October 1, 2004

Professors Comment On Presidential Debate

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With just over a month left until election day, President George W. Bush and Democratic nominee Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) debated at 9 p.m. last night at the University of Miami. The first of three scheduled debates in the next month, last night focused on foreign policy.

The presidential debate was screened last night in Willard Straight Theatre with Prof. Walter Mebane, government, and Prof. Susan Buck-Morss, government, making comments before the debate began. This event was set up by Mock Election, which is co-sponsored by The Sun.

Both Mebane and Buck-Morss discussed the presidential debates with light sarcasm, making references to previous errors of speech by Bush and long pauses by Kerry. They also talked about the importance of impressing the media and the American people during a debate. “Its basically an exchange of sound bites,” Mebane said.

Mebane also said that the ‘winner’ of the debate wouldn’t truly be decided until almost 48 hours after the debate. He argued that the press reaction to the debate tends to be more important than what the candidates say. He said that style and demeanor can often outweigh content.

Buck-Morss mentioned an alternative news source for people interested in politics called Democracy Now. She also expressed pleasure at the number of students who turned out to watch the debate. Willard Straight Theatre was filled with students and ushers had to turn students away.

“It’s great to see so much interest on campus and I just hope you get out and vote,” Buck-Morss said.

Mebane told the audience that pre-election polls are unreliable because no one knows who the voters will be next month. In response to student questioning, Mebane said that recent voter registration has had almost twice as many people registering Democrat as Republican. He believes that a higher voter turn-out will help Democrats.

Mebane also commented that the Republican party was trying to attract evangelical Christians who did not vote in the last election.

The general structure for the debates were strictly agreed upon by both parties prior to the debate. Both were asked questions by Jim Lehrer, the moderator, and had two minutes to respond. The other then had 90 seconds for rebuttal. Several questions were given extra time by Lehrer with each candidate receiving 30 extra seconds. The debate did not include opening statements but allowed two minutes for closing remarks.

Both Kerry and Bush made several attacks on the other. Kerry said that Bush deceived the country multiple times in the events leading to the invasion of Iraq. Bush said Kerry had no real stance on the war in Iraq and that the country and the troops could not be led by a person whose positions change.

Kerry consistently said that the United States need to redevelop strong alliances and become “respected again in the world.” He argued that Bush took the attention of the war on terror away from Afghanistan by invading Iraq. Kerry also said that Bush did not take all precautions necessary before he went to war.

Bush repeatedly said that the people of Iraq and Afghanistan want to be free and that the United States and the rest of the world are safer because of these wars. He told of plans for an Arab summit as well as a summit in Japan on Iraq and Afghanistan.

Kerry reiterated may of his previous statements in the closing arguments, expressing his love of America. He also said that the United States needed to win the war on terror and that he thought the country would be able to under his leadership.

“I believe America’s best days are ahead of us,” Kerry said.

Bush finished the debate with a discussion of keeping his word and supporting the troops abroad. He mentioned a plan for military reform and said that he would keep an “all-voluntary army”.

Vice Presidential candidates Dick Cheney and John Edwards have their own debate Tuesday night. The next debate in the presidential series will be Oct. 8 at Washington University in St. Louis. The last debate on domestic issues will be Oct. 13 at Arizona State University.

Archived article by Rebecca Shoval
Sun Staff Writer