Political debate becomes heated shouting match

By Alicia A. Caldwell
Arizona Daily Wildcat
September 19, 1996

Chris Richards
Arizona Daily Wildcat

Mike Coatney, political science student and youth coordinator for Bob Dole's campaign in Arizona, defends the Republican position in a debate in the Memorial Student Union Tucson Room last night. The debate, which also included the Libertarian Students and Young Democrats, focused on the role of government in the future of education.


A debate among three campus political groups last night became a verbal free-for-all that almost turned into a fist fight.

What started out as a gathering of political minds ended with the Young Democrats leaving early when the Libertarians began comparing them to "Nazis."

The debate among the Libertarian Students, Young Democrats and College Republicans, was held at 7 p.m. in the Memorial Student Union Tucson Room. Eight debaters and 19 audience members were present.

The debate focused on public vs. private education, but also turned to religion and family values. While the Republicans and Democrats spoke about compulsory education, the Libertarians questioned where the Constitution gives government the right to regulate education.

The debate became heated as names were called and both political and personal insults were exchanged.

At one point, Bret Rossen, MIS senior and member of the Libertarian Students, compared the platform of the Democrats to that of Nazis and fascists. Rossen read quotes from Benito Mussolini and the Nazi minister of education under Adolf Hitler.

The Democratic leader for the debate, Julie Lewis, sociology senior, then asked Rossen if he was comparing teachers to Nazis.

Rossen said, "I'm not calling teachers Nazis, I'm calling the (Democratic) party and the platform Nazi."

Lewis then said her grandparents and other family members were killed at a Nazi concentration camp. She told Rossen to never compare anyone who is not a Nazi to a Nazi.

At one point, Lewis became visibly furious.

"It's taking everything I have not to get up and hit you," Lewis said.

Following more name calling and arguing, Lewis left, and the other two Democratic debaters followed.

"We felt that it (the debate) was very unprofessional, biased, unfair and unorganized. It was ridiculous. We are embarrassed to have been a part of it," said Caron Spector, interdisciplinary studies sophomore and vice president of membership for the Young Democrats.

Jeff Robins, the debate's moderator and a disc jockey for KZLZ radio, did not do much to stop the exchange.

"These are rational adults. I felt they were in control of the situation," Robins said afterward.

Jackie Casey, president of the Libertarian Students, said she could not control the actions of others. She did, however, apologize for religious remarks made during the debate.

Spector said the Young Democrats would not take part in future debates held by the Libertarian Students.

Melissa Schifman and Mindy Taylor, two psychology freshmen in the audience, said they thought consideration was not given to all sides and nothing had been accomplished by the events of the evening.

Last night's event was the second in a series of four debates that started in the spring. Along with representatives from the Democrats, Republicans and Libertarians, Socialists and the Green party have also been invited to take part.