Monday, March 10, 2003

Clinton-Dole debate rather pointless

Too bad Andy Rooney didn't review 60 Minutes' new Bill Clinton-Bob Dole point-counterpoint debate Sunday.

The 60 Minutes humorist instead griped on Sunday's broadcast about coffee being sold in 11-ounce cans, instead of by the pound.

Rooney also noted that 60 Minutes had shrunk, too.

"I don't really have any right to complain," Rooney told viewers. "The actual content of 60 Minutes is now less than 42 minutes."

Adding more commercials, Rooney could have told viewers, also made the new Clinton-Dole face-off less effective than the previous "Point Counterpoint" segments.

The old 1971-79 segments with James J. Kilpatrick arguing with Nicholas Von Hoffman (1971-74) and Shana Alexander (1975-79) ran three minutes.

CBS' new "Clinton & Dole/Dole & Clinton" verbal showdown was only two minutes and 15 seconds. The former president and former senator each had a 45-second statement, and a 15-second rebuttal, to debate President . Bush's proposed tax cut on the eve of a likely war with Iraq.

As expected, Clinton, who pushed through huge tax hikes to help balance the federal budget, criticized the Bush tax cut. No U.S. president had ever advocated a tax cut during a national crisis, he said.

"Lincoln didn't. FDR didn't. And with over 200,000 young Americans in the Persian Gulf, we shouldn't. It's wrong, and it's bad economics," Clinton said.

Dole defended the president by blaming Clinton's handling of the economy while in the White House.

"Much of our current problems can be traced to the economic hangover of the '90s. The Bush tax cut has barely kicked in," Dole said.

Each man barely had time to warm up when time ran out.

As TV, "Clinton & Dole/Dole & Clinton" was pretty boring to watch. Both wore identical patriotic colors - red ties, white shirts and blue suits.

Maybe they'll figure out a way to make their debates more lively under the time constraints.

Of course, it won't be as entertaining as the Saturday Night Live parody Saturday. The debate between Dan Aykroyd as Dole and Darrell Hammond as Clinton devolved into a gripe session about their wives' relationship as U.S. senators.

"Tell your wife, Hillary, to lay off my wife, Liddy... or I'm going to beat her like a rented mule," Aykroyd said.

Now that was great TV. Maybe Rooney saw it, but didn't have time to mention it. After all, he's been a victim of the shrinking Minutes.

Rooney joined the show in 1978 as a summer replacement for "Point Counterpoint" with "Three Minutes or So with Andy Rooney." On Sunday Rooney's segment ran less than 21/2 minutes.


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