Artful Dodgers

In the vice presidential debates, independent James B. Stockdale noted that he had presided over a "civilization of men" which he called a "microcosm of life." Stockdale seems to have forgotten a rather crucial segment of the population: women.

Of course, the poor admiral is hardly to be blamed. Despite the fact that women compose more than 50 percent of the population and an even higher percentage of the voting population, all the presidential candidates seem to have overlooked them.

Let's take the example of the three presidential debates. The debates are a crucial forum in which the significant issues of the election can be discussed by all three candidates. They should be designed so voters have the opportunity to decide based on issues that are crucial to them.

By not mentioning a specific issue in a debate, that issue is not validated as an important issue which could determine how the voter casts his or her ballot.

The question of abortion rights was not discussed once during the presidential debates. This absence would suggest that the right of a woman to choose whether or not to have an abortion is not an important issue.


It would possibly also suggest that abortion is not a political issue. But as Sen. Al Gore '69 pointed out in the vice presidential debates, the agenda of the Bush-Quayle administration is to stack the Supreme Court with conservative abortion foes and to veto legislation providing women with counseling about their choices.

Of course, many issues were left out of the debates. Not every foreign policy question was discussed, and even environmental policy was relatively untouched. But there was a complete gap in dealing with issues that are crucial to women and minorities. This exclusion of topics leaves the concerns of these groups unaddressed in one of the most widely seen political forums of the election year.

Gov. Bill Clinton did mention (a number of times) President Bush's veto of the Family Leave Act, but all three candidates had pathetic answers for the questions posed about women and minorities working closest to them. All three should be able to name without faltering the women and minorities in their inner circles.

Bush did not even think to mention any minorities working with him. Perhaps he assumed that since the questioner was a white woman (Susan Rook of CNN), she would only be interested in the white women aides.

And referring to the higher number of women running for congressional positions, Bush, in both debates, said he hoped they lose. Bush says he does not support these women because 10 out of the 11 are "liberal Democrats." But that's the point. This fact alone suggests a gender gap between the political parties, based largely on issues not even discussed at length in the debate--much less by Bush during his presidency.

Ross Perot, master of folk-isms, did not have a heartening answer, either. He says he understands the plight of minorities because he is a man in a family filled with women. His comparison was ridiculous. By reducing the issue to his family and joking about his wife's power, he belittled the lack of diversity in high levels of government.

Clinton, who consistently uses the politically correct term African-American, seemed unsure of his answers as well. When asked when each party would have a woman or minority on its ticket, Clinton seemed to forget Geraldine Ferraro (or perhaps he's trying to forget Walter Mondale ever ran).

Gone were the fiery speeches in support of AIDS, abortion rights and civil rights of the Democratic convention. But Clinton, trying to deemphasize these issues, may have hurt his cause. Gore, in the vice presidential debates, pointed out that by letting right-wing extremists take over their party (and convention), Republicans had lost a lot of their more moderate supporters. Many of these moderates are disaffected because of the very issues Clinton downplays.

By not emphasizing issues such as abortion rights or gun control, Clinton loses the edge he has that makes a large number of Republicans uncomfortable voting for Bush.

At the Democratic Convention, Clinton dared to say that women and minorities would be included in medical research, that he favored the civil rights bills that (as he did point out during the debate) Bush vetoed. But the question of inner-city problems was restricted to a discussion of enterprise zones and tied--almost desperately--to the need for each child to have a strong family unit.

Certainly the nation's economic crisis affects everyone, and should be the most important issue in this election, but the candidates (especially those whose stance reflects the nation's) should be dealing with women and minority issues seriously. Perhaps that 50-plus percent of American voters would begin to think one candidate really was up there for them.