The pundits were dead wrong when they pontificated that the first
Gore-Bush debate did not change minds or sway voters one way or another.
Just the opposite is true; the debate was definitive. Barring an
extraordinary and unlikely intervention, it is not too early to conclude
that the campaign is over, and the outcome of the election is set in
place. And the victory of the Bush ticket will be convincing enough to
represent a mandate for change in America.
The first debate between the presidential candidates was critically
informative, telling voters essentially everything they need to know.
While Al Gore won debating points, he lost something much more
important. In effect, he psychologically undressed in front of more than
50 million Americans — and it was not a pretty sight.
Gore’s identity crisis was in full view. He tried to conceal himself
behind a mask of layered pancake make-up, vividly rouged cheeks, glossed
lips, and hair dyed brown and styled to look like Ronald Reagan’s. He
had a harlequin look, artificial and overdone. His waxen persona
explained why his handlers attempted to have the temperature in the room
set at 55 degrees. They did not want to risk an unseemly onstage
The debate moderator, Jim Lehrer of PBS, started things out by
defining the rules that the two sides had negotiated and agreed to
honor: there would be no opening statement, two minutes would be allowed
to answer a question and one minute for a rebuttal, and participants
would not direct questions to each other.
Gore received the first question, ignored it and gave an opening
statement. Within minutes, he trashed every rule. Throughout the debate,
he routinely exceeded time limits, interrupted, insisted on getting the
last word on every question, and pestered Bush with direct questions. He
made weird sounds, grunted, audibly sighed, rolled his eyes, and made
strange faces while Bush was talking.
Bush was controlled, patient and forthcoming. He understood that you
don’t interrupt your opponent when he is self-destructing, which Gore
was doing by exposing himself as an arrogant bully of a man, who
believes the rules do not apply to him.
There is a long-standing pattern here. Al Gore doesn’t honor the
rules — in a debate or in the White House. Everyone in Washington,
D.C., has always known that it is against the law to make fund-raising
calls from the White House, conduct a fund-raiser at a Buddhist Temple,
hold fund-raisers at White House coffees, and take laundered money from
foreign sources — but that didn’t stop Gore. When presented with
evidence, he denied, dodged, and claimed there was “no controlling legal
Finally and tragically, although he was under scrutiny for his
habitual exaggerations, fabrications, misrepresentations, and lies, Gore
exaggerated, fabricated, misrepresented, and lied about checkable facts
in the course of the debate: Gore said he had never questioned whether
Bush had the experience to be president; he said he traveled to Texas
with FEMA director James Witt to inspect widespread fires; he claimed he
“took a risk” by asking former Russian Prime Minister Viktor S.
Chernomyrdin to help negotiate an end to the war in Kosovo; he said he
had an uncle who was a victim of poison gas in the Balkans during World
War I; and he claimed that because of overcrowding, L.C. Evans
Elementary school in Miami had to begin serving lunch at 9:30 in the
morning. All false.
There is a long-standing pattern here. In September of 1987, Mike
Kopp, campaign deputy press secretary, wrote a detailed memo to his
boss, Gore, warning him that he has “a growing reputation as a
politician who ‘stretches the truth to suit a political moment.’” A year
later, campaign press secretary Arlie Schardt wrote Gore a letter
conveying the same warning.
Gore clearly has a chronic personal affliction which can sometimes be
masked, but never heals. He manipulates reality to service personal
inadequacies. This is not wholesome for the ordinary person, and can be
disastrous for a president of the United States. But now that the
American people have seen behind the mask, they will not elect to endure
four more years of dangerous delusions and deceptions.
Above all, the first debate revealed a basic choice. Al Gore offers
bigger and more intrusive government. Bush will begin a shift of power
and resources from the government back to the people where the
Constitution says they belong.
In this regard, both candidate Gore and future President George W.
Bush can be believed.