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Suffering Fools Gladly: Beating the Bush Round Two

David Lytel

The first debate would have been more fun for Gore supporters if the Vice President had taken the opportunity to really stuff Bush. Of course, we all wanted the ultimate put down, campaign 2000’s “you are no Jack Kennedy” moment. But the goal, as the Vice President knows from many years in public life, isn’t to make the already decided gleeful and smug. For the most part, Gore stuck to his plan of addressing himself to the ever-dwindling number of undecided voters.

Still, like an earnest student who had prepared himself for the test, Gore was eager to show all that he knew. A better strategy perhaps would be to keep his answers short so that George W. can get more time before the microphone. For Bush, the open mike is by far a greater danger than Al Gore. All Bush has to do when Gore is speaking is to continue to breathe. But when it is his turn he has to think quickly and then talk coherently. This is his most dangerous territory.

It is exciting to watch George W. Bush debate. You always have the feeling that he is just about to melt down and start sprouting gibberish, which he has been doing with increasing frequency on the campaign trail. The best strategy for setting him off, and starting an irreversible downward spiral for his campaign, is for Gore to keep his answers short and to the point and give Bush plenty of time to fill. Bush is the student who hasn’t done the reading, ignored the homework, and got by all year by getting the Dick Cheney’s of the world to let him copy off of their exams. The best way of showing him up is just to let him ramble on until he runs out of material.

The worst you can say about Gore is that he is over-qualified and over-prepared and that he wants the world to know it. But he’s probably gotten close to as many votes as he can expect to get that way. As Adlai Stevenson said when a supporter told him he had the support of all thinking people in America, “That will not be enough. We need a majority.” The path to our electoral majority is probably more likely to be found when those undecided voters have heard enough of Bush’s confused, rambling, evasive non-answers that they finally come around to seeing him as we do – simply not qualified to hold the reigns of the world’s most powerful nation.