Let's Talk Sense...


Tuesday, October 17, 2000 Volume XXV, No. 38
Roswell, New Mexico

In this issue:

Debate Preview
One Minor Observation from Game II
Here's the Observation
What to Expect: We don't have a Clue

Quote of the Day:

"While I view this election as mirroring many of the electoral college dynamics of 1976, this race may be more similar to 1980 when the American people were merely waiting to see for sure what Ronald Reagan sounded and acted like. When he bested Carter in their only debate, one week before election day, the whole country moved toward him and he won by 10 points. The polls this time have been very similar to those of Carter-Reagan. Who knows, maybe a contingent of undecided is waiting to be reassured by Bush one last time, and there could be a decisive shift in his direction."
---- A New Mexico Republican


Now they stand at the crucible. Unexpectedly this is the great test of Al Gore. He thought he would lead the debates two games to nothing at this point. Instead, he lost the first game in the afterglow phase. Having won on points, he was blown away by the post-game shows. He deserved to lose. He was that bad in his behavior.

Then came the over-coaching. Overlooked in the 2nd debate is the fact that Gore did behave quite well. He was self-effacing, even showing a sense of humor ("far be it from me to suggest otherwise"). But concentrating so hard on his effort to appear human and less robotic, he gave the game away to Bush.

Credit however, must clearly go to George W. Bush as well. He proved he has the ability, as no one in our camp doubts, by willing himself to overcome the genetic impediments to clearness of speech and expression of thought.

There was and is much to be admired in such a performance. His will came from a clear understanding that everything he has worked for was on the line. That is called being a game player. He was. He deserves all the credit that can be passed his way. He leads Al Gore two games to none.

One Minor Observation from Game II

Debate number 2 was like a 15-round title fight. Bush won the first 11 rounds. Two minutes into round 12 however, at about the 68 minute mark of the 90 minute contest, Bush was staggered with a flurry of punches about his record in Texas. He lost that round and ended up losing the 13th round as well.

In both of those six-minute segments he suffered the equivalent of a "standing 8-count," only to be saved by the bell (in the person of Jim Lehrer changing the topic). I was elated each time the subject shifted. Had I been in the Gore camp I would have been furious.

Bush came back in the fourteenth round----all the trouble occurred between the 68th and 78th minutes of the debate---and closed strong. The result was a clear, decisive win.

He must come back however, prepared for the weak moments which occurred in those tough 10 minutes. Gore will go to those issues again. The tough moments were about Texas issues-----issues Bush apparently did not feel he had good comebacks for. He really seemed to run out of gas all of a sudden.


When Bush gets uncomfortable, he makes these big sniffing faces. He sniffs really big, like he suddenly has an allergy, a cold, or a very serious runny nose.

The more in trouble he senses himself, the more frequently he sniffs. He starts almost to snort.

Watch for that. I believe it is nothing more than a programmed nervous reaction, an unconscious mechanism which is his way of trying to muster the energy and wherewithal to deal with a dangerous situation.

We pray we see no sniffs on Tuesday night. There were no sniffs last week until 68 minutes into the debate. But at 8:08 PM, Mountain Daylight Time, Bush's whole face lifted skyward. I said to myself, "uh oh, trouble."

Unlike a title fight, there's no one minute respite after each round. Karl Rove couldn't work on the sniff (and the issues that were causing it) in the corner, and get Bush ready for the next round. Bush had to shake it off himself. He did. He weathered it. He won big.

What to Expect: We are Clueless

What to do? In sport, oftentimes we see a team play not to lose, and they do just that. No one should think this is easy---neither the professional athletes, nor the professional politicians can perform under the kind of pressure they face with flawless execution.

Al Gore will go for broke. He knows now what to do. He has to combine the demeanor of his second debate with the command presence of his first performance. He has gotten demeanor right in one debate, and a demonstration of competence cum confidence in another. He must do both in one debate.

George Bush must have a reprise of Debate II, period. This will be tougher, the unpredictability of the format is anti-Bushian, therefore fraught with peril. This is where the hyper-patrician elder Bush was at his worst. This is where he looked at his watch. George W. was raised in Midland, as opposed to the cottages of Connecticut. He will be more comfortable. He has something more of the common touch. For the elder it was "Tension City." We pray George W. will be comfortable enough.


Al Gore will come out smoking. No, this has nothing to do with tobacco. He will be aggressive, Smokin' Joe Frazier.

This debate will go heavy on abortion. Gore will make the Supreme Court the bogeyman for the women of America, who are all supposedly chomping at the bit to get an abortion on demand.

The phrase "a woman's right to choose" will be used at least into double figures on Tuesday night.

Gore will return to the Texas record of children without medical coverage. This is one where Texas apparently ranks 50th, and George W. is unable to dispute that ranking. (He would not dispute it last week.) Instead he focused on the fact that more children have come off the rolls in his tenure and more progress has been made in Texas than at the national level.