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Political pundits visit campus, debate presidential campaign

October 25, 2000

Two distinguished and recognized Washington, D.C., journalists chuckled and poked fun in the Wharton Center’s Pasant Theatre on Tuesday while discussing the 2000 presidential campaign.

Mark Shields and Robert Novak, of CNN’s “The Capital Gang,” are best known for their differing opinions. Novak is a staunch conservative, while Shields is a firm liberal.

“Novak & Shields Debate Campaign 2000” covered everything from the candidates’ choice of running mates to campaign spending to the media catering to certain parties. The men rarely agreed.

On the issue of presidential candidates Democrat Vice President Al Gore’s and Republican Texas Gov. George W. Bush’s choices for vice president, the men disagreed. And they often used history and humor to lighten their discord.

“George W. Bush had to make an important choice when he picked his vice president,” Novak said. “He made a mistake by not putting (Arizona Sen. John) McCain on the ticket.”

He added that vice presidential candidates ultimately have little effect on the campaign.

Shields though argued that Joseph Lieberman, Gore’s running mate, has made a huge impact by giving Gore a sense of personal confidence that he hadn’t had.

Within the next two weeks, both Novak and Shields expect to see negative campaigning and plenty of campaign ads. However, the men disagreed about the avenues each candidate should take to put himself in the best light with voters.

“I think you’ll see attacks on George W. Bush in the next two weeks,” Novak said. “It’s all the Democrats know how to do.”

Shields, in turn, said the Gore campaign should bring out President Clinton as a campaign tool to help the vice president.

“They should bring out Bill Clinton in states where he has a high rating,” he said. “He can make a case against Bush better than Al Gore can.”

While the two political pundits had their share of disagreements, they did come to terms on at least one issue: The men agreed that the media tends to lean toward one party or the other. But naturally, they disagreed about which party the media was leaning toward.

“I’ve been in journalism for a long time,” Novak said. “And it’s not brain surgery. The media is tremendously slanted to the left.”

Shields disagreed, saying that the media had been cruel to Gore since the beginning.

“George W. Bush is not that bright. The debates were pass or fail for him,” Shields said, saying the media expected less of Bush. “For Gore, it was a C+, or a D- if you are Robert Novak.”

Public administration and public policy senior Kyle Olson came to see the journalists debate the issues. As chairman of Students for Bush, he’s been following the campaign.

“All the issues were important,” he said. “It was good to listen to two very knowledgeable men.”

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