No Clear Winners in Final Rounds of Presidential Debates

El Vaquero Staff Writer

Both candidates were dead tired, said Jean Perry, Language Arts Division Chair, about the final presidential debate Oct. 13 between President George W. Bush and Democratic challenger Sen. John F. Kerry.
“They both looked like they had it with the entire campaign … they looked tired and sounded tired,” said Perry. “Nothing new came out of it and that’s why everyone is saying that it was a tie…there were no knock-out punches.”

Finally addressing the state of the economy, the president sent a message to those people who have lost their jobs in the United States because of outsourcing. “Here’s some help for you to get an education; here’s some help for you to go to community college,” said Bush, boasting that the federal government would pick up the bill through Pell grants, which he claimed have been extended by one million students.

More than 5,000 students on campus, however, know from experience that these awards do not pay the full $4,040. His plan would ultimately mean more competition for these dollars.

“You know why the Pell grants have gone up in their numbers?” Kerry asked moderator Bob Schieffer of CBS, “because more people qualify for them because they don’t have money and they’re not getting the $5,100 the president promised them,” he answered.

Is homosexuality a choice? The president candidly said he did not know but supported a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage because he was unwilling to let judges redefine “the sanctity of marriage,” which he stressed is between a man and a woman.

Kerry agreed with this definition but not with the amendment that would impose his belief on people with conflicting values like Vice President Dick Cheney’s lesbian daughter who he said is “being who she was born as.”

During post-debate news coverage, Cheney said the Massachusetts senator “was out of line” for making such a reference.

The candidates also touched on abortion. While Kerry said the practice “is a woman’s choice … between a woman, God and her doctor,” President Bush professed that it should be limited in congruence with promoting “a culture of life.” Abstinence and adoption programs, said Bush, are better alternatives.

Finally, Sen. Kerry promised he would raise the federal minimum wage to $7 per hour by 2007. It is currently $5.15 per hour.

Social Sciences Division Chair Roger Bowerman said: “I think in terms of immediate impact, it really was not a definitive win for either candidate … in the long run the message that comes out of it is: are you better off now than you were four years ago? And the answer is no … people have less buying power … are more fearful of losing their jobs. When people walk in to voting booths they will ask themselves this question and the president is weak in terms of the answer.”

Computer Engineering major Jerry Hsu was completing his voter registration application the very next day before the start of his Asian American Studies course and talking with classmate Christie Wu about the debate. They went in circles expressing their frustration with Bush’s answers.

“I was watching the debate and yelling ‘shut up’ at my television every time he was talking,” said Wu.

Both back Kerry who Hsu thought “answered so many more questions than Bush ever did [in all three debates combined].”

Business Administration major Danny Dailey saw parts of it while studying for a midterm. “I kind of felt like it was a tie,” said Dailey, “just because neither of them really stepped out and made a clear stand on any of the issues … they made some clear stands but none of them really hit a blow to the other candidate, so to me it kind of came out equal in the end.”

The second debate, conversely, was more focused on the war in Iraq even though each man was trying to top each other with sound bites, said Perry.

“Once again George Bush showed that he has a really good command of the sound bite,” said Perry. “He was able to mock John Kerry, who was trying very hard to show that he had command of the sound bite, but he didn’t do it as well [within the amount of time he had to respond].” The Democratic senator did make a few remarks to that effect, however.
Kerry called the misconception that he is fickle on the issues a “a weapon of mass destruction,” an obvious play on words alluding to the lack of WMD found in Iraq which ultimately lead to what he called a rushed and unplanned war and aimed at avoiding serious matters here at home.

“He took his eye off the ball,” said Kerry, talking about the escape of Osama bin Laden and North Korea’s nuclear advancement as a result of blindly waging war with Saddam Hussein.

In defense, President Bush said he stands by his decision because Hussein had the capability of making nuclear weapons and of sharing them with other enemies; it should not matter that the call was not well-received around the world.

Additionally, he said it is “naive and dangerous” to rely on United Nations inspections alone to determine whether or not a country like Iraq has nuclear capabilities, attacking his opponent’s belief that diplomacy would have prevailed and prevented the subsequent war.
Working as a receptionist for the Instructional Services department, Chris Yarmagyan was able to get home in time for the second half.
“I think Bush won the second one,” said Yarmagyan, “mainly because Kerry … doesn’t answer a question and if he does answer it’s like for two seconds but Bush kept on the subject; he knows the details.”

Perry said “Bush was much more in his element this time around,” alluding to the town-hall meeting format where undecided voters in attendance, chosen by the Gallup organization, asked him and Kerry questions directly.

“He works well with people [and] got a chance to walk around,” said Perry, “and enjoyed a kind of one-on-one camaraderie with people,” despite the fact that his campaign advisers disagreed with the format when first negotiating the terms of the event.

Many people even said that he was being fed information via a wire, including vice presidential candidate John Edwards who jokingly suggested to Jay Leno on the Tonight Show that Bush be patted down.
Both men did eventually change focus for a few minutes and addressed an on-going rumor on the Internet started by “Rock the Vote” officials who sent fake electronic draft cards to 650,000 of the 51 percent of Americans ages 18-29 who strongly believe the current administration is in favor of reinstituting a military draft, according to a recent National Annenberg Election Survey. Each candidate said there would be no draft under their watch.