DHS, FBI Warn Miami Al Qaeda May Try To Disrupt Presidential Debate
In an ominous pre-debate note, the Department of Homeland Security and Federal Bureau of Investigation have warned Florida authorities that the Thursday evening debate in Miami "could be a terrorist target," according to the Wall Street Journal. The agencies said that "at this time, DHS and the FBI have not received any information regarding a specific terrorist threat to the first" debate but that it "may be an attractive target if al Qaeda has made a strategic decision to show that it has the ability to disrupt and shape the American democratic process."
White House Chiefs Of Staff See Limited Value In Presidential Debates.
The buildup for this Thursday's presidential debate is receiving saturation coverage from the nation's political reporters, but for those who have first-hand knowledge of what a president actually does in office, there is a belief that the debates do not showcase most of the talents required to be successful. US News Bulletin interviewed a number of recent White House chiefs of staff from both parties, and there was general agreement that communication skills exhibited in a debate are an important part of the job, but there's much more to being president than being able to provide short answers to questions on national TV.
"Obviously, judgment is most important, and debates don't measure that," Leon Panetta, chief of staff to President Clinton, told US News Bulletin. Sam Skinner, chief of staff to the first President Bush, agreed, saying, "I don't think there is any correlation [between debating skills and governing skills]. I think you can be a great debater and not a great leader. I think you can be a great debater and a great leader. But I don't think the debates themselves determine whether you're going to be a great leader."
John Sununu noted, "A president, if he is going to be successful in enacting policies, some of which are popular and some of which are unpopular, has to be able to communicate his positions to the public. And in the debating structure that communication skill is a very important part of what goes on that debating evening. It measures part of what he has to do." Clinton chief of staff Leon Panetta agreed, saying the "modern presidency is dependent on being able to effectively communicate one's policies on television."
While most of the chiefs of staff thought the Kerry-Bush debates may be more significant than prior presidential debates, partially because the media is focusing so much attention on the live events, partially because polls show voters don't know much about Kerry, one former Chief of Staff dissented. According to John Sununu, "I actually think they are getting less and less important. I think the most important presidential debate in history was Kennedy-Nixon, and their significance has decreased since that day. . . . People see candidates much more than they ever used to. In the 60s and 70s they never saw them except when they took the time to see them live in the debates. But now you see them virtually live every night."
Poll Shows Expectations Equal For Debate Performance; Few Say They Will Be Influenced.
A Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll of 1,000 likely voters (+/-3%) conducted over September 21-22 shows:
39% said that John Kerry "will do a better job during the debates"; 37% said George Bush; 10% said there would be no difference; 14% were not sure.
45% said John Edwards "will do a better job" in the VP debate; 35% said Dick Cheney; 6% said there would be no difference; 14% were not sure.
6% said they were "very likely" to change which presidential candidate they "support based on something the candidates say or do during the debates"; 12% said "somewhat likely"; 16% said "not very likely"; 61% said "not at all likely"; 3% said they won't watch the debates; 2% weren't sure.