In his televised debate
with Vice President Al Gore in New Hampshire Wednesday night, former
Sen. Bill Bradley praised a former Communist dictator as someone he
believes was “most effective” in a leadership role.
Bradley extolled Mikhail Gorbechev for demonstrating the kind of
courage he hoped to emulate as president, and said the former leader of
the USSR — who has publicly admitted he still prefers Communism — was
brave to see the world changing and “had the courage to make that
The event was hosted by Dartmouth University and moderated by Bernard
Shaw of CNN.
At one point during the debate, a member of the audience asked both
candidates: “What do you think characterizes those whose leadership is
most effective, and how does your own approach to leadership relate to
While Gore responded that “a president must have a vision of the
future that is compelling enough to bring people into a common effort to
bring it to pass,” Bradley applauded Gorbechev, as well as former U.S.
Presidents Jimmy Carter and Woodrow Wilson.
Bradley said he believes there are “three values that are important
that a leader has to have.”
“One is absolute integrity — honesty and integrity. And there I
think of Jimmy Carter,” he said. “Second, I think that a leader has got
to have the ability to see around the corners, to see the future before
it’s here. I think Woodrow Wilson had that. What he talked about America
became America in the 20th century. And next, I think a leader has to
have courage. Example of that, I would pick somebody who’s not an
American, Mikhail Gorbachev, who saw that the world was (changing), and
had the courage to make that change.”
“I think leaders, wherever they are in the world, need those three
qualities if they’re going to be world-class leaders,” Bradley added.
Besides offering praise to a former Soviet leader who once vowed to
annihilate the U.S. with nuclear weapons and who ordered Soviet troops
in Afghanistan to booby trap dolls so Afghani children would lose limbs
when they picked them up, critics have said Bradley’s praise of Wilson
and Carter also ignores the reality of the many failures — foreign and
domestic — within their administrations.
While Wilson is widely recognized as having been an advocate of
American democracy, historians also note his aggressive policies towards
Mexico destabilized that country, and some believe he had an almost
uncontrollable urge to involve the U.S. in foreign wars.
Historians agree on Carter’s enduring personal integrity, but cite
his abysmal presidential politics: Impotence in dealing with rampant
inflation, economic policies so bad they rarely received approval from a
Democrat-controlled Congress, the Iran hostage crisis and his decision
to sign a treaty turning the Panama Canal back over to the Panamanian
government — all are seen as major failures of Carter’s administration.
Analysts who watched the presidential debate said neither candidate
“drew much blood,” but that “both did well.”
Under the rules of the program, each answered different questions
from the audience in turn — a format that gave them little opportunity
for direct engagement or rebuttal.