Bush campaign rejects proposed debate format

September 04, 1992|By New York Times News Service ,,TC

WASHINGTON -- The Bush campaign says that the president was not willing to debate Gov. Bill Clinton this fall under a proposal put forth by the Commission on Presidential Debates.

Campaign officials did not flatly rule out debates. But they said yesterday the commission's proposal for three debates, with a single moderator running each, was unacceptable.

"I would expect that there would be debates but we will not accept the commission's proposal as it is outlined now," Robert M. Teeter, the Bush campaign chairman, said while talking with reporters. He refused to disclose precisely what was acceptable to Mr. Bush, saying that would have to be negotiated.

The Clinton campaign said the governor favored three debates, as well as the single-moderator format, and asserted that the president's rejection was politically motivated and would "disappoint" the American public.

"George Bush is hiding under the table when it's time to put the issues on the table," Mickey Kantor, the chairman of the Clinton campaign, said in a prepared statement. "The commission has worked for six years with representatives from both major

parties, the media and the academia. The outlines of the commission's proposal reflect a great deal of thought and hard work. We believe that the current proposal presents a level playing field for the candidates to present their views and vision to the people of this country.

"As a result, we do not believe that any 'behind-closed-door' negotiations between the two campaigns are necessary. To the extent that any details need discussion, we believe that the discussions are properly held under the auspices of the commission."

Under the proposal by the debates commission, a private, non-partisan group, the first of the three 1992 debates, all to last 90 minutes, would take place on Sept. 22 in East Lansing, Mich., with the others to follow on Oct. 4 in San Diego and Oct. 15 in Richmond, Va. The commission also has

proposed a single debate between vice-presidential candidates on Sept. 29 in Louisville, Ky.

Both Mr. Bush and Mr. Clinton are considered competent debaters, although the president can sometimes seem scripted and wooden and the governor can sometimes wallow in dry statistics and facts. But while both men are experienced in debate, the president, unlike the governor, has indicated he favors only two debates. He also has indicated he prefers that the debates be run by a panel of reporters asking questions.

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