AllPolitics - Debates '96

Debate Notebook

Here's a set of post-debate observations, funny, serious and frivolous. If you have some to add, tell us at

Body Language

Pistols at dawn. Two tall, dark suits pacing, turning, circling against the dramatic black backdrop of the studio, and trying subtly to make things a bit awkward for one another.

Speedy Segue

Dole managed to bring up the FBI files controversy among "ethical problems at the White House today" on the very first question. A woman asked about the perceived gap between standards taught to children and those evidenced in government.

Best Heard In Context

"I only have 30 seconds, I can't fix the statistics," Clinton said. He was suggesting Dole's numbers were funny on the percentage of people who have been helped by the Family Leave Act, an area in which Dole opposed government intervention.

Quitting Is Easier Than Explaining

Asked by an ex-smoker to explain his comment earlier this year that tobacco may not be addictive, Dole said, "Oh, that's very easy."

First, he cited his 1965 vote to put warning labels on cigarette packets and said his brother "probably died partly because of cigarettes."

"I was asked a technical question: Are they addictive? Maybe they're -- they probably are addictive. I don't know. I'm not a doctor. You shouldn't smoke."

Dole ended by talking about illegal drugs. Tobacco not included.

Seeing Red

San Diego rolled out the red carpet, a garish red worthy of Matisse. Maybe the organizers thought it would help everyone stay awake.

Finally, It's A Tie

Dole's pewter tie with tiny square black dots whipped Clinton's predictable maroon and bright blue diagonal stripe. AllPolitics running tie tally: Clinton won the first round and Dole the second.

Can't Pick Your Relatives

"I got lots of relatives ... They're not all Republicans. Maybe all but one," Dole confessed in his opening statement.

Modulation And Moderation

Both Dole and Clinton practiced their polite voices, speaking in quiet, calm voices in this intimate forum.

Cocktail Party Reflexes

Clinton used the names of audience members regularly, asked one man about his job and even took a show of hands from the audience on the subject of managed health care (some have it, but few of them like it).

Um, May I See That For A Second?

A young educator read to the presidential candidates from a colorful little book called, "If I Were President."

"I believe that when we are able to come together and stop fighting amongst ourselves, we will get along a lot better," a sixth grader says in the book.

Best Charity Promotion

"I have a little foundation for the disabled, called the Dole Foundation," said the Republican candidate, who lost effective use of his right arm in World War II.

Oh Yeah, And I'm A Supply-Sider, Too

"There you go again," said Dole, borrowing that 1980 debate great of Ronald Reagan to accuse Clinton of misrepresenting Republican funding of Medicare.

After You, Sir

"I'll get out of your way here," Dole said, politely yielding the floor to Clinton.

Cynicism Begone

"I'm a third-year student at UC San Diego," said a sweet-looking young woman. "And I just want to say that it's a great honor representing the voices of America."

And He Probably Reads It All The Way Through

Clinton cited Britain's erudite Economist magazine on a survey of economists about Dole's tax plan.

Age Deference

"Wisdom comes from age, experience and intelligence. And if you have some of each -- and I have some age and some experience, some intelligence -- that adds up to wisdom," Dole said.

"I don't think Senator Dole is too old to be president. It's the age of his ideas that I question," responded Clinton.

Feel Free, Though, To Vote Republican

"So don't smoke. Don't drink. Don't use drugs. Just don't do it," Dole admonished, answering a question from a former smoker about his position on tobacco's addictiveness.

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