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In Fact...

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LIES AND DAMN LIES

What's a political campaign without politicians calling each other liars? This one's been marked, however, at the presidential level, by strategic civility, a pious avoidance of "personal attacks." Nevertheless, the GOP's most effective line of attack on Gore has been impugning his personal credibility by blowing up his gaffes and recycling hoary myths. You know them: that Gore claimed he invented the Internet (he didn't but gave it early legislative support), that he exaggerates when he says he did chores on his father's farm (his father made him work his butt off), that he claimed to be a model for a character in Love Story (he never claimed it, and Erich Segal, the author, said the character was partly modeled on him), that he claimed to have discovered the Love Canal pollution (no, but he held hearings on it and other toxic dumpsites). These radioactive lies about lies have had a long half-life and enabled George W. to sow further innuendo in the debates by harping on Gore's "stretchers" and "fuzzy math"--even as he blithely spreads misinformation of his own (check out the article by Professor George Gerbner--ggerbner@nimbus.temple.edu).

BUSH'S LATE SHOW CONFESSION

After George W. Bush recently appeared on The Late Show With David Letterman, there was much media commentary regarding Letterman's Russert-like questioning of the governor on issues like pollution in Texas and oil drilling in Alaska. But what largely went unnoticed was that Letterman forced Bush to acknowledge that his support of capital punishment was based on a less-than-solid foundation--the belief that executions deter crime. Letterman pressed him: How could he be sure? "It's a hard statistic to prove," Bush said. Hard statistic to prove? So Bush is supporting executions even though his prime justification for capital punishment has not been proved. At last, the plain talk Bush has promised.

SUE THE BASTARDS, RALPH

Shayna Cohen reports: Hours before Ralph Nader was denied entry into the third presidential debate, in St. Louis, he filed a lawsuit against the Commission on Presidential Debates, saying that it used "threat, intimidation, and coercion" in denying him access to debate premises in Boston less than two weeks earlier. Claiming that the CPD violated both the Massachusetts Civil Rights Act and the First and Fourteenth amendments, Nader's suit charges that his exclusion was based on "his expression of his views" and the expectation that he would disrupt the debates as a "point man for the protests" (which he neither attended nor organized). Nader was barred from participating in a prearranged, postdebate, onsite Fox newscast viewed by potential voters. Although the CPD is a private, nonprofit corporation, the Boston debates were held in a public university; were financially backed by numerous city and state officials and departments; and were secured by a public police force over which, the lawsuit claims, the CPD asserted "improper influence" by instructing it to implement the unconstitutional exclusion. The Nader campaign already has a suit pending against the FEC in the Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, outlining the CPD's fundamental structural illegality. These lawsuits are the first steps in what Nader heralds as the total disintegration of a CPD that, by its abuse of its own authority and of Nader's civil rights, has "sowed the seeds of its own future political destruction." To replace it, Nader calls for a People's Debate Commission in which unions and community organizations will sponsor numerous debates of varying formats. Protesters in Boston heeded this call, holding "street debates" in which a range of national problems were addressed.

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