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Vol. 17  No. 21 Final Edition
Clovis Free Press
Friday October 6, 2000
A Civil Tongue
VP Hopefuls Hedge on Issues

By Amy Williams
The Clovis Free Press

VP Shake Out!      CLOVIS -- Former Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney(R) and Senator Joe Lieberman(D) met in a friendly debate Thursday night, speculating about taxes and Social Security. The nominees, meeting for a hedging session as the election looms just five weeks before the Nov. 7th. Historically, these secondary debates rarely carry much weight with voters. Sen. Lieberman, in his second Senate term from Connecticut and Secretary Cheney, a former congressman before serving as defense secretary, started out trying to set a civil tone. Lieberman and Cheney went over familiar ground on tax cuts, education, Social Security, fiscal responsibility, use of the military and the newly approved abortion drug RU-486 much of the same ground covered by Al Gore and George W. Bush on Tuesday night.
     Vice presidential debates rarely affect the national race since the job as No. 2 is so much less weighty than that of president, although over the last quarter century they have often produced some of the sharpest exchanges. But Lieberman, the two-term senator from Connecticut and the first Jew on a major party ticket, and Cheney, a former congressman and defense secretary, started out trying to set a different tone. ``I am going to be positive tonight,'' said Lieberman in remarks opening the 90-minute debate. ``I too want to avoid any personal attacks and I promise, Joe, not to bring up your singing,'' Cheney joked, referring to Lieberman's recent singing of the song ``My Way'' on late night television. Responded Lieberman: ``I promise not to sing.''
     The two got into an immediate disagreement on how the parties would spend the expected budget surpluses over the next decade. Cheney said the Democratic proposals would spend $900 billion more than the expected surplus while Lieberman said the Republicans would leave the government $1.1 trillion in debt. The candidates came to Centre College well-equipped with facts and figures, citing them constantly to make their points. After one particularly detailed discourse by Lieberman, Cheney remarked a voter would ``have to have a CPA (certified public accountant) to understand what he just said.'' Unlike the presidential debate, the two vice presidential candidates answered many questions on defense and foreign policy.
     Cheney, served as defense secretary for Bush's father, former President George Bush(R), during the Gulf War, said the nation's military had declined over eight years under President Clinton. But Lieberman said, ``It's not right and it's not good for our military to run them down essentially in the midst of a partisan political debate.'' Cheney responded, ``I'm not attacking the military, Joe ... but it is irresponsible we should not have this debate in a presidential campaign.'' On the issue of whether Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein was rebuilding his arsenal, Cheney said he thought U.S. resolve had declined under Clinton and if Saddam was building up his arms, then leaders should ``take serious consideration of military action.'' Again Lieberman said the campaign was not time to go over the military options. But he added, ``there will be no peace until he (Saddam) goes'' and pointed out it was the senior Bush who left the Iraqi in power at the end of the war.
     Both men supported the day's developments in Yugoslavia where the opposition took charge of Belgrade's streets and appeared to have chased President Slobodan Milosevic from power. ``That is a very happy ending,'' Lieberman said, and Cheney agreed, saying, ``I hope it marks the end of Milosevic.'' ``I think this is an opportunity for the United States to test President Putin of Russia, that in fact now is the time we ought to find whether he is indeed committed to democracy, whether or not he is willing to support the forces of freedom and democracy diplomatically in the area there of Eastern Europe,'' Cheney said. Cheney and Lieberman met at a point in the campaign when the race was one of the closest in the past 40 years. Gore led Bush by six percentage points in the latest Reuters tracking poll. With a margin of error of three percentage points, the poll contained the first signs of the post-debate reaction with Gore receiving a slight boost.
     Meanwhile, Gore and Bush plan to trade friendly jabs in a second of three debates on Wednesday in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

Letter to the Editor

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