Photo by Jeff Mitchell / Reuters
Not presidential material
But your votes on November 7 will still be important
By Babak Yektafar
October 19, 2000
Finally it seems that the hard part is over and the two presidential
candidates are around the bend closing in on the finish line on November
7. They have debated in a formal format, a talk-show setting and a town
hall meeting, and somehow it seems to me that the formats and their variations
were more interesting than what it presented.
I wish that the debate organizers would consider a different format
such as a game show to attract a little interest from the general public,
and extract exact answers from the candidates. They may consider a Jeopardy-like
format for the benefit of Vice-President Gore, or a Who wants to be
a Millionaire for the benefit of Governor Bush (yes, it would be The
Dating Game format if President Clinton was running.)
Regardless of the type of game show, the candidates would have to give
precise answers without attacking the other contestant (occasional chuckle
for a wrong response may be allowed.) Although this may not be considered
a "debate" per se, but it certainly would take out the spin from
the responses, and certainly make for a more entertaining 90 minutes of
My brilliant idea aside, I do have to say that the last debate was by
far the most interesting. I had the opportunity of being present in the
hall during the first debate in Boston, and given the freezing cold air
(both candidates had insisted on the temperature to go no higher than 65
F for fear of sweating while on camera, so the sponsors actually brought
the temperature down to 50 degrees) the two came off as stiff as a pair
of icicles in the North Pole.
During the last debate, I enjoyed seeing Governor Bush frequently invading
Vice-President Gore's space. My pleasure was heightened when Gore would
stand up to defend his turf, eliciting a comical, surprised reaction from
Bush. Such little visual nuggets were in abundance during the St. Louis
debate, and I actually found it difficult to tear myself away from that
Did I learn anything about the candidates at the conclusion of these
debates? Well, I learned that Mr. Bush is the governor of a "big"
state (he emphasized that in every debate, as if size matters -- in this
case). I also learned that he likes to use the word "fuzzy",
and that he does not trust the government and if we trust him by voting
for him, then he would turn around and trust us back by giving us all the
money we want to do with it as we please.
If I had the chance to ask a question from Mr. Bush, I would want to
know why he is spending millions of dollars to head an entity that he does
As for Mr. Gore, I learned that he doesn't have a clue as to how to
apply rouge on his cheeks. Now as an alpha male he may not be expected
to know or care for such trivial matters, but when you come out looking
like Bozo the Clown, it is difficult to ask the public to see you as presidential
material. I also learned that the vice president truly does not like the
top one percent of the richest Americans and would like to see them buried
in some environmental wasteland.
Mr. Gore kept insisting he would fight for us. My question is, why fight?
Can't we get things done without fighting? In the immortal words of that
great orator of our time, Rodney King, "Can't we all just get along?"
All this is to say that I didn't feel either man said anything outside
the rhetoric which we have heard before on their campaign trails and the
debates only highlighted the lack of charisma which we have come to expect
from a leader after eight years of Bill Clinton. No matter what you think
of the President, the man personifies the word charisma and neither of
the current candidates comes anywhere near the standard which he set.
It was interesting to me to hear the name of the country of my birth
mentioned at that last debate. Mr. Gore, while touting his belief that
the United States should spread its version of democracy to all over the
world, mentioned Iran as a country on the road to such presumed ideological
heaven. Then I wondered what this election means to Iranian-Americans like
myself not only for the issues related to us as a minority, but also for
each candidate's direction in foreign policy as it relates to U.S.- Iranian
From the little that has been said about foreign policy, and specifically
the attitude towards Iran, both candidates seem to be in favor of opening
relations between the two countries. Republican vice presidential candidate,
Dick Cheney, has been a vociferous opponent of the current U.S. policy
in punishing companies or countries who do business with the Islamic Republic,
and a proponent of allowing American oil companies to invest in Iran.
Vice-President Gore on his part has indicated that he is in favor of
continuing the current administration's search for common ground on which
a substantive and constructive dialogue can be established at the highest
These views are obviously in sharp contrast to the recent request by
a number of congressional members led by Representative Gary Ackerman,
Democrat from New York, for the administration to stop reaching out to
the current Iranian regime and drop the Iraqi-based National Resistance
Council (Mojahedin Khalq) from its list of terrorist groups.
The next president will obviously have his hands full in dealing with
both the Congress and the ever-changing signals from the Iranian hierarchy.
Regardless, the current political season once again accentuates the
lack of political muscle by Iranian-Americans at the national level and
begs for an entity that can articulate and communicate our concerns to
those whose decisions impacts our lives. But until then, the candidates
are reaching for your votes because they count. Learn about them, their
records and their proposals. And may the force be with you and the candidate
of your choice.
Babak Yektafar produces a national public affairs TV show in the U.S.
He was also the talk show host on Radio Velayat in Fairfax, Virginia for