Missing Voices in Pundit Reactions -- Youth Weigh in on Debate Forum

Al Gore -- No Clinton but Probably My Choice

By Russell Morse

"Al Gore is for the people." I swear, when I heard those words, I was shocked. Did anybody really believe that? The speaker was a young kid who grew up in the projects and now lives in a detention center for juveniles. Fitting in a filthy denim suit, with bits of straw in his hair from working outdoors, he wants Al Gore for president.

And maybe now, after the debates, so do I.

I like Al Gore. I never did before. I bet my roommate $100 that G-Dub would be our next president way back when he was butting heads with John McCain. I'd been rooting for W -- a reflection of my cynicism. I also believed that no politician, particularly one from either corner of the partisan ring, could escape corporate control, look out for average folks and be anything more than a puppet.

I heard Gore speak at the Democratic Convention which I covered as a reporter. However, he was drowned out by protesters who reminded me that "Gore" rhymed with "corporate whore." Everything he said sounded forced and it was painful to hear.

The primary reason I wasn't able to get into Al Gore was that he wasn't Bill Clinton. He's not suave. He can't crack a joke. And he's not a backwoods redneck who climbed his way to the top. Sadly, no one but Bill Clinton can be Bill Clinton. Clinton's whole thing was that you could identify with him. He was Everyman. Gore's just fighting for Everyman.

But what Gore does have is honest eyes and intellect. Watching the debate and seeing the Vice President tackle difficult issues like foreign policy and abortion in stride, I began to develop a sort of admiration for him. He's articulate (honestly, I might only think that because his opponent stumbles over words and resorts to insults) and he knows what concerns middle class Americans. He's more or less in touch.

What I kept waiting to hear was a question about the growing prison population or the death penalty. If Gore is touting himself as a champion of the working class, shouldn't he acknowledge that the prison system is "Everyone's" social problem?

And what about poor folks? If Bush wants tax breaks for the rich and Gore is fighting for the middle class, where does that leave everyone else (namely, those whom Clinton referred to as "the ones serving us our hot dogs and soda" at the DNC)?

I'm not exactly content. But I believe Gore's heart is in the right place. He'll never be Clinton, but he could be my president.

(Russell Morse, 19, is a sophomore at San Francisco State University and an intern at Industry Standard.)

Those Dudes Are Scary

By Swan Gant

Last night was the first time I sat down and actually took time to listen to what George W and Al had to say, and as I listened, I realized just how little I felt them.

At first, they argued about senior medical benefits so I wasn't too interested. Then they debated on women's rights, the new abortion pill, education and tax cuts. That's when I realized I was scared.

They are scary because I don't think I have anything in common with them. They are making decisions that are going to affect me, but at 16 years of age there's nothing I can do.

George W didn't approve of the new Abortion Pill saying he didn't see a need for it. He fears that if this drug becomes too widespread, abortions will become more and more common.

Al made it quite clear that if he was elected he would make sure women got to chose for themselves. Gore gets props for this one, although the pill doesn't sound that safe to me.

On education, both Bush and Gore support safer schools, of course. Bush wants more schools with higher expectations, I agree with that. He wants reading programs where students get cash for books they read.

Gore said that he wanted to test new teachers and make tests mandatory. Gore believes you should shut down failing schools. Gore also proposed that college tuition be tax deductible. I do plan to go to college, and a tax write-off for tuition is cool. But I like Bush's plan more because everyone needs to know how to read.

On taxes Bush wants to give tax cuts to everyone, not just the middle class, and that sounded good -- too good to be true.

Gore focused more on middle class families. I am not middle class. Middle class people don't need as much attention as poor people -- folks who struggle to put food on the table like the ones I come from.

Still, in the end I didn't feel them. If I saw either candidate walking down the street I wouldn't notice. And they wouldn't notice me or anyone else who's poor or powerless. That's scary.

(Swan Gant is 16 and a high school senior)

Too Busy to Watch

By Charles Jones

I missed the debate last night.

I really wanted to catch it, but I had priorities. My son had to be picked up from daycare by 6:00 p.m. and my daughter needed diapers after that. Plus, I had to pick up dinner for the family. I didn't get home until 8:00 p.m., well after the debate are over on the West Coast. With me constantly juggling my political affiliations, I was upset that I missed it. So when a co-worker brought in a tape of the debate, I jumped at the op to see George W. Bush break out of his public speaking slump. Anticipation proved better than the debate itself, with its weak moderation and unintelligent, emotionally charged outbursts. The West Texan (for some reason, it matters) couldn't understand the "fuzzy Washington math" that Gore used in his examples of their respective differences in policy. Al was (for the most part) calm and collected, loaded his guns and shot straight. There were rude interruptions, disregard for time restrictions, and constant blinking from Bush.

I turned off before the end, not yet convinced by either candidate and knowing I'll (better yet they'll) have another chance, provided I can get home before they are finished.

(Charles Jones, 23, writes for YO! Youth Outlook and is the father of a six-month-old and a three-year-old.)

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