Less than four days before Election Day, representatives from the Cornell Democrats and the College Republicans squared off in a presidential debate Friday night in the Robert Purcell Community Center auditorium.
College Republicans Ryan Horn ’02, Sam Merksamer ’02, Lee Rudofsky ’01 and Derrick Zandpour ’02 stood in for Texas Gov. George W. Bush.
On the Cornell Democrats side, Jeff Lowenstein ’04, Jen Pucci ’03, Josh Roth ’03 and Chris Wells ’03 represented Vice President Al Gore.
During the first round of questions, representatives spoke on behalf of their candidate’s platforms for health care.
Roth maintained that Gore’s policy, by supporting “a real patient bill of rights,” improves access to specialists.
Rudofsky responded by claiming that Gore is trying to give government too much control at the expense of the American people.
“If this [were] a spending contest, then Gore would win hands down. But it’s not. It’s about leadership. The difference is that Bush trusts America over the federal government to make decisions,” Rudofsky added.
“Bush’s record in Texas is atrocious,” countered Lowenstein, pointing out that Texas is currently 48th in the nation for children’s health care.
Defending the Governor’s progress, Rudofsky said, “The health care system was in dire straits when Bush took over Texas. Texas was 50th in the nation when Bush became Governor and is now 48th.”
Democrats were asked what Gore could do to make abortions less frequent, given that many Americans find the idea morally disturbing.
Gore aims to increase adoptions and to expand education while protecting a woman’s right to choose, according to Lowenstein. He added that if a woman feels she must have an abortion, then Gore supports increasing the number of abortions that take place early in the fetus’s developmental stage by sanctioning the use of the abortion pill RU-486.
“Sometimes Democrats astound me,” Horn said about the “inhumanity” of abortions at any stage of the process.
Republicans explained Bush’s views on conservation, which many Americans believe are against the environment.
“The Republicans have had a long history as the party of conservation,” said Horn, citing the legacy begun by Teddy Roosevelt back at the beginning of the twentieth century. He explained that Bush wants to drill for oil in Alaska to make America less dependent on foreign sources.
Pointing out that Bush proposes to “experimentally” dig for oil in a wildlife refuge, Wells asked, “How can this be viewed as conservation?”
Wells contrasted Bush’s record with that of Gore, who has always been a “stalwart supporter” of the environment.
Responding to a question about Bush’s guilty plea to Driving Under the Influence (DUI), Zandpour told the audience that time has proven Bush’s character to be strong enough to lead the nation.
“We have to remember that we’re electing Bush in the year 2000 and not in the year 1976. Since then Bush has found God,” Merksamer added.
Pucci criticized Zandpour for dismissing Bush’s DUI record so lightly. “Bush referred to DUI as a ‘youthful folly.’ He committed this crime when he was 30. What does this say for his personal development?” said Pucci.
Another audience member asked the Democrats about the extent to which Gore identifies with President Clinton.
“Gore is his own man. He is running on his own record, and he should be judged on his record,” said Roth. He cited Gore’s service in Vietnam and his long-standing involvement in politics as an indicator of his character and dedication to the country.
Horn countered Roth by saying that Gore stood up and told the nation that Clinton was one of the greatest Presidents ever.
“Electing Gore-Lieberman is like Clinton II. They’ll never go away unless you say ‘No’ in Washington,” Horn said.
Michael Moschella ’02, who watched the debate, commented on the frequent “spearing of rhetoric” and said, “What struck me most was how well all of this reflected the national debates.”
Archived article by Jennifer Roberts