"Allow Nader, Buchanan into Debates"

Baltimore Sun, Sept. 28, 2000. By Jeff Cohen

Cohen, founder of the media watch group Fairness & Accuracy, cites that recent history – namely the inclusion of Ross Perot in the 1996 debates – shows that allowing minority candidates to participate increases public interest in the debates. A few days earlier, the Commission on Presidential Debates announced their decision to bar Green Party candidate Ralph Nader and Reform Party candidate Pat Buchanan from participating since they lacked 15 percent poll support. Cohen denounces the Commission on Presidential Debates, who took control of the debates in 1988, by arguing the Commission's restricted debates promote the two-party system.

 

"In the End, Two Candidates Can't Resist Being Themselves in the Spotlight"

New York Times, Oct. 3, 2000. By Frank Bruni

Much of the political commentary leading up to the first debate highlighted the politics of charisma and observed that Al Gore's stiffness and wooden demeanor eclipsed his attributes as a candidate. Critics of George W. Bush focused on Bush's broad issue statements and evasions and cited his inability to demonstrate knowledge of public policy. Bruni, in this article, notes that the first debate confirmed these viewpoints. He cites that "neither man could resist reverting to type." Gore appeared as "a reference book of foreign names and domestic facts and figures," while Bush often "clung to broad statements of good intent."

 

"Gore and Bush Clash Sharply On Policy Issues in 1st Debate"

Washington Post, Oct. 4, 2000; A.01.
By Dan Balz & Terry M. Neal

This article recounts the clash of words and issues during the first debate. Balz and Neal outline the disagreements between the presidential candidates over tax cuts, prescription drugs, Social Security and the projected budget surpluses. They also underline the memorable phrases of the ninety-minute debate including George W. Bush's accusation of Al Gore's "phony numbers" and "fuzzy math" and Gore's charge that Bush "would spend more money on tax cuts for the wealthiest one percent."

 

"Instant, Ephemeral Analysis"

Washington Post, Oct. 5, 2000; C1. By Howard Kurtz

"Instant Ephemeral Analysis" is an analysis of the media's post-debate reaction of the first televised debate between George W. Bush and Al Gore and its influence on public opinion. Majority of the political pundits assessed Bush as the winner; however, the article features quotes from media authorities such as Tom Brokaw, who state that these snap judgments are almost always wrong. Kurtz then comments that the political commentators' "snapshot" impressions have minimal influence on public opinion, arguing that all the polls projected Gore as the winner.

 

"A Delicate Dance of the Interventionist and the Reluctant Internationalist"

New York Times, Oct. 11, 2000. By David E. Sanger

This news analysis of the second presidential debate centered upon the candidates' perspectives on American foreign policy. Rather than answering the question of how American might and influence should be exerted, Sanger observes that Vice President Al Gore and Governor George W. Bush generally focused on which foreign entanglements they would avoid. But Sanger draws significant distinctions between the two candidates. Gore, he cites, appeared to be an interventionist Democrat whose foreign policy is driven by "a question of values" and the importance of nation building. In contrast, Bush was "the reluctant internationalist" who believed that "the purpose of American military was to fight wars, not rebuild countries."

 

"Debate Challenges Are Same as Before; Analysts: Gore Must Show an Earthier Side, Bush Must Display Some Intellectual Heft"

Washington Post, Oct. 11, 2000; A14.
By Terry M. Neal & Ceci Connolly

Neal and Connolly observe that the second televised presidential debate replays the same challenges that continue to face each candidate. Governor George W. Bush had the problem of failing to demonstrate that he had the intellectual heft to be President, whereas Vice President Al Gore suffered from the inability to shed his wooden demeanor and relate to the average American. Though the candidates' respective advisors acknowledged these areas for improvement, both campaigns worked to capitalize on their opponent's challenges -- the Bush campaign depicting Gore as a "serial exaggerator" and the Gore camp attacking Bush's Texas record and knowledge.

 

"How to Handicap The Debates"

Washington Post, Oct. 12, 2000; C1. By Dana Milbank

Before and after each presidential debate, each candidate's camp works to set expectations and place a spin through speeches, news releases, or media interviews. As Milbank concludes, it is often what is said before and after (versus during the debate) that determines who won or lost. The article highlights that a key strategy to win a debate is to lower expectations for one's own candidate and raise them for the opponent. For the 2000 presidential debates, Milbank cites that both campaigns worked to lower the expectations for their respective candidates, so that a gain made by their candidate during the debate would appear as a surpassing of expectations and standards.

 

"Gestures Said Much More Than Words"

New York Times, Oct. 17, 2000. By Frank Bruni

The structure of the final presidential debate between George W. Bush and Al Gore contrasted sharply with the previous two debates where the candidates were either seated at a table or standing behind a lectern. In the final debate, Governor Bush and Vice President Gore were allowed to walk freely around the stage when answering questions. Bruni writes that the candidates' body language "spoke more loudly and eloquently." Gore's quick pace and outstretched arms showed the audience that he was desperate to win the presidency, while Bush, whose laid-back and muted gestures, seemed "as if he were musing out loud rather than making a vigorous case."

 

"One Outsized Candidate, One Downsized"

Washington Post, Oct. 18, 2000; A1. By David Von Drehle

This article discusses each candidate's gestures in the final debate and the importance that body language played in communicating messages. Noted by Von Drehle, this last debate, which was structured like a town hall meeting, provided key personality distinctions between the two candidates. Vice President Al Gore's large gestures, bold strides, and booming voice projected a "man of big ideas, big programs" with a mantra of "I want to fight for you." Governor George W. Bush's timid answers, lower voice, "small jokes and small gestures" presented him as "a man of simple ideas, plain vocabulary." Bush's gestures were "a naked appeal to a public in search of a straight shooter" and communicated his key message: "I trust the people."


"Bush and Gore, in Last Debate, Stage Vigorous Give-and-Take"

New York Times, Oct. 18, 2000. By Richard L. Berke

Berke provides a detailed review of the last debate and reports on key exchanges between the candidates on issues such as Medicare, education, and tax cuts. He underscores that in this final confrontation, Vice President Al Gore cast himself as "a champion of working Americans," whereas Governor George W. Bush characterized himself as "a leader from outside Washington" with a record of being able to work with both political parties.

 

"A Maverick Gets His Moment: How the debates gave Ralph Nader a boost"

Newsweek, Oct. 23, 2000. By Matt Bai

Bai concludes that the Commission on Presidential Debates' barring of Ralph Nader from the debates may have increased public support for the Green Party candidate. After the debates, national polls indicated Nader jumped to 7 percent. Nader argues that in the debates, Governor George W. Bush and Vice President Al Gore failed to discuss decisions and policies on important issues such as poverty and affordable housing and appeared to be "corporate supremacists." Though Nader focused on providing voters with an alternative choice and a way to send the two parties a message, Bai speculates that Nader's votes will most likely from Democratic strongholds.