by Dorothy Anne Seese
Somehow I turned off the television with the feeling that Peter Jennings, Cokie Roberts and Sam Donaldson were as disturbed by the first round of the presidential candidate debates as I was. For me, that is to be expected. But not for the Washington press corps, the seasoned veterans of the Beltway who are traditionally liberal in word and deed.
Al Gore's "own man" really came out in spades. Perhaps that's why the Washington press corps was disappointed. He came across as domineering, arrogant, aggressive, selfish, unwilling to abide by the rules to which his campaign staff had agreed, a man whose sole ambition can be summed up in one word: control!
He did take control, to the extent that he even pushed aside the role of veteran news analyst Jim Lehrer, the debate moderator. The only way to stop Gore from campaigning from the debate podium was to interrupt him and tell him to shut up, which Lehrer apparently was reluctant to do. When George W. Bush attempted to answer, Gore butted in more frequently than not.
You just can't imagine how much I wished Ross Perot had been sitting beside Jim Lehrer. The scrappy little Texan would have taken what Bush called "fuzzy math" and made mincemeat of Gore's one percent repetitions. In fact, Perot would probably have had some charts ready from which to ask questions, which would have been hilarious!
The debate, overall, wasn't really informative. It gave an idea where the candidates stand on the issues but not more than we have known heretofore, if we follow politics at all. Dubya looked justifiably frustrated, but he doesn't come across as an intellectual, a deep thinker, never has. He's a mediator. It's obvious, however, that he needs a bit of aggressiveness training if he is going to deal with overbearing world leaders. Of course, it's one thing to be in a debate in public, running for office, and quite another to have the power in hand.
Overall, Dubya seems to have done what was politically and strategically best ... let Gore show what he is, how domineering and argumentative, how relentless in his pursuit of power and his disregard of rules. (His present boss doesn't follow the rules either, so like mentor like pupil.)
What came across very loud and clear is that Al Gore is a man with an agenda, a very strong agenda, buried under a few clichés that he's used over and over till we could almost write his speeches. He wants government control of people, and he wants control of the government.
It isn't clear whether he believes he is running for president or emperor, but his demeanor is that of one who would have an emperor's attitude toward those to whom he is appealing for support, the "little" people. In fact, compared to himself, he appears to consider everyone else "little" including Jim Lehrer, a supreme act of arrogance.
Gore is pro-choice and proud of it. A man who is proud of his disregard for life, whether that of the unborn, the disabled, the elderly and perhaps of his strong opponents, is a man without principle and without character. Fundamentally, respect for people has to begin with respect for life itself. When that is clearly lacking, and capped off with lack of regard for rules or equal time for debate on issues, or the authority of a moderator of no small stature among veteran newsmen, you see exactly what Al's "own man" is.
I hope Americans could see what I saw tonight in Al Gore. It takes a lot to leave the Washington press corps almost speechless.
Maybe they're beginning to wonder "what hath this man wrought?"
It takes a real loose cannon to shake up the veteran Beltway journalists. They appeared a bit puzzled, and if as one, they only thought they'd seen it all. Tonight probably gave them pause to wonder.
© Dorothy Seese, 2000
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