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Using numbers to limit participation in presidential debates is a bad idea.

Weighing the Polls
The Disinterested Pundit by Andy Dehnart

OK, so I was pretty much screaming at the TV.
     Not much gets me so fired up. Maybe I’ll shout “Yes!” when Buffy stakes a particularly evil vamp, or maybe I’ll sigh out loud at some particularly distressing news.
     But Monday night, I was yelling. I was full-throttle, lurch-at-the-TV pissed off. Whoever says politics sucks because all the candidates are the same clearly hasn’t watched one of the debates between the 452 (OK, six) contenders for the Republican presidential nomination, or one between the two men vying for the Democratic ticket. Certainly, the candidates running for president aren’t diametric opposites; the pendulum is still on the conservative side of the aisle, and until it swings back or whacks us in the head, we’re going to see various kinds of apples, never oranges. But the candidates are most certainly different, and they definitely have different ideas.
     Well, that’s a nice way of putting it.
     Consider Monday’s Republican debate in Michigan. Alan Keyes practically resurrected the ludicrous “gay plague” argument about AIDS. Keyes argued that the “spread of (AIDS) is rooted in a moral crisis, is rooted in a pattern of behavior that spreads that death because of a kind of licentiousness, not only in Africa, but right here in our own country and around the world.”
     Ah, yes, all those licentious transfusion recipients, drug addicts, uneducated teens and rape victims.
     Earlier in the debate, Orrin Hatch said Elian Gonzalez, the 6-year-old caught in a national tug-of-war custody battle between Cuba and the United States, should stay in America because “the boy wants to stay here.” This should be skip-school-and-download-porn news to kids everywhere: at last, a politician says younger people should be allowed freedom to make their own decisions about their lives.
     Meanwhile, Steve Forbes almost got smacked around a couple times by an increasingly agitated George W. Bush, who clearly had quite enough of the beady-eyed mogul’s crap for one night.
     Those were just some of the highlights. It was actually — someone call me up four years ago and tell me I’ll be totally insane by 2000 — fun. Enough fun to make the price of cable worth it. (Hell, what’s on TV on Monday night, anyway? Suddenly Susan? Please.) We even learned something about each of the candidates — which ones are certifiably insane, which ones are likely escapees from Napoleon Complex Summer Camp and which ones undoubtedly sit around and laugh about the days of elephant walks in their fraternity house. And (gasp!) we actually learned something about their often-different positions on the issues.
     Which is why it’s so problematic that the Commission on Presidential Debates decided last week that, come October, only those third-party candidates with 15 percent or more in the polls can participate in the three proposed presidential debates. Although the commission’s idea is just a recommendation, it’s one that should be taken quite seriously.
                                                  c o n t i n u e . . .

© January 14, 2000 — Ironminds
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