The Bush/Gore debates of 2000 are, in hindsight, perhaps the most fateful of modern times. Imagine if we had debates of Buchanan vs Fremont, or Warren Harding vs Cox, or (you knew this was coming) McGovern vs Nixon. Basically, imagine being forced to watch the ascension of a really horrible President with a permanent reminder of what could have been. A record of “you chose wrong/why didn’t you see it before?” A modern Jesus/Barabbas condemnation of humanity for choosing wrongly.
Gore might have been one of the best modern Presidents had he been elected, specifically in terms of getting out ahead of climate change when there was still time to curb its worst effects. Instead, we chose the most infamous neoconservative administration of all time, who left us trillions in debt, our Constitution in shreds, and our reputation abroad ruined. I don’t care if it makes me seem partisan to say this considering Bush II is the most recent Republican president, I am adamant that he is the worst President we have ever had, certainly any reasonable political analyst would put him somewhere in the bottom 5 at least. So, while it’s frustrating watching these debates and thinking “we chose this idiot,” it’s at least good that we have this historical record and can examine how it happened. I’d love it if we had video of the other notoriously awful Presidents too, like Buchanan, Pierce, Harding and Andrew Johnson for example.
Now, trying to be objective, lets take a look.
They both suck at this. Gore keeps loudly sighing every time Bush answers a question. He got a lot of flak for it, and rightly so; it’s obnoxious and poor sportsmanship. That said, I almost don’t blame Gore considering Bush’s annoying country bumpkin manner of speaking. He inherited his dad’s awkward phraseology “it’s fuzzy math!”/”Gore talks a lot about numbers here. I’d say not only did he invent the internet, he also invented the calculator.” Now, this debate is a lot more animated and interesting to watch than the those of ’76, ’80, ’84 and ’96, but there aren’t any real famous defining moments in this particular outing either. They don’t let the other get a shot in without firing back, to the point where the moderator is almost flustered by how much extra time is spent on each topic since after every rebuttal, the other guy insists on a counter-rebuttal.
You hear Bush say “get something (or “things”) done” which I guess was his unofficial slogan he wanted to hammer in. I think it’s pretty sleazy that when asked for one thing he likes about Gore, all Bush can say is “well…he loves his wife. As do I.” That was also how his daddy responded to a similar question in the ’88 debates to Dukakis, and that’s all Hillary could manage to say about Trump in ’16. I think it’s a crude non-compliment; basically you’re just saying “well…he’s a human being. I guess.” Anyway, you also see Gore talking about “I am my own man” which makes sense considering he refused Clinton’s help campaigning in order to win on his own merits. That seems to be his own bit of unofficial sloganeering.
It’s frustrating, again in this debate as in the past, how the Conservatives are able to phrase their low taxes (on the one percent) governance as empowering the people without the Democrats fighting back on that misleading talking point. The Democrats ought to stress that THEY are empowering the people by using taxes to fund great programs that raise the standard of living for everyone where the Conservatives would leave us in a dog eat dog stagnation of social darwinism. The liberal title and ethos had fallen out of fashion since McGovern’s defeat, unfortunately, and none of his successor Democrats really went out there and fought for the merits of the ideology, to their own detriment. If you’re too ashamed of your party’s supposed ideology, then how can we trust you to be confident and strong enough to stand up for anything? And conversely, if you’re not a liberal and are just a less-extreme rightist, why the fuck should we waste our and efforts to elect you anyway?