A few debate factoids to reinvigorate your day


October 18, 1992|By ROGER SIMON

Debate Notebook:


Maybe the presidential debates have not produced a clear-cut winner, but there is a clear-cut loser: drug decriminalization, which just happens to be Kurt Schmoke's most high-profile issue.

Though Schmoke is close to Clinton, helped draft Clinton's urban agenda and flew to New York to campaign for him this year, Clinton had no trouble joining the other two candidates in bashing the legalization of drugs at the first debate.

"I know more about this, I think, than anybody else up here because I have a brother who's a recovering drug addict," Clinton said. "I'm very proud of him. But I can tell you this: If drugs were legal, I don't think he'd be alive today. I am adamantly opposed to legalizing drugs."

So don't look for Schmoke to become Clinton's attorney general any time soon.

In fact, Clinton seems to have latched onto another Marylander to sing his praises. At Thursday night's debate in St. Louis, the Clinton campaign handed out its official list of spinners, those people trucked in to tell reporters how well Clinton had done in the debate.

And what name was right there in black and white?

Harry Hughes.

I know Clinton couldn't get our current governor, who most assuredly is going to vote for George Bush, to come, but Harry Hughes?

Maybe Clinton can get Jeffrey Levitt a prison furlough so Levitt can spin for him Monday at the last debate.


While reporters make fun of spinning and write story after story demeaning those who do it, the press also insists upon it.

The late Lee Atwater, George Bush's campaign manager in 1988, told me: "The spin thing is humiliating and degrading, and the media insisted on it. And when you did it, the media ridiculed you for it. I was on the first spin patrol at the Reagan/Mondale debate. I'd be very happy to call it all off."

But we can't call off spinning and here's why: Hundreds of reporters fly thousands of miles and spend tens of thousands of dollars to go to press rooms and watch the debates on television.

They could stay home and watch it on television and get exactly the same picture and sound.

So what's the excuse for flying to these events (which are kind of fun and let us eat expense account steaks)?

Just one: The spin. You can't get the spin at home.

Which is why reporters may make fun of spinning, but will continue to demand it.


When you tune in Monday night to see the last debate, you might notice the audience shivering. The candidates want it that way.

One of the first things the campaigns insisted on was that the temperature of the debate halls be kept at a chilly 62 degrees.

That's so none of the candidates would perspire on TV.

The candidates all learned their lesson from Richard Nixon, who got a beady upper lip at the presidential debate in 1960 and lost the election.

Had the studio been kept cool, Nixon might have won and we could have had Watergate 10 years sooner.


Each debate costs the sponsoring city $500,000, which the cities get mostly from giant corporations.

These corporations also sometimes assemble "goody" bags for the press in the faint hope of garnering some good will. The most elaborate bag was handed out in St. Louis and contained such local products as soup, candy, key rings and also a gigantic can of something called Carmicide Insect Killer.

That would have been OK, except that as a little joke the Carmicide people taped a gigantic and extremely lifelike rubber cockroach to the top of each can.

And when the reporters got back to their hotel rooms late o debate night and began unpacking their goodies, the screams of terror could be heard from one side of town to the other.

Rumor has it that the Fire Department had to coax Dan Rathe down from the light fixture on his ceiling.

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