October 4, 2000
Elizabeth Farnsworth discusses last night's presidential debate with the NewsHour's regular group of viewers in Denver.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: It's good to see you again, and welcome to those of you who are new. Did the debate change your way of thinking in any way, or change your mind about anything? Linda Stahnke?
LINDA STAHNKE: It didn't change my mind about how I'm going to vote, but I was surprised to see that Mr. Bush was as scrappy as he was, and I thought that they would be a lot more the same, that there would be a lot more similarities. I expected it to be more boring than it was, and they held my interest better than I expected.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: So scrappy in this case doesn't mean something negative for you?
LINDA STAHNKE: No, I think it's good. I think it's good. I thought he was much more bland personally, and that's what I expected from him. And he was clear and specific with what he had in mind, and I liked that. It wasn't the vague general rhetoric that I really thought I would hear.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Dee Cisneros?
DEE CISNEROS: Bush was very scripted. I felt that he was just following what they told him to say; that I felt that Gore has more experience, and I think that he expressed it very well. He showed more depth in his thinking and for the issues.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Anybody else surprised by anything?
CARO DeGROOT: I was. I was very surprised by Gore. He turned out to be a much better pupil in the art of spin control than what I thought he was, but he lacks the touch, and sometimes the attitude came a little bit, uh, sarcastic, a little bit too sardonic, and I think that was too patent. He smoothed it down at the end, but in the beginning it was too strong.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Dr. Clark.
MORRIS CLARK: At the Republican Convention there was a pledge by Governor Bush that he would not take himself to the level of personal attack. And that was clearly violated tonight, and probably more than any other single thing that came out of the debate for me was to see people of national stature, people that we look up to as leaders, stoop to that. I thought it was hurtful, I thought it was distracting, and I was disappointed in Governor Bush for doing that.
LINDA HOUSTON: I felt the same disappointment in Gore. I felt, I think, first of all, their style was totally different. I felt that Bush was very relaxed, very likable, very engaging. I felt Gore was very stiff; even though he tried not to be, he was very stiff. I felt that he interrupted. I thought he was inconsiderate when Bush was speaking, was speaking. He showed exasperation. I think he really didn't show the kind of thing that I thought I would see from him being supposedly an expert debater.
MORRIS CLARK: But he didn't make a personal attack.
LINDA HOUSTON: Well, but, you know, the personal attack was done through his exasperation and some of the... you know, even the interrupting. That is a personal attack and...
MORRIS CLARK: But that's a far cry from...
LINDA HOUSTON: And the other thing is I think that where they really differed were Gore wants to keep everything status quo and status quo is not working. And Governor Bush wants to show some innovation. And I think it's time to be innovative. It's time to be innovative as far as education is concerned, it's time to be innovative as far as Social Security is concerned, it's time to be innovative as far as where our money is going and how much we're being taxed, and that's what he's trying to do.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Patrick Vann?
PATRICK VANN: I would like to have seen the candidates focus a little bit more on like a federal minimum wage, healthcare benefits. My son has to work two jobs to support his family. I'd like to see the debate focus more on the issues that are down. I mean there was... there was trillion dollars and billion dollars floating back and forth, and I think, you know, the working families have a hard time dealing with that amount of money. We want to know that there's going to be maybe a federal minimum wage, that working families can support their families without having to work two and three jobs, that health care benefits will be open to all people.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: So some of the issues you really care about weren't touched on.
PATRICK VANN: Very much so, yeah.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Anybody else on this issue?
|More candidates in debates|
CHRIS GOODWIN: I agree with that completely, except that there was an example of why we needed a more open debate process and more candidates in there like Ralph Nader -- what he just described is exactly that. They didn't talk about the minimum wage. They both talked about healthcare, but sort of danced around the issue. Nobody talked about challenging the health insurance industry, which takes 25 percent of our healthcare dollars. They both talked about increasing the military budget. I don't know where we're going to get the money to spend on domestic needs if we're going to keep jacking up the military budget the way both of them want to do. They both want to spend billions on this Saturday morning cartoon missile defense system that's totally ridiculous.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Did you get the feeling that the differences between the two candidates were well articulated in this debate?
BRENT NEISER: I think... I think they're just emerging. I'm really glad they're going to be two more, plus the vice presidential. To me, this is going to be like a three-week debate, and it's got to continue. I felt a little unsatisfied that they didn't get down into some more specifics, but the exciting thing for me is that the issue of reform has been introduced. And... and a brilliant change could be talked about and addressed and the contrast lining up of who wants to change and how they want to change and who wants to hold onto the status quo. I think that's going to be an emerging theme and that'll really sharpen the contrast. We need to hear more about that.
DEE CISNEROS: I was concerned about the change he's talking about. I thought that he did go into the Social Security, the differences in the approach. Gore wants to maintain the money in there. Now, I feel like Bush frightens me when we talk about Social Security. I'm a senior here, and that's why I'm frightened. I see this wall, a brick wall that I see Bush taking out a brick at a time, and I thought it was 2 percent. He said 4 percent, which is scarier. So he's taking out a brick at a time and he's just going to dismantle all of Social Security.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Mr. Zambrano?
JAKE ZAMBRANO: I think what Governor Bush and the point he was trying to get across . People in my generation of whom which are just joining into the workforce, and the generation of ingenuity and entrepreneurship that he talked about, wants to be able to use that 6.5 percent that's taken out of my paycheck every month and allow me to opt into some sort of investment in which I can benefit and track my investment. And I think the Social Security system and Governor Bush talked very soundly about shoring it up for Mrs. Cisneros' generation, but allowing my generation the opportunity and the option to look outside the box.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: So for you...
Youth and Social Security
DEE CISNEROS: I'm concerned about my grandchild. I'm concerned about my granddaughter and my grandson and my great grandchildren, and that's why I'm saying, he's going to dismantle the...
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: But my real question is: were the issues debated in a way that you... you both feel you know what each one thinks about it?
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Does everybody agree with that, that the issues were fairly, clearly debated? Is this something you'd all been concerned about?
JOANNE KRON: I was very upset with both candidates. And I have to say as a young person that this is a huge reason why a lot of young people don't vote is that I would have to say... I wasn't timing it, but probably the candidates were speaking about one-fourth of the time on the actual answer to the question. I understood what they were saying, but a lot of the issues that they brought up as far as healthcare, Social Security, the young people of today are not going to know all of those answers unless they go out and search for it. It wasn't given to them in this debate.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: So you... So let me just get this clear. Your main disappointment was lack of clarity and not answering the questions. So it... So you did not kind of feel the respect, you didn't see the presidential qualities you hoped to see? Is that?
JOANNE KRON: Absolutely, from both candidates, I'd have to say. I felt that Bush was very unprepared. The way that he did answer the questions, he tried to get to the point as well as he could, but I didn't understand his foreign policy and I think that both candidates need to be able to redirect the question towards things that are actually affecting us. Not all foreign policy is war, and I think that needs to be understood by both candidates, and that is something that they need to address.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Sara Smith, do you think that young people will be generally attracted to these candidates or turned off by them based on this debate?
SARA SMITH: I think probably turned off because it's a lot of, you know, filler, a lot of things we've heard before. They stayed right on, right on their script. They weren't... you didn't see a lot of ability to improvise, a lot of ability to speak off the cuff. You know, it was very scripted.
DENNIS COUGHLIN: -- realize that the enormity of the, of the presentation that these guys are making... This is a very, very difficult thing to do. And I would compare these debates to all the other presidential debates and then give it a mark, and it'd be kind of interesting to see what everybody felt. I liked the debate. I thought that these are two very qualified guys, and I think that both of them have leadership ability, and whether you believe in this program or that program, do you think after listening to these guys for 90 minutes, that they're leaders? I think they are. I have... I applaud both of them for the... for the job that they did.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And would you say that's not true?
L.P. LOCKETT: I wouldn't say they're at the top of their game. But this is like round one in a three-ring boxing match. And I think next, at the next debate, both of them will be a little bit sharper and they'll pick up their cues that they dropped today.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: All right. Well, thank you very much. Good to see you again.