Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Bush AWOL On Second Debate?

The non-partisan Commission on Presidential Debates has proposed three presidential debates (9/30, 10/8, 10/13) to be held between George Bush and John Kerry.

As I've mentioned before, the Bush administration has been oddly evasive on the subject, saying only "there will be debates" but never answering "yes" or "no" to the question "will you participate in all three scheduled debates?" And alas, today's Washington Post reports that Bush may indeed be intending to skip the second presidential debate, the proposed details of which are as follows:

Date: October 8
Location: Washington University, St. Louis, MO
Moderator: Charlie Gibson of Good Morning America
Format: town-hall meeting; undecided voters will ask questions

According to a Bush aide, Bush's debate negotiation team plans to "resist the middle debate." The head of that team, Jim Bakker, took a cautious position on debates when he was first president Bush's Chief of Staff in 1992, believing that a sitting president has more to lose in a debate than he has to gain. In fact, President Clinton agreed to only 2 out of the 3 proposed debates in 1996.

The stated reason for the resistance is that there are no guarantees that the audience will in fact be full of "undecideds" as the proposed debate stipulates. Bush has resisted exposure to dissenters on the campaign trail, famously making rally attendees sign loyalty oaths to the president, leading to heated questions from the audience such as "I pray for you every day."


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