Candidates fire off personal attacks in town hall debate

By Darin Stone
Arizona Daily Wildcat
October 17, 1996

Chris Richards
Arizona Daily Wildcat

Students watch last night's presidential debates from the seats of the Arizona Stadium Presidential Skybox. The evening's program, sponsored by the Arizona Students' Association, included refreshments and a post-debate discussion.


The economy, taxes, social programs and personal attacks dominated last night's Presidential debate in San Diego.

After a traditional first debate, the second and final encounter used a town hall format, with questions coming from a group of 113 uncommitted voters chosen by the Gallup Organization.

About 100 UA students watched the debate last night in Arizona Stadium's Presidential Skybox, in an event sponsored by the Arizona Students' Association.

With hopes to gain ground in the polls, Republican nominee Bob Dole accused the president of "scandals almost on a daily basis."

The attacks became more personal when Dole was asked if his age, 73, put him out of touch with the needs of younger Americans.

"I think it is also a strength, an advantage," Dole said.

Clinton said he would not make Dole's age an issue, but said, "It's the age of his ideas that I question."

Dole shot back: "When you don't have any ideas, I guess you say the other person's ideas are old."

Students who watched the debate said although the character issue was dominant, a candidate's stand on policies mattered most.

Kimberly Magioncalder, political science and psychology sophomore and College Republicans secretary, said Dole's background and stance on education are reasons why the former senator is the better choice.

"Dole was a student at public schools," Magioncalder said. "I feel Dole had more of an experience with public schools and therefore can relate to the issue better than Clinton can."

Dole has proposed the elimination of the Department of Education.

Jeff McCuen, history freshman and College Republicans chairman, said the elimination will help education.

"I don't think the elimination will have much effect at all," McCuen said. "It will actually make (education) better because (the Department) is very bureaucratic."

The candidates also disagreed on Affirmative Action and legislation to bar job discrimination against homosexuals. Clinton said he supported it, while Dole said he opposes discrimination in "any form," but does not favor creating "special rights for any group."

On the Affirmative Action issue, Clinton said he did not favor quotas.

But Dole said, "I'm disabled. I shouldn't have a preference. I'd like to have one in this race. Maybe we can work that out."

Students were also concerned about the candidates' stance on taxes.

"Hopefully in our future with Dole we can have a family where only one parent needs to work," Magioncalder said. "Right now two parents are working - one to pay for the government and one to pay for the family."

Undeclared freshman Adam Goldfarb disagreed. He said if Dole wins and implements his proposed 15 percent tax cut, the federal debt will grow.

"If you cut taxes, there is no money; the money goes back to the people," Goldfarb said. "Where's the money for the government?"

After the debate, students were asked if they changed their minds about who they are voting for. No one raised their hand.

The general election takes place Nov. 5.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.