- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 28, 2008

Debate-mania

Thanks to drama, intrigue and maybe Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s mouth and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s lipstick, 93 percent of us say we’re likely to watch the presidential and vice-presidential debates. More than two-thirds also say the debates will help shape their vote.

But some smell a rat. The majority — 56 percent overall — say the moderators are biased in their questioning. There is a partisan divide, and a gender difference, too. Among Republicans, 72 percent say moderators are biased, compared with 41 percent among Democrats. The figure is 65 percent among men, 48 percent among women.

More than half also favor the more informal town-hall-style debate — all this according to a Rasmussen Reports survey of 1,000 adults conducted Sept. 23.

Of course FOX News, CNN and the rest will be all over the debates like big dogs. But so will one network that will translate Mr. Biden and Mrs. Palin into Urdu and Hindi, among other things.

“The 2008 presidential election is generating intense interest around the world,” said Danforth W. Austin, director of Voice of America, which will carry the debates live to a potentially humongous global audience.

“VOA — reaching about 134 million people in 45 languages — is uniquely poised to explain to its audiences the differences and similarities in the candidates’ foreign policy positions,” Mr. Austin said.

Que paso?

Why, somebody actually said something good about America. Perhaps we should frame this observation from former Mexican President Vicente Fox during a recent appearance at Kansas State University.

“A mature democracy, a 200-year old democracy, the oldest democracy in the world, giving off this example of openness, of debate, of participants, and it’s really, it’s really — this is going to enhance the democratic aspirations of many nations. And it’s going to consolidate the democratic attitude of many nations all throughout the world. This is a good, good example of what the leader should be always showing, always teaching the rest of the world.”

Days of yore

On this very day 90 years ago, Pvt. Henry Tandey, a British soldier serving near the French village of Marcoing during World War I, happened across a wounded German soldier and decided not to shoot him thus sparing the life of 29-year-old Lance Cpl. Adolf Hitler.

The British solder, who fought in the Somme and other significant battles, was himself wounded twice, and ultimately earned a Victoria Cross for “conspicuous bravery.”

Pvt. Tandey told his story in the aftermath. “I took aim but couldn’t shoot a wounded man. So I let him go,” he recalled. Hitler nodded in thanks, and disappeared but considered the event of great portent and proof of his “invulnerability,” according to historic accounts. He kept news clips regaling Pvt. Tandey’s heroism and obtained a copy of his service record.

At 50, his old war wounds prevented Pvt. Tandey from rejoining his regiment during World War II; he had regrets about his merciful act, telling a journalist in 1940, “If only I had known what he would turn out to be … I was sorry to God I let him go.”

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