Paul  Weyrich

CNN actually did the American people a favor this past week. It doesn't happen very often, so make note of it.

CNN co-sponsored, nearly back-to-back, two-hour so-called debates at Saint Anselm's College in Manchester, New Hampshire. Oh, how I wish that it weren't this early before the start of voting for the Presidency next January and Americans paid attention to issues. Granted CNN set all-time records in viewership. But that leaves most of America watching the "American Idol."

I only wish that every man and woman who intends to cast a ballot next year could have spent four hours watching and listening. The reason? The voting public had cast before it almost perfect representations of the positions of each political party.

Oh, sure Fred D. Thompson and Newt Gingrich were not up on that stage for the Republicans. And Al Gore wasn't up there for the Democrats.

Gingrich, no doubt, would have added his unique perspectives. That having been said, I doubt that the absence of these three men would have made a real difference in the outcome.

The outcome was so stark. Perhaps some gazillionaire will make a DVD of both debates and will send them to every household. The problem is that will increase the viewership of these debates by one percent. Why bother! Maybe we could send gangs to the neighborhoods to tie up residents until they watched both debates. They would need whips to keep the viewers awake.

That is the problem with the American electorate. Voters pay no attention to candidates' positions on issues until it is too late. Many end up voting the familiar name. That is why Hillary has a good chance. If it should be Hillary Rodham Clinton vs. Fred D. Thompson, most voters would recognize Thompson's face, not his name. Maybe he could get the courts to mandate that his picture be on every ballot. Otherwise Hillary is the familiar name.

Permit me to paint a word picture of what folks saw last week.

First, there is the matter of whether we are safer than we were after 9/11. On the Democratic side, Hillary said we were safer but not safe enough, a reasonable answer. All the rest said we were less safe. Would anyone give any credit to George W. Bush? John Edwards was the most extreme in suggesting that we were the most unsafe.

On the Republican side, all of the candidates except Representative Ron Paul believe we are more safe, with Ron Paul suggesting we have stirred up things in the Middle East and it will come back to bite us.

Paul Weyrich

Paul M. Weyrich is the late Chairman and CEO of the Free Congress Research and Education Foundation.
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