[FOUNTAIN]A master of debate wins a round

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[FOUNTAIN]A master of debate wins a round

John Kerry is a master of debate. The Democratic presidential candidate grew up having discussions at the dinner table with his diplomat father. In 1957, when he was a student at St. Paul’s School, a prestigious private boarding school in New Hampshire, he founded a student debating society.
At Yale University, he headed the Yale Political Union, a debating society. He once had a debate against George W. Bush, who was two years behind him, on racial discrimination. The two future politicians steadfastly stood by their positions.
On April 8, 1996, Mr. Kerry showed off his skills in eight televised debates held in Boston when he was running for a Senate seat. He had initially struggled but eventually defeated the Republican candidate in the election.
Mr. Kerry is also known for his skillful maneuvering with the media, especially television. In 1991, he was known in the Massachusetts political community for always being accompanied by television cameramen.
In debating and dealing with the media, Mr. Bush is far less skillful than Mr. Kerry. He was never interested in the art of debating. When he was a student at Yale, the assassination of President Kennedy, the prolonged Vietnam War and racial discrimination were major social issues, but Mr. Bush remained silent on those matters.
We can even say he lacked communication skills. When he was serving in the National Guard, he learned that he had been accepted to the Harvard Business School. He reportedly celebrated by getting drunk and made a scene in front of his father. George H.W. Bush, who was not happy with the conduct of his eldest son, yelled at him, and George W. rebelliously swung his fists.
The father became furious and continued yelling. Then Barbara Bush intervened and told her husband that their son had been accepted at Harvard. That’s how George W. communicated with his family.
Opinion polls indicated that Mr. Kerry won the first debate last week. Those who oppose President Bush’s unilateralism and are concerned about his attitude toward North Korea might welcome Mr. Kerry’s dominance. But American scholars have mixed opinions on how much influence the television debates have on the voters. The main round is still to come, and we should watch last-minute developments.


by Ahn Sung-kyoo The writer is a political news deputy editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.
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