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Historic Firsts As United States 107th Congress Convenes

Hillary ClintonThe 107th United States Congress convened today following last November’s elections. In a series of ceremonies, a number of intriguing and historical situations have now unfolded.

With Hillary Clinton’s swearing in as the junior senator from New York, this is the first time an incumbent First Lady has also served as an elected representative. President Bill Clinton attended the swearing-in ceremony in the Senate chamber.

As Vice-President, Al Gore also serves as President of the Senate. He has a casting vote in the event of a tie. There are now 50 Democrats and 50 Republicans in the Senate. Gore’s casting vote means that the Democrats will hold a majority for 17 days until George W. Bush is sworn in as President on January 20. On this day, the new Vice-President, Dick Cheney, will assume Gore’s role in the Senate, swinging the balance of power back to the Republicans. [Read more…]

Gore And Bush Prepare For Debates As FBI Investigates Video Leak

Vice-President Al Gore and Texas Governor George W. Bush are preparing for their encounter this week in the first of three televised debates that have assumed a high degree of importance given the closeness of the presidential election campaign.

Gore campaign poster
The debate takes place in Boston, Massachusetts, at 9pm eastern time on Tuesday (midday Wednesday Australian eastern time).

Opinion polls indicate a see-sawing contest, some showing Gore ahead, others putting Bush in the lead. Allowing for standard margins of error, the polls indicate an election that is, in the words of the much-loved media cliche, too close to call.

The debate takes place amidst an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation into the leaking of a video of Bush practising for the debate. The tape was received in the mail by former Democratic congressman Thomas Downey on September 13. It was accompanied by a briefing book used by the Bush campaign. Downey is assisting Gore in his preparations for the debate.

It appears that the package was leaked from the office of Maverick Media, the Bush campaign’s advertising firm. Suspicion has centred on an administrative assistant at the firm, Yvette Lozano, who is recorded on security video with a package she took to the post office from where the leaked package was sent. Lozano has denied being the culprit, claiming that the package simply contained khaki pants her boss was posting home.

The Democrats appear to have handled the incident well. The video was turned over to the police soon after it was received and it is suggested that the video was only viewed to the extent necessary to determine its contents. The Democrats have suggested the package may have been part of a dirty tricks campaign to discredit them prior to the debates.

Intriguingly, Lozano once worked on the campaign for Ann Richards, the former Democrat Governor of Texas. Richards, famous for her line about Bush’s father that he was “born with a silver foot in his mouth”, was defeated by George W. Bush in 1994.

Preparations for Tuesday’s debate have been intense, with both sides haggling over details such as the height of the lecterns, whether lapel microphones will be used and the use of props by the candidates. The lecterns will be 48 inches high, lapel microphones and props are out.

Both candidates have engaged in practice debates with other politicians playing the part of their opponent. Bush has joked that Senator Judd Gregg (Republican, New Hampshire), who played Gore for Bob Dole in 1996 and is repeating the performance this time, has become so good in the part that he is winning the debates!

Gore has gathered a group of 13 citizens to assist him in his debate preparation. The group includes a high school principal, amongst others. Gore is looking for a way of connecting with swinging voters, particularly in close states like Florida.

It was said recently that if Gore was forced to spend a lot of time in California, then Bush would win the election. Conversely, if Bush spent a lot of time in Florida, Gore would win. Polls show Florida is a dead-heat and it is widely believed that the candidate who can secure Florida’s 25 Electoral College votes will probably win the election.

The debates are sponsored by the Commission On Presidential Debates.

Televised debates have been a fixture of American elections since 1960 when then Vice-President Richard Nixon met with Senator John F. Kennedy. It is commonly argued that whilst Nixon was regarded as the winner by radio audiences, television viewers awarded victory to Kennedy.

  • Watch the first 1960 presidential debate between John F. Kennedy and Richard M. Nixon (58m)

Al Gore Accepts Democratic Party Nomination For President

Vice-President Al Gore has officially accepted the Democratic Party’s nomination for President in this year’s election and addressed the party’s National Convention in Los Angeles.

GoreIn his speech, Gore said:

“I’m happy that the stock market has boomed and so many businesses and new enterprises have done well. This country is richer and stronger. But my focus is on working families – people trying to make house payments and car payments, working overtime to save for college and do right by their kids… Whether you’re in a suburb, or an inner-city… Whether you raise crops or drive hogs and cattle on a farm, drive a big rig on the Interstate, or drive e-commerce on the Internet… Whether you’re starting out to raise your own family, or getting ready to retire after a lifetime of hard work. [Read more…]

Clinton Defends Economic Record, Touts Gore’s Qualifications

President Bill Clinton will defend his administration’s economic record, according to excerpts from his speech before the Democratic Party’s convention released early by the White House.

Clinton will say: “To those who say the progress of the last eight years was an accident, that we just coasted along, let’s be clear: America’s success was not a matter of chance, it was a matter of choice.”

On Gore, Clinton will say: “We’ve worked closely together for eight years now. More than anyone else I’ve ever known in public life, Al Gore understands the future and how sweeping changes can affect Americans’ daily live.” [Read more…]