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To Clinton: Smirk No More; To Dole: Watch Your Temper

October 4, 1996

WASHINGTON (AP) _ To the debaters, from a few of the nation’s premier debate coaches, here’s some advice:

Bob Dole, watch your temper. Smile a bit. Show the country some of that famous Dole humor.

Bill Clinton, be presidential, quit smirking and be respectful to Dole.

Both of you: For heaven’s sake, answer the question that was asked. Or at least make a stab at it.

``Any image or hint of avoidance, of ducking a question, can be fatal,″ says James J. Unger, debating coach at American University in Washington and director of the National Forensics Institute. ``Almost any answer will be better than no answer.″

The advice _ unsolicited, to be sure _ comes from a panel of high school and college debate coaches around the country who will judge the campaign’s three debates for The Associated Press. The presidential debates are scheduled for Sunday and Oct. 16. The two parties’ vice presidential candidates are to meet Oct. 9.

A big pitfall for Dole is any behavior that would revive his 20-year-old reputation as a hatchetman, earned in his 1976 vice presidential debate against Democrat Walter Mondale.

Glowering, Dole said during that debate that all of America’s wars in the 20th century had been ``Democrat wars,″ a sour remark that has followed him ever since.

``Watch your temper,″ Dole is warned by debate coach Dallas Perkins of Harvard. ``Don’t panic and try any `go for broke’ strategies,″ he urges.

``Dole’s stern, word-efficient, no-nonsense style of delivery can become harsh sounding when he is put on the defensive,″ adds Melissa Maxcy Wade, who coaches debaters at Emory University in Atlanta.

``Occasional, appropriately placed smiles or demonstrations of enthusiasm for a topic will blunt the impact of his stern demeanor,″ she says.

As for Clinton, Wade says he ``needs to avoid his tendency to become long winded and pedantic.″ His command of details, she says, ``threatens to derail his focus.″

A loss of temper by either candidate would be damaging, says Lanny Naegelin, debate coordinator for the North East School District in San Antonio, Texas. ``We don’t like leaders who don’t have control,″ he says.

James Copeland, secretary of the National Forensic League in Ripon, Wis., advises Dole to loosen up: ``You need more vocal variety, facial expression and smoother gestures. A monotone voice is unpersuasive. Let your voice, face and body express your feelings.″

Unger suggests Dole overcome the age issue by being ``constantly vigorous.″ And ``a sharp wardrobe″ would help, he adds.

William Southworth of the University of Redlands in Redlands, Calif. urges Clinton to smirk no more.

``He annoys me at times,″ says Southworth. ``He seems to have a constant grin or smirk on his face.″ Southworth thinks, too, that the president could show more emotion to avoid coming across as too polished.

Naegelin urges Clinton to make sure he’s not too ``curt, glib, smart alecky.″

It is Wade who advises Clinton to be courteous to Dole. ``Clinton should deflect his harsh criticism with a firm, even-tempered style, one that is presidential,″ she says.

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