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BETTY ANN BOWSER: Thank you for being with us tonight. I’m struck by the fact that in the group tonight we have five Dole supporters, five Clinton supporters, one person who’s voting for a third-party candidate, and one person who’s undecided. And that’s you, Mr. Conway. And I’d like to know if what you’ve seen and heard tonight has changed your mind about who you want to vote for.
THOMAS CONWAY, Stockbroker: To some degree. I think both candidates have very strong opinions. They seem to really echo each other. They seem to be supporting the same type of objectives and want to accomplish the same things. Their method of how they’re going to do that is what varies. But I’m still a bit undecided, quite honestly.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: What was your overall impression of the debate tonight? Ms. Stahnke.
LINDA STAHNKE, Home School Teacher: I feel like both candidates did a better job this time. They were more relaxed, maybe more themselves, and during the first debate that they had, it, the whole debate deteriorated into a lot of accusations and, and mudslinging, and it was very hard to watch the whole thing.
ADELIA CISNEROS, Retired School Teacher: But I felt that the President did a better job. He’s more articulate–
BETTY ANN BOWSER: Tonight?
ADELIA CISNEROS: Tonight. And I felt that he had a better command of the issues. I felt that he answered more questions, more personal. He was able to look directly at each individual person. He seemed to be talking directly at them–to them. Um, and I felt that Dole kind of looked down, and he felt more uncomfortable, I felt.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: Mr. Arnold, what was your impression?
SAM ARNOLD, Restaurant Owner: Well, I felt that Dole was being pressured to attack and go for the jugular, and I had the feeling he didn’t really want to do that, but he, he felt the pressure to do that.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: Did he, in fact, do that?
SAM ARNOLD: Yeah.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: Tonight, do you think?
SAM ARNOLD: He took a couple of nips at his jugular vein, and I don’t think he took much blood out of him, but he, he made a–some really harsh remarks.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: How would you characterize Sen. Dole’s demeanor, Mr. Goodwin?
CHRIS GOODWIN, Stockroom Manager: Well, frankly, I think the whole, the whole 90 minutes was a good argument for meeting alternatives to the Democrats and Republicans. And to tell you the truth, I was, I was kind of bored through a good chunk of it. I think they really blended into each other on a lot of issues. They both have a way of sort of touching on issues without really seriously addressing them. They mentioned things without really coming up with concrete proposals.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: Do you feel that they answered the questions they were asked?
CHRIS GOODWIN: Not really. Not really. Like I said, I think they sort of touched on things without really seriously raising a lot of questions that need to be raised. They didn’t talk about the widening gap between rich and poor in this country. They didn’t talk about the stagnation of wages for those families in this country. They didn’t talk seriously about tax reform. So they were both disappointing, in my book. That’s my I’m voting for Ralph Nader. That’s why I’m a member of the Labor Party. It’s why we need an alternative.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: Ms. Chattman, I see you nodding your head in agreement.
TANYA CHATTMAN, Graduate Student: Well, I agree to some extent, but I enjoyed the format of the debate. It proves just how good or polished a debater that President Clinton is. I think that President Clinton did a better job of answering the questions than Mr. Dole did. A number of times Dole–instead of answering the question, he took that time to sort of attack, go on the attack mode on President Clinton, and I really think that took way from him.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: Were you turned off by that?
TANYA CHATTMAN: Well, I expected it. You know, and he, he delivered on what I expected.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: Anyone else?
CHRIS GOODWIN: I felt Dole got under his skin a few times. Clinton, you could see a muscle in his head moving, you know, and I think he was hot inside and gritting his teeth and holding his tongue.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: You know, much has been made in the press about this, this sort of attack mode Sen. Dole might or might not be using tonight. Ms. Houston, you’re a Republican. You’re a Dole supporter. Did it appear to you that that’s what was going on?
LINDA HOUSTON, Insurance Broker: Oh, yes.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: Or did you find him more subdued than he was in the first debate?
LINDA HOUSTON: No. I felt he was as comfortable this time as he was the first time. Um, I agree that he seemed a little uncomfortable with attack. That’s not his character. I think it was an expectation. I think it’s part of the political game. They both have played it in a big, big role. Uh, Clinton has done it for weeks and weeks prior to the debates and now is being offended that it’s being done in return. I would have liked to have seen them talk a little bit more about how households are going to benefit from the tax cuts because, you know, they talk about the money all the time, but they don’t say how it’s really going to help us, umm, and it will. It will help us in a great deal to be able to handle more of our own money. And I was also very annoyed by the fact that Clinton says I did this, I did that, I did–you know, we did it. We send people to Congress, and those people vote, and they do the things that we want them to do for our country, and I’m a little annoyed that he thinks he can take all the credit.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: Mr. Conway, do you agree?
THOMAS CONWAY: Yes. I do. It’s–politicians have a tremendous aptitude of being able to get in front of the inevitable and taking credit for it as a result. Um, this party, the current administration has, has a very positive economy going for them, very much like Carter had a negative thing going against him with the oil embargo. I, I think that’s going to happen. We’re going to be in a good, strong economy for the next 10 years, regardless of which President is there. So coming back to can they work together, can this two-party system work within the three branches of government and work together for us, I really didn’t hear too much about that.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: One thing that came up over and over again, Sen. Dole would bring up in various ways the question of character in an attempt to use that as an issue against the President. How effective do you think that was, Mr. Sulton?
JAMES SULTON, Education Administrator: I don’t fault him for that. Everybody expected him to do that. I give the most praise to the audience. They asked good questions. What I liked about the questions was the sincerity of them. They may not have been pointed, but they were sincere, and I think they were to a certain extent representative. What I didn’t like was that the answers weren’t always to the questions, and that a lot of times it was just an excuse to get into, um, preconceived lines. And so even though the format was excellent, I still got the impression that this too was rehearsed.
SUZANNA CORDOVA, High School Teacher: I think that the level of our, of our general conversation about politics is so low and the, the responsibility level amongst voters or eligible voters is so low that it has brought down the whole, the whole arena, so that, you know, there is–they are pre-canned answers because it’s almost what we–what we expect–and I’m saying we like the American people expect. And there is no real room for, for outside, um, the two-party system because it doesn’t get into like the easy two-second, thirty-second sound bite that we all say we hate and listen to, you know.
ROBERT JORNAYVAZ, Oil Producer: Well, this is a perfect example. We’re talking about style over substance tonight amongst ourselves. We’re not talking about the issues, and so what’s concerning is even your question about character. We’ve become so callous to what would have been a huge scandal decades ago is now something that we just merely brush off as another issue of the day. And that’s what’s wrong, is that we’re talking about style. We’re not talking about the issues, and that’s what everyone here is saying tonight, is that they’re not answering these questions, they’re not solving these problems.
LINDA STAHNKE: I think there’s a vast discrepancy between, um, the rhetoric of my cuts are bigger than your cuts, and I can balance the budget, um, compared to where we live every day, things that literally affect us, the nitty gritty. It isn’t connected to our lives enough in a literal way, and they, they bandy around big figures, and if, if the deficit has been reduced 60 percent and if there are 10 ½ million more jobs, why are we not better off? Why are there people around us who struggle day to day, to day–families with kids, um, are–our individual lives don’t reflect all the rhetoric that they’re spouting.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: Mr. Coughlin, do you agree with that?
DENNIS COUGHLIN, Investment Banker: Yeah. I think the scariest words that we as Americans can hear is I’m from the government and I’m here to help you, and there isn’t anybody in this room that is pleased with what the government is doing for us, but you will hear from President Clinton over and over again we are going to put in this, we’re going to help this group and we’re going to help that group.
SUSANNA CORDOVA: I want to take issue with your saying that there’s not anybody in this room who feels like the government hasn’t or isn’t helping me. I feel–you know, I’m a teacher, I feel very strongly that I work with, um, students who are on bilingual education–students who are on the very edge of the economic system. And I feel very strongly that their lives are in a very substantial way being helped by the government.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE VOICE: By which government, federal government?
SUSANNA CORDOVA: Well, if you look at things like food stamps, yeah, by the federal government.
ERIC DURAN, Financial Analyst: The thing that I find most interesting about this group and most interesting about, uh, most discussions I have on politics is that people seem to want on one end this great Congress and presidency that is cooperating and working together and agrees on all of the issues and is very efficient, but on the other end, here in this very group we don’t agree on, you know, several issues, and we could never strike any sort of compromise or any type of harmony, so I think that our–the government actually reflects us adequately because at one end you elect a Pat Schroeder, on the other end of the country you have a Newt Gingrich, and so I think that’s why our government does–
BETTY ANN BOWSER: And I think what I’d like to bring you back to is how does a debate like this evening’s and the one that we looked at together before this contribute to the process of making people informed about who they want to vote for?
SAM ARNOLD: I think–
BETTY ANN BOWSER: I’m hearing disappointment from you.
SAM ARNOLD: I’m disappointed because some of the primary questions were not dealt with. Abortion was not dealt with; the hard religious right’s relationship to Dole was not dealt with, uh, how does Dole stand on–on the religious areas–and I think you don’t have–you don’t have very much of that being dealt with by, by Clinton either. Clinton just sort of smiles and walks back and says, that’s how it is.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: Suppose you could change the format, what kind of format would work for you?
ROBERT JORNAYVAZ: You know, they both like to make reference to Lincoln in Washington. If you go back to the Lincoln-Douglas debates, they went on for weeks. There were numerous debates, and they lasted for hours. And we’ve literally–we’ve gotten two hour-and-a-half debates out of these guys. And what it needs to be is a series of debates similar to tonight’s format where they really get asked and they get asked follow-up questions, and it goes on for, for a lot longer time.
JAMES SULTON: I happen to agree with that. I think one should not discount the debates because they do give you more exposure than you’re ever going to get from a convention or from a whistle-stop train speech, but at the same time, uh, the format is–it’s being handled by pros. Those people know how to set up–
DENNISE COUGHLIN: They’re burying the divisive issues.
JAMES SULTON: –and I don’t have a problem with that, but I think more exposure, the more time you get, the issues that we are looking for and I think are dissatisfied for not having an answer on are complex issues. They’re not reducible to the sound bite; they’re not going to be answered in 30 seconds or less to give your opponent 30 seconds to get back at you, and they’re not going to be settled that way, but some of them, as you’ve heard, have not been brought out even, and you’re going to have to have more time at it to–
DENNIS COUGHLIN: I’m an employer and I run–a number of people work for me, and I’ve had a number of job interviews. You cannot just interview people forever to try to get every fact, every idea, every personality quirk. Some of it is going on your gut, and I think that this type of debate, this type of forum allows you to go on your gut, and I don’t–I don’t have a tremendous problem with that. I think if there were debates on this thing for the next six weeks, the TV ratings would fall off the end of the table.
JAMES SULTON: People here are complaining that they didn’t hear the issues really discussed and thoroughly laundered the way they should have been, and I think that’s the comment on the electoral process the way we structured it. Everybody’s partisan, everybody has one party they belong to or the other, and so then we complain that the issues get lost, but we’re submerging them too. So if there was any truth in what any of the candidates had to say tonight, it was the fact that we bear some responsibility for this.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: If you’re all so cynical and down about the process, why do you still participate?
JAMES SULTON: The alternative is–that’s still the best in the world, it really is.
DENNIS COUGLIN: I think all of this is working towards a better government, working towards a better government, working towards a better electoral process. I have trouble with a lot of process and name calling and so on and so forth, but in the end, I think it’s pretty good.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: Well, I think we’re going to have to leave it there. Thank you very much for being with us tonight.