The first presidential debate: Who won?

"And the winner is ..." by Jake Tapper; "Who won the debate?" compiled by Salon News Staff


Salon Staff
October 5, 2000 11:48PM (UTC)

Read Jake Tapper's story

Read the reactions

The only good thing I can say about George Bush's performance in the first debate is that he didn't pass out and fall to the floor. Other than that he was a total loser. It was like watching a thousand buffalo against a wet chicken. Bush with that unmistakable look of struggling poultry on his face and Al Gore this beefy confidence. And then the usual gaggle of TV pundits charging Gore with being a know-it-all. As if being sure of yourself and having a grasp of the issues is somehow a negative thing in a presidential election.

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-- John Sullivan

I don't know which debate some of your columnists were watching last night, but it could not have been the same debate that I watched. George W. Bush appeared unprepared and unable to defend his own proposals when specifics were necessary. Al Gore was organized and adept at discussing his views on domestic policy and foreign affairs. This is an election that should be decided on the basis of competence, not "charm."

-- Robert Burns

Whether we like him or not, Al Gore is clearly more qualified to be president. He simply knows more, has more leadership experience and is a more mature and self-confident leader than George W. Bush. If we're electing the man who'd make a more entertaining drinking buddy, then Bush wins hands-down. But if we want someone who actually has the intellectual horses and the national-level experience to do the job, Gore absolutely buries Bush. I much prefer the prospect of being irritated by Gore's wooden personality for four years to being startled by the lurching, out-of-touch decisions of a governor whose biggest test to this point is overseeing a flood in south Texas.

-- Bruce Botka

Jake Tapper, in his otherwise right-on review of last night's debate, did miss one very telling gaffe made by George W. Bush. In describing his plans to ease the current energy crunch, Bush told viewers that he had recently met with Mexico's newly elected president (he even got his name right) to discuss piping natural gas and other energy resources from Mexico to the United States. Bush proudly pointed to this discussion as an example of how he would steer America away from dependence on foreign energy sources. Did I miss something? Maybe in Bush's mind Mexico is just part of southern Texas, but last time I checked the map, Mexico was still a foreign country.

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-- Kira Sturney Keane

The candidates needed to pass different tests: Bush needed to show that he was competent and reasonably intelligent; Gore needed to show that he was human and likable. Bush passed his test. Gore failed his. After last night's debate, I cannot see how Bush's critics can continue to claim that the guy is too incompetent or too dumb to be president. He held his own just fine. Gore's critics, on the other hand, now have even more evidence to point to that the guy is simply to inhuman and out of touch. Bush won.

-- C.J. Knew

I found Gore's constant interruptions annoying and childish. Not to mention his sly overconfidence and cockiness. The man had no respect for the forum or his opponent. I thought Bush conducted himself very respectfully and in a manner that was befitting of a U.S. president. In fact throughout the entire debate, I was waiting for the moderator to cut off Gore and just say no to his constant appeals for out-of-turn speaking and interruptions, just so I could see if he would throw a temper tantrum.

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I can honestly say, I've voted the Democrats' ticket for nearly every one of the last seven presidential elections, but this November I'm going to vote Republican.

-- M. Austin

While I found Tapper's article fair and depressingly accurate, I did want to point out one misread of a response Bush gave. Gore's strategy for the evening seemed to be this: Ignore the actual question and talk (and talk) about Social Security and tax cuts. On the other hand, Bush attempted (albeit sometimes feebly) to answer the questions actually posed. When his time came to rebut Gore's "answer" to the question about response to an emergency, Bush attempted to point out Gore's lack of focus by joking, "What was the question again?" Unfortunately the commentator, as were many viewers, was slow to catch the funny.

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-- Catherine Foy

Congratulations, Salon.com, for dispelling the myth that the media has a liberal bias. You have somehow managed to get the last few famous conservatives together for commentary on the debates. And what objective criticisms they had! I'm wondering whether any of them actually watched the debates, since it is perfectly clear everyone writing for this piece had long since made up their minds about who the winner was going to be.

-- Adam Siemiaszko

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