- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 10, 2000

The pundits were dead wrong when they pontificated that the first Algore-Bush debate did not change minds or sway voters one way or another. Just the opposite is true; the debate was definitive. Barring an extraordinary and unlikely intervention, it is not too early to conclude that the campaign is over, and the outcome of the election is set in place. And the victory of the Bush ticket will be convincing enough to represent a mandate for change in America.

The first debate between the presidential candidates was critically informative, telling voters essentially everything they need to know. While Algore won debating points, he lost something much more important. In effect, he psychologically undressed in front of more than 50 million Americans — and it was not a pretty sight.

Algore's identity crisis was in full view. He tried to conceal himself behind a mask of layered pancake make-up, vividly rouged cheeks, glossed lips, and hair dyed brown and styled to look like Ronald Reagan's. He had a harlequin look, artificial and overdone. His waxen persona explained why his handlers attempted to have the temperature in the room set at 55 degrees. They did not want to risk an unseemly onstage meltdown.

The debate moderator, Jim Lehrer of PBS, started things out by defining the rules that the two sides had negotiated and agreed to honor: there would be no opening statement, two minutes would be allowed to answer a question and one minute for a rebuttal, and participants would not direct questions to each other.

Algore received the first question, ignored it and gave an opening statement. Within minutes, he trashed every rule. Throughout the debate, he routinely exceeded time limits, interrupted, insisted on getting the last word on every question, and pestered Bush with direct questions. He made weird sounds, grunted, audibly sighed, rolled his eyes, and made strange faces while Bush was talking.

Bush was controlled, patient and forthcoming. He understood that you don't interrupt your opponent when he is self-destructing, which Algore was doing by exposing himself as an arrogant bully of a man, who believes the rules do not apply to him.

There is a long-standing pattern here. Algore doesn't honor the rules — in a debate or in the White House. Everyone in Washington, D.C., has always known that it is against the law to make fund-raising calls from the White House, conduct a fund-raiser at a Buddhist Temple, hold fund-raisers at White House coffees, and take laundered money from foreign sources — but that didn't stop Algore. When presented with evidence, he denied, dodged, and claimed there was “no controlling legal authority.”

Finally and tragically, although he was under scrutiny for his habitual exaggerations, fabrications, misrepresentations, and lies, Algore exaggerated, fabricated, misrepresented, and lied about checkable facts in the course of the debate: Algore said he had never questioned whether Bush had the experience to be president; he said he traveled to Texas with FEMA director James Witt to inspect widespread fires; he claimed he “took a risk” by asking former Russian Prime Minister Viktor S. Chernomyrdin to help negotiate an end to the war in Kosovo; he said he had an uncle who was a victim of poison gas in the Balkans during World War I; and he claimed that because of overcrowding, L.C. Evans Elementary school in Miami had to begin serving lunch at 9:30 in the morning. All false.

There is a long-standing pattern here. In September of 1987, Mike Kopp, campaign deputy press secretary, wrote a detailed memo to his boss, Algore, warning him that he has “a growing reputation as a politician who 'stretches the truth to suit a political moment.'” A year later, campaign press secretary Arlie Schardt wrote Algore a letter conveying the same warning.

Algore clearly has a chronic personal affliction which can sometimes be masked, but never heals. He manipulates reality to service personal inadequacies. This is not wholesome for the ordinary person, and can be disastrous for a president of the United States. But now that the American people have seen behind the mask, they will not elect to endure four more years of dangerous delusions and deceptions.

Above all, the first debate revealed a basic choice. Algore offers bigger and more intrusive government. Bush will begin a shift of power and resources from the government back to the people where the Constitution says they belong.

In this regard, both candidate Algore and future President George W. Bush can be believed.

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