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Analysis of the Second Debate: Governor Bush and Vice President Gore

October 11, 2000 at 12:00 AM EDT


RAY SUAREZ: Now some final thoughts and back to syndicated columnist Mark Shields and Wall Street Journal columnist Paul Gigot.

Paul, your final thoughts.

PAUL GIGOT: One of the things I think where Bush came out looking better tonight was in that he looked more assertive, more forceful. And I think that gave an appearance of conviction, even when he was on an area where he didn’t really — he is not an expert like foreign policy — at least he sounded strong. He sounded like he was taking a forceful position where I thought Vice President Gore sometimes sounded more like a legislator, more equivocal. He sounded on both sides of the gun issue, sounded like he was hedging himself on both of those things, on health care. It’s one my top priorities but I’m not for a big government plan, I’ll be very judicious. He never really sounded like a leader and sounded those notes. I think he didn’t help himself in that question of who will be a better leader. The other thing was — that struck me was Vice President Gore went out of his way tonight to say I am for shrinking the size of government and I’m for tax cuts. That strikes me as… what that means to me is they know that last week Governor Bush scored some points on this philosophical issue of who is for smaller or larger government and he needed to cover himself some on that. And I think that’s down the road here an advantage for Governor Bush.

RAY SUAREZ: Mark Shields.

MARK SHIELDS: Back to the vision thing. I thought it was a seeing-eye dog night as far as vision was concerned and I thought that quite bluntly Al Gore was running for head of government — his encyclopedic knowledge of government — and George Bush fell under the trap at the end. He went into this litany of legislative initiatives at the very end, which I did not think worked for him. But we are still looking for the leader of the nation, waiting for a leader who will say I see America, and this is how America will be different; this is how America will be better; this is how America will be larger and grander and more humane and more just. And I thought that was missing throughout the whole evening.

RAY SUAREZ: As opposed to a more humble nation.

MARK SHIELDS: A more humble nation, which I thought was a “subliminable” message about oil because it was Exxon, Esso and Humble, if you want to go back. And he basically sees a humble nation. You set me up for that, Ray, and I won’t forgive you. But the other thing was, I thought when Governor Bush shows a personalizing on criticism — he came back to, I have a good heart. You’re attacking my heart. And I found that… I think that could become an annoying characteristic over a sustained period of time… I don’t think another debate. But there is a certain inclination, I think, on his part to do that. But I thought it was a good night for him.

RAY SUAREZ: Well, thank you gentlemen both.