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Issue of the Week: Final Presidential Debate

Illustration by Holly Randall
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Wednesday, October 13, 2004
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Today marks the final presidential debate. In the polls, Kerry and Bush are locked in a dead heat, so this debate remains a crucial time for both candidates to pull out ahead. This week we ask: What have the candidates done well so far, and what will they need to do in order to come out on top?

Ryan Johnson

Kerry an expert at, helped by debates

When I grow up, I want to debate like John Kerry.

Absolute focus. Engaging tone. Not a single "um."

While Bush shows the stress of his job with incessant blinking and tics, Kerry looks calm and pensive. When Bush is talking, Kerry is focused on one of two places, his notepad or Bush. When Kerry is talking, Bush looks like a monkey.

Commentators like to figure out who wins the debates based on what candidates say. Clearly Kerry won the first one, but the second one was more balanced.

But in terms of personality and charm, Kerry easily wins. He wins for the little things, the things that make a great debater. He remembers the names of the questioners, he respects the moderator, and he respects his opponent. Bush is "the woman over there," arrogance, and interruptions.

But another point gets lost amidst all the political chatter.

Almost regardless of what happens in the debates, Kerry comes out on top.

The reason is that the public has had four years to get to know Bush. To get to know what he says, to feel out his personality, and to see how he acts off script. Kerry comes into this contest far less known. And in debates where the public gets to know him as much as they get to see Bush again, Kerry benefits.

And how does he look?

In a word: presidential.

Ryan Johnson is an economics and international studies junior. He can be reached at

Lauren Peckler

Debates just don't cut it

If you fall under the category of "clueless voters" and are just now learning about the issues and how the candidates stand, don't expect to find much out through the debates. I predict that all that can be remembered from the debates is who looks better on camera or who has better oratorical skills.

If you know the issues, the debates have done nothing more than prove to you that one needs a TelePrompter and the other doesn't. If you don't know the issues, stay away from the debates unless you too think that the country revolves around one issue.

As for the undecided voter, don't watch the debates looking for that award-winning response from a candidate, because you're more likely to end up falling in love with Kerry's flowing voice as you laugh out loud at just about every remark Bush makes.

As for the TRUE undecided voter, a.k.a. the college kid who doesn't know anything more than Bush supports the war and Kerry might not support the war, the debates talk about America's intervention in Iraq so much that it would be a shame for any citizen to vote based on what they absorbed during a few hour and half sessions.

The only reason to watch the debates is for a good laugh. So if you're afraid you're not up to speed politically or ready for the big day, skip the tube and find a more information savvy and reliable source like the "internets."

Lauren Peckler is a sophomore majoring in English and sociology. She can be reached at

Moe Naqvi

Kerry and Bush - professional liars

President Bush and Senator John Kerry are what I call "professional liars." They are possibly the only two men that could look into the camera, tell you Neptune is the third planet from the Sun, and the general audience would believe them.

But just because Bush and Kerry are capable of lying doesn't mean they should. Too often do they twist or exaggerate statements during presidential debates, and I would love for the both of them to actually straight shoot the truth.

In previous debates, Kerry has thrown out the cost of war in Iraq to be nearly $200 billion, however, the correct number given by budget officials is $120 billion.

During a debate, President Bush misquoted Kerry's stance on the topic of troop positioning in Iraq. Bush stated that Kerry had said, "I'll have them out of there in six months," where in reality Kerry claimed that he could reduce the number of troops stationed in Iraq.

In order for Bush and Kerry to win credibility from voters, they are not only going to have stop responding with bogus answers, but they are also going to have to stop circling around questions.

I could ask either presidential candidate what their favorite color is, and I am 100 percent sure their response would go along the lines of, "Well Moe, I really appreciate your question. You have no idea how much I respect the feeling in your question, but let me tell you something. I once knew a wonderful man with testicular cancer and he loved the color yellow...."

If only presidential candidates could trash the responses they think will be accepted by the majority of the voting populace and respond with the answer they accept for themselves, presidential debates would be a lot more successful in relating with voters.

Moe Naqvi is a physiological sciences freshman. He can be reached at

Laura Keslar

Enough with the parent/child dynamics

Although most of the debates are just for the cheerleaders of each party, the pundits seem to hope that they will attract and win over the swing voters to one or the other's side.

However, the debates might also drive some of the voters away from either major-party candidate.

And if President Bush and Senator Kerry continue to act like they have in the previous two debates, I am sure that there will be some voters turning to a third party candidate.

After watching last Friday's debate, both candidates need to stop acting as though they were engaged in a parent-child relationship, with Kerry being the stern, condescending parental figure trying to correct the mistakes of the petulant child Bush who needs his Ritalin.

Bush could barely hold his chair. He got up before he was called on. He interrupted Kerry from time to time. He threw a temper tantrum. In other words, he was the little boy down the street who really needed a spanking.

Maybe the spanking he will receive this November will be a dearth of votes for him because we need a man-not a child-in the Oval Office.

And Kerry: could any man be any more patronizing? No more than three people making more than $200,000 a year. Talk about being haughty. Keep that up and feel the wrath of the common man, Mr. Kerry.

Just as we don't need a child in the Oval Office, we really don't need a parent. What we want is a leader.

Laura Keslar is a pre-pharmacy junior. She can be reached at

Brett Barry

One's resolute, one has a "plan"

Thus far, the debates have gone rather well overall. Of course there are distortions and misstatements galore, but there has been some legitimate talk of issues. Plus, we have finally been given the opportunity to see the candidates in a more honest way with minimal "handling" guiding their statements. No longer can we say we've only seen them in loathsome and biased political ads; we've finally gotten a better portrayal of both men.

Kerry has shown the public that he really isn't the flip-flopping caricature of a candidate that the Bush camp has tried to make him out to be. As for Bush-well-he's reiterated that he's resolute, dammit! Why else would he start yelling over the moderator who is trying to ask you a question?

In the final debate today, though, both candidates should modify their approaches to come off a little better to potential voters.

Kerry needs to stop using the phrase "I have a plan..." It's like an awful and insulting rip off of Martin Luther King, Jr. You've said the word "plan" enough that you've opened up enough voters' ears, now just focus on actually telling us the plan. Make it clear enough that there's no confusion.

As for Bush, he needs to learn to speak without confusion or contradiction. No more long pauses interspersed with the occasional incontinent "um." No more saying that stem cell research kills a life so as to appeal to your base followed by saying, in the next sentence, that you were the first president to fund it. That sounds pretty flip-floppish to me.

Brett Berry is a regional development senior. He can be reached at

Susan Bonicillo

Let's not forget Poland

If President Bush and Senator Kerry wanted to bring a higher level of decorum and civility to politics, they have done so.

But, they've done it a little too well.

As much as Bush and Kerry wished to respect the other, they did so to the detriment of the debate.

A debate needs to be fiery and passionate. Thus far, both of their performances have been relatively meek and mild. Their docility and politeness are better used in a different venue, not when the position for the highest position in the land is at stake.

They should take a cue from their running mates who - in their one and only meeting - displayed the kind of viciousness and aggression inherent in a good debate.

If Bush and Kerry want to come out ahead then they need to show that they care somewhat about this country and its citizens.

Rather than bash each other over service records and insinuations about flip –flopping, they should instead declare in no uncertain terms their policies and plans for the future.

The American people need to know that their future leader is more concerned about their welfare rather than in berating their opponent.

In such a close race both Kerry and Bush would do well to heed their constituents. Forget the insults and the mudslinging.

This debate should be about the people.

Susan Bonicillo is a junior majoring in English. She can be reached at

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