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“How deep is the ocean? How high is the sky” is a line from a
popular love song from the late ’30s. Those questions were presumed to
be unanswerable. Perhaps they were then. However, with modern
technology, we now have the ability to measure the depth of the ocean as
well as the height of the earth’s atmosphere. The challenge for
Republican presidential nominee George W. Bush when he faces off against
his Democratic rival, Al Gore, is to define “deep” and “high.”
Not literally, but when he tells us that he wants to open up a small
portion of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to tap into the vast oil
resources we have there, he must define “small” and “vast.” If not, Al
Gore will imply, as he did in the last debate, that the surface area
necessary to drill for oil there will destroy this fragile national
treasure and the amount of oil in ANWR really is insignificant.
“Small” and “vast” have as many different meanings as there are
people. When a Sumo wrestler says he wants a small amount of pie, he
obviously has something quite different in mind than a high fashion
model who makes the same request. Likewise, to a little kid, a pool
that a real estate agent would deem small in size, can seem as vast as
While Al Gore often treats us like little kids, talking down to us,
George W. Bush talks way above our heads. When Bush brought up the
character issue in last week’s debate and mentioned “no controlling
legal authority,” the political junkies in the audience all knew what he
was talking about. However, Joe Six-Pack, who only tuned into the
debate when he got bored with the baseball game, didn’t have a clue.
This is one area where Al Gore’s experience as a writer has paid off
handsomely. In “Journalism 101” you are taught to assume that the
reader knows nothing about your subject. Also, newspapers are written on
a fifth-grade level, which is the level of education achieved by today’s
average high school graduate.
In these debates, with the two minutes allotted for each answer, it
is not possible to dot every “I” and cross every “T,” but it is possible
to define “small” and “vast.” The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is an
area that is about the size of the state of South Carolina and the small
amount of land needed to tap into this vast resource would be about the
size of Dulles International Airport near Washington, D.C. Given this
information, the average voter can understand that it is ludicrous to
keep us over the OPEC barrel because of the objections of a handful of
radical environmentalists. We are sitting on an oil deposit believed
to be as “vast” as the one in nearby Prudhoe Bay, which has been a
reliable source of oil for over 20 years.
Facts, there is just no substitute for them. A fact is something
that was or is. And here’s the best part. A fact is verifiable and
non-controversial. When you have the facts on your side, it is
surprising how few of them you really need to win an argument. Bush
needs to memorize about two facts for every major issue in which he has
a policy difference with Gore.
For example, on ANWR, if Gore comes back at Bush and claims that,
even if it only takes a small amount of land to drill for oil, it will
hurt the wildlife in the area, all Bush has to do is point out that the
radical environmentalists made the same claims about Prudhoe Bay.
However, since we began drilling for oil there, the caribou herds that
environmentalists claimed would become extinct have increased in size.
That’s a fact!
Bush accused Al Gore of using “fuzzy” math to describe his tax cut.
It was a good line, but Bush must define “fuzzy.” When Al Gore talks
about the majority of Bush’s tax cut going to the rich, he must explain
how Al Gore and the government define rich. It’s roughly anyone with a
Family Economic Income of $60,000. And, that’s not what you earn as a
family. If you own your home, the government figures what it would cost
if you had to rent that home and adds that to your grand total. Now a
family in Hope, Ark., or Carthage, Tenn., might get by just fine on
$60,000 a year. However, a family with several small children, living
in one of our major cities trying to get by on $60,000 a year, is having
a hard time making ends meet. That’s why Bush’s across-the-board tax cut
is the only kind that makes any sense.
After their last debate, if you listened to the remarks coming from
people in focus groups, it was clear that, after 90 minutes of talk, the
average voter still didn’t understand the basic differences between the
tax cuts proposed by these two men. Also, the average voter still can’t
explain the major differences between their proposals on the two
hot-button issues in the campaign: education and prescription drugs.
When Al Gore can’t come up with a fact, he makes one up. It’s call
lying. This is bad behavior. Al Gore may not be a bad person, but, as
vice president, he has done some other bad things. However, if Bush is
going to point this out, he must be prepared to articulate the facts
surrounding Gore’s bad behavior while in office.
If Bush can’t come up with a few facts to combat Al Gore’s fuzzy math
and outright lies, he comes across just as fuzzy and he will lose. From
Bush we need the facts and nothing but the facts. From Al Gore we need