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Debate Coaches Say Lieberman Wins

October 6, 2000

WASHINGTON (AP) _ They liked the civility but five high school and college debate coaches split over who won the vice presidential debate. Three called it for Democrat Joseph Lieberman, one named Republican Dick Cheney the winner and the fifth called it a draw.

But if pressed to declare a winner, that fifth judge, James Unger, director of the National Forensics Institute, said he’d award the event to Cheney on the basis of the way he came across ``as a person and as a professional.″

Judging on six formal debate criteria _ reasoning, evidence, organization, refutation, cross examination and presentation _ The Associated Press’ panel awarded Lieberman a total of 130 points to Cheney’s 122. A perfect score would have been 150.

Most of the coaches liked the quality of the confrontation.

``This is the best debate in years with real clash on a number of good arguments, and very revealing of their personalities,″ said Dallas Perkins, debate coach at Harvard University.

``Frankly, I missed the sighing,″ said Unger, recalling Al Gore’s audible sighs during his presidential debate Tuesday with George W. Bush.

Both of the vice presidential candidates ``were too impersonal, humorless, dull,″ Unger said. ``Even just one groan would have helped.″

Betty Jean Naegelin of San Antonio, Texas, a retired high school speech and English teacher and a charter member of the Texas Forensics Association, was the judge who rated Cheney the winner.

She welcomed the lack of ``histrionics or explosive reactions.″

``They truly listened to each other with no interruptions,″ she said.

The other judges were Brother Rene Sterner, president of LaSalle College High School in Wyndmoor, Pa. and member of the executive council of the National Forensics League, a 2,600-high school organization which sponsors debate tournaments and Aaron Timmons of Dallas, forensics director at the Greenhill School in Dallas.

Both said Lieberman won, citing his skill at backing up declarations with evidence.

``Lieberman’s claims were better supported and Cheney’s were based on assertions rather than explained,″ said Sterner. ``On education, for example, he said, ‘well, Bush did a great job in Texas.’ I would have liked him to explain that more than just assert it.″

Timmons said both candidates, trying not to be seen as aggressive, ``were too measured and reserved in their delivery.″

As a result, he said, they tried not to show passion ``for issues that many Americans feel very passionate about _ racial profiling, RU-486 (the abortion pill), Social Security, equal pay for women.″

But Lieberman, he said, ``was more on point and made critical distractions, with support from independent sources.″ Cheney, on the other hand, ``lacked support for many of his answers.″

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