anything. He blanked. Hours later, it seemed, he came up with some really lame cliches, indicating he has no plans for the country's racial problems. Here's how it went, with 10 points for each of the ten questions.
Question #1 Russert called attention to the Forbes ad that showed a 1994 pledge signed by Bush, promising not to support sales or business taxes as governor. Forbes said Bush broke his word when he supported a tax bill that did just that. Russert asked if Forbes' ad was correct. Bush sounded tight as he went about not answering the question. He stumbled as he talked about his tax record in Texas at length. He even talked about what he would do as president, but he did not answer the question. At all. Ever. 5 Points
Question #2 When Forbes was asked to respond to Bush's answer, he correctly said that even the governor's staff has said he broke the pledge and it would be well for politicians not to make pledges they don't keep. This is what makes people cynical. Bush responded that negative ads on TV is what makes people cynical, but he didn't go on to suggest that Forbes' ad was negative. Of course his response to Forbes gave Bush another turn to deny Forbes' ad, but he never did. (Background. When this particular pledge came up during the gubernatorial race, Karen Hughes, his communications director, said Bush's signature was the result of an auto-pen. This explanation has never been used to attack the Forbes ad.) 5 Points
Question #3 After McCain discussed his tax plans, mentioning that 60% of the tax cuts in Bush's plan goes to the wealthiest 10% and money was needed for social security and paying down the debt before worrying about a tax cut, Bush asked for time to respond. Again, without providing any specifics, Bush claimed that the surplus will be large enough to take care of his tax cuts and social security, indicating that he wasn't interested in paying down the national debt. (Background. This, ironically, is exactly what Bush did in Texas. He provided tax cuts primarily for the wealthiest Texans, he based the tax cuts on a surplus that Texas did not have, based on a budget system that nearly all states shun, and he did so by not paying off any of the Texas state debt.) Zero Points
Question #4 Bush was asked what he would do about the really nasty remarks Atlanta Braves pitcher John Rocker made about blacks, gays, single women and any other group he didn't like if Bush were still the manager of a baseball team. He was asked to consider the free speech implications. At what point should a person's free speech rights by abridged by society? Should he be penalized? Should he be tested? Does he have the freedom to speak as an individual, since he is not working in the public sector? The limits of Bush's thinking on the subject spoke volumes. First of all, it was ego, ego, ego. Bush made a joke about his Sammy Sosa trade. Next, nothing was said about the free speech rights of the individual citizen. Bush observed that they guy was in need of help and thought testing was in order. Then he stumbled into his auto-pilot speech on personal responsibility, which didn't seem relevant to the topic. Forbes mentioned that some baseball owners could use testing, too. Bush looked seriously puzzled. ("Does Forbes mean me?") Perhaps Dubya doesn't know as much about contemporary baseball as he claims. On the other hand, some of his business backing over the years has had Ohio connections. 6 Points
Question #5 Bush was asked to weigh in on the Cuban kid problem, and he used it as a wedge to discuss trade with Cuba. His position is no trade with Cuba because Castro will use the money to "prop up" his government. "For those Americans that believe that trade with Cuba will cause Castro to become less totalitarian, in my judgement are naive and wrong." Bauer pointed out Bush's contradiction in that the same statement could be applied to China and Bush backs trade with China. Bush answered that in China he was talking about the "entrepeneural class," not the government. Bauer scornfully noted that "one third of the trade with China is with the People's Liberation Army." Bush could offer no figure about the amount of trade engendered by whatever he meant by the "entrepeneural class." 5 Points
Question #6 What began as a question about possible racial profiling by the police in Michigan ended up as a more general consideration of the role of the federal government in racial matters. Since Russert asked Bush what he would do as President to help resolve racial problems (the NYT transcript does not quote Russert's complete question), the answer had to go beyond simply stating that racial profiling is a state's rights issue, as Bush initially tried to say. Here is where he drew a blank: "In terms of being a president that says there's no place in racism it starts with saying there's no place for racism in America." At that, Bush stopped cold, perhaps trying to figure out what he had just said. With the clock ticking, he hesitatingly offered cliche after cliche, hoping to figure out a way out of the question: "This is a, this is a nation where all people are created equal. It's the great hope of America that we're all equal, we're all God's children. And that's what leadership needs to do. Leadership needs to stand up and say, and condemn racism and condemn prejudice and hold people accountable as an individual, not as a group." Having time to think with his mouth on cliche auto-pilot, Bush came up with an "ah-ha!" Blame it on Washington! "One of the problems I have with oftentimes what's happening in Washington, D.C. is there's too much group thought. There's too much attempt to lump people in groups and pit one group of people against another. And that leads to disharmony." Mr. Bush, what did you say you would do as President to help resolve racial disharmony? Zero Points
Question #7 Without telling the candidates that it was a Gore plan, Russert asked if they were willing to send $300 million to Africa to fight the AIDS epidemic. Bush made three comments, with the first and third being the same, a kind of faith-based internationalism. We are compassionate and we should get other compassionate countries involved. To do what, Mr. Bush? His second point was that we should make sure that the people we help will actually get the money. Nothing specific was said about AIDS or the $300 million. A later response by Sen. Hatch to the same question indicated that it is possible to be informed on the subject, focused on a response to the question, and have a plan for dealing with AIDS, both at home and abroad. 5 Points
Question #8 Forbes asked Bush for three pledges and got none. 1) To agee with the Reagan pro-life plank; 2) To only appoint pro-life judges; and 3) To appoint a pro-life VP. Bush said he would work to keep the GOP pro-life, he would appoint judges who follow the Constitution, and would have a VP who liked him and would make a good president. When pressed by Forbes to pledge as requested, Bush said he didn't know how to be any clearer. Forbes suggested that he simply repeat the pledges. Bush wouldn't. 8 Points
Question #9 The Bush question to McCain was a softball, asking him to comment on his views about the federal government's treatement of the states re wilderness protections. Similar to the difference between an informed Hatch and an ill- informed Bush on AIDS, they way Bush stumbled as he asked his ill-shapened question and the ease and specificity McCain exhibited in answering it was instructive. (The NYT transcript did not include McCain's answer.) 7 Points
Question #10 In answer to a question by a Calvin College student, "To what degree would your religious convictions influence the manner in which you conduct affairs in the Oval Office," Bush said, "My-my religious convictions need to be reflected in how I live my life." Huh? Russert must be getting used to Bush's non-answers, because he was right there with another: "What would Jesus think of the death penalty [such as the one in Texas that has put 112 to death in your administration]?" (See transcript.) Bush said he believed that no innocent person was executed, that he supports the death penalty that is sure, swift, and just, and that the death penalty saves lives. (There are documented studies that suggests Bush is on the wrong side of all three statements.) As for the question, what Jesus would say, "I'm not going to put words in Jesus's mouth." This statement was made by a man who claims to believe in the Bible and to read it every day. 3 Points
DUBYA DIMS IN DUMBED-DOWN DEBATE--EARNS 42%.
By Bill Brasin
If you had to miss one GOP presidential campaign debate this year, this semi-disaster was the one to miss. The candidates sounded like they were talking in a giant airplane hanger, the crowd of 3,000 after-dinner citizens sounded like their distracting buzz was being piped in from somewhere in North Carolina, and the lighting and set was something out of a cheap 70's flick. Is this any way to run a debate? The reporters and candidates sometimes couldn't hear themselves over the yells, shouts, and clapping of the crowd. Then there was the unwieldy format of questions, large and small, from reporters Brian Williams and David Stanton, a floor reporter, a Farmer Jones in the audience, an e-mail person, a TV audience, candidates, and groupings of candidates. Couple this with a commercial break in the middle of the hour, thereby increasing the noise factor from the unruly crowd, which further diminished the focus of the event.. Playing to such a mob of supposedly voting citizens leads to trouble, and that's what George W. Bush tried to do. His score shows it. Stimulated by the crowd, Bush showed his less than statesman-like side as he ignored some questions, didn't take others seriously as the audience signaled its displeasure, and dealt with bits and pieces of others. In all, Bush responded to three full-answer questions worth 20 points each and to 2 clusters of smaller responses worth 20 points per cluster. Here's how it went.
Question #1. Bush was asked about an anticipated subject but in an unexpected way. Brian Williams asked Bush, amidst noises from the grumbling crowd, what his PERSONAL feelings were about the Confederate flag flying over the South Carolina capitol. "Does the flag offend you, personally?" Bush told Williams, "You want me to say what people want..." Williams said, "No, I want you to answer what you feel about it." With the crowd noisily behind him, Bush refused to answer the question and went on to say that as a Texan he has no right to tell the people of South Carolina what to do. Taking a cue from his answer last night about who goes to heaven, this could be termed his "I'm not God" defense. Zero Points
Question #2. Bauer asked Bush about the Panama Canal Treaty that recently gave the canal back to the Panamanians, allowing the Chinese possible control of the entrances. What would Bush do if the Chinese started to physically control traffic on the Panama Canal? Bush reminded Bauer that he was against the treaty when he ran for congress in West Texas. He said that if the Chinese were to do anything to control traffic on the canal he would put the U.S. military back into Panama and liberate the canal. 20 Points
Question #3. McCain and Bush were asked to discuss taxes, and since McCain went first, he told Bush that he was being irresponsible in basing his tax cut plan on a possible projected surplus. Further, no provisions are in the plan to pay down the debt. Finally, why make promises that you can't keep, McCain asked. Bush ignored all of McCain's remarks, summarizing his tax cut plan instead. Even though his tax plan, alone, is larger than the unworkable GOP congressional plan that never made it, Bush insisted that the money was there for social security, government needs, and tax cuts. This is the fourth or fifth debate in which Bush was asked to provide specifics for the money source which his tax plan is based upon. He has yet to provide specifics. This is the fourth or fifth time we've indicated his unresponsivness to the issue. Zero Points
Cluster #1. This consisted of 4 very short, mostly group responses. 5 points each. Bush said he believes in affirmative action if everyone has equal opportunity. Think about it. Zero Points Dubya said he wouldn't presume to tell South Carolina to call a moratorium on a decision to have a lottery, but noted that he is anti-gambling in Texas. He forgot to mention that Texas has a lottery that he supports. 2 Points Bush told Farmer Jones in the audience that he would support the farmers by enforcing free trade. His position was weakened when Keyes pointed out that there doesn't seem to be a quid-pro-quo on internaional free trade, Bauer asked why we should have free trade with China when the Chinese do not practice it, no matter what they say in advance, and McCain pointed out that anyone who supports ethanol protectionism (like Bush) is not practicing free trade.3 points While the other four candidates were specific about the amount of money they give to charity, as the questioner asked, Bush said he didn't know, refused to even give a ballpark idea, and reverted to irrelevant stump speech ideas about faith-based giving in general. It's ironic that for all the man's talk about charity as a part of his political agenda, he has no idea what kind of charity he practices in his own daily life. Zero Points. Total: 5 Points
Cluster #2. Two more very short responses after the commercial break, a question asked of Hatch, and the closing statement, each worth 5 points. Based on audience call-in questions, TV reporter Staphanie Richon told the candidates that her viewers wanted to know what each candidate considers to be his biggest mistake. . The audience went into uproar mode over that one. The reporter had to ask the same question 3 or 4 times in order that the candidates knew what it was. This had to be the low point of the evening if one believed an actual debate was taking place. Keyes was outraged over the question and launched into a hissy-fit over some subject or other in his arsenal, McCain answered the question seriously, and Bush, playing to the crowd, smirked and said trading Texas Ranger Sammy Sosa. Zero Points Bush asked Hatch about the McCain-Feingold campaign bill. Hatch called it "unconstitutional." Unexpectedly, Williams allowed McCain to respond, and he told Bush to do what's best for the country, not what's best for the Republican Party and, by implication, himself. Further, he said, "You, George, are defending an illegal system." And, again, he asked Bush to do something about the smear ad against him by Bush backers using soft money. Bush did not respond in any way. 2 Points A short response to an Internat sales tax question had Bush suggesting an extended moratorium on any sale tax . 5 Points His closing remarks were crafted to provide the names of all of the major politicos in South Carolina who are backing him. 5 Points. Total: 12 Points
TOTAL: 42 % (Transcript of Debate)
BUSH GETS NEAR PASS IN DEBATE WITH A 68% BUT PAYS THE PRICE.
By Bill Brasin
In the most entertaining Republican debate to date, George W. Bush showed more of his one-on-one outgoing, humorous personality and nice-guy smile, not to mention a more feisty side for public appearances, but at a price. Some of the comments he ended up making in the speeded-up format of the 60 minute debate pushed along by Tim Russert will be remembered by his opponents and will come back to haunt him. Two in particular: 1) When Russert asked Bush "No new taxes , so help [you] God?" Bush responded, "This is not only no new taxes. This is tax cuts so help me God." Read my lips, George. You made a mistake with that response. 2) When Russert asked Bush about his statement made in 1993 that only Christians would go to heaven, Bush said he never said that. "No, no. What I said was my religion teaches -- my religion says that you accept Christ and you go to heaven." When Russert asked about non-Christians, Bush answered, "God decides." Reporters will be checking the 1993 records in the morning. (More on this later.) All told, Bush answered seven questions for which we can award up to 10 points each. The other 30 points came from 3 general categories: personality, responsiveness, and coherent policy. Here's how it went.
1. New Hampshire reporter John DiStaso asked Bush the first question of the debate. If the economy were to turn sour, would Bush entertain a tax hike? The Texas governor said he would cut taxes to stimulate the economy. So there are no circumstances that you can see where a tax hike is unvoidable, "so help you God?" This is where Bush said, "This is not only no new taxes. This is tax cuts so help me God." Russert stepped in and asked, Not even in a time of war? Bush lost focus and talked about war and the military and ignored the tax question. "If I ever commit troops, I'm going to do so with one thing in mind. And that's to win, Tim." During that speech Bush stumbled over the word "obfuscate" No wonder. Russert reminded him what the topic was. Bush weakly concluded that all bets would be off in a time of war.(6 points)
2. After Russert asked McCain about a possible impropriety in writing a letter to a governmental agency for a campaign contributor and McCain defended his actions as just doing his job, Mr. "Meet the Press" asked Bush if he were satisfied with Mc's answer. George said he was, and then went into an attack, implying McCain is against "paycheck protection." (Making sure the worker has been allowed to decide if he wants his union dues used to support union politics prior to having those dues deducted from his paycheck. Bush claims he is only for campaign reform if it includes control of political contributions to unions and tort lawyers.) Bush has been beating a dead horse on this for nearly a week, since McCain has told reporters from the beginning that he agrees with Bush, but such thinking is irrelevant to true campaign reform, which is to eliminate such circumstances for soft money to begin with. Bush became angry when McCain suggested George needed to get a "better picture." The Texan replied, "What you don't need to do is tell me what I have an idea about or not." (6 points)
3. Russert suggested that, given Bush's recent Jesus talk, non-Christians would want to know about Bush's view of religion in the oval office. Bush said his comments only related to his personal view. Russert asked, when he had to make a decision as President, would he ask, "What would Jesus do?" No, Bush responded, he would ask, "Dear God, help me!" One of his best moments turned into one of his worst when Russert went on to remind him of his 1993 statement to reporters which Bush said was incorrect. (See above.) However, the remaining interchange probably did not leave non-Christians confortable. First, Bush implied the religion he practices only says Christians can go to heaven ("My religion says that you accept Christ and you go to heaven."), then, when Russert asked him if non-Christians can also go to heaven, Bush answered, "God decides." Part of the problem with Bush's response to this often-asked question is that he turns the 1993 reporter's question into an absurdity: "[My 1993 response] was a statement that some interpreted that said I get to decide who goes to heaven." I know of no reporter who has ever seriously asked Governor Bush if George W. Bush is the one to decide who goes to heaven. Russert didn't ask Bush how he knows that Christians can go to heaven by accepting Christ but doesn't know of any way that non-Christians can go to heaven. (8 points)
4. When Russert asked Bush if he would appoint an openly gay person to a senior staff position in the military the Texas governor said "no." When asked if he would appoint an openly gay person to a senior staff or cabinet position, Bush suddenly forgot the premise and answered, "How would I know [if he were gay]?" A confused Russert reminded him of the premise of both questions asked thus far. Bush concluded, "I'm a don't ask, don't tell man." (7 points)
5. A Russert question about Social Security and the projected government surplus was left unanswered as Bush discussed the need for a tax cut first. He implied that there would be enough left over to deal with the Social Security shortfall. McCain disagreed and the two spent some time nattering over this issue. This marks the third debate in a row where Bush has refused to provide specifics for his position that his tax cuts are workable without breaking the surplus bank. (5 points)
6. When it came to Bush asking a question of a rival, he changed his previous strategy which has been heavily panned. Instead of asking a substantive question in which he spent time outlining his own position on the issue, he simply threw Keyes a softball about the Cuban kid and the Clinton administration. Selfless. (10 points)
7. When it came to Bauer asking Bush a question, Dubya was asked to defend his conservative credentials. Bush took his fallback position: come to Texas and see what I've done. He told Gary he's "walked the walk" with tax cuts, charter schools, welfare to work, and tort reform. Bauer pointed out that it was all non-values stuff and typical of George's thinking. What about preserving religious liberty and abortions? Interestingly, Bush stayed away from the religious liberty issue, although he's presently in the middle of a Texas school prayer case. Bush did note that he walked the conservative walk with respect to being against same sex marriage, which has never come up in Texas, and for parental notification prior to abortions, which has. (8 points)
8. Personality. For those who see Bush as a friendly, funny, smiling, warm guy with a mellow attitude, this was his best debate. At the same time, he came close to losing it with McCain in their interchange about campaign reform. While McCain was sometimes tense, his informed, straight-forward attitude served him well. In particular, he was able to get under George's skin at times with his demeanor of experience. In this sense, Bush was "talking," Mc Cain was "walking." (8 points)
9. Responsiveness. Bush's biggest problem is lack of focus. Either he hears a topic and goes on auto-pilot, mouthing campaign rhetoric, or he simply misses the point. He lost focus on the first four out of the seven questions asked. (4 points)
10.Coherence. This is another problem area. Either Bush's policy position is not fully relevant to the circumstance (#2), is not fully formed (#3), or is contradicted by another statement in the same answer (#1). (6 points)
TOTAL: 68 points (Transcript of Debate)
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