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Last Updated: Thursday, 14 October 2004, 19:46 GMT 20:46 UK
Voters' views: Linda Alston
In the run up to the American presidential elections we will be asking a panel of voters to share their views on the key issues. Here they give their opinion on the third and final presidential debate between US President George W Bush and his Democratic challenger John Kerry.

Linda Alston:
Madison, Wisconsin

Shankar Iyer:
Fairfax, Virginia

Jim Hill:
Sudbury, Mass.
Laura Stietz:
Sidney, New York

Gary Webb
Gary Webb:
Sacramento, C'fornia

Neil Sherman:
Germantown, Tenn.

Linda Alston

Linda Alston
Name: Linda Alston
Age: 48
Lives: Madison, Wisconsin
Works: Publications co-ordinator, currently unemployed
Current voting intention: Democrat
In 10 words or less:
"Intuitive and analytical, often right but not always"

The final debate made one thing clear: John F Kerry is not George W Bush.

With the exception of a few immaterial points (neither believes in quotas, each believes in gun ownership, both feel faith plays an important role in their lives), both candidates proved themselves to be light years apart on domestic issues.

Each has a bigger and better plan for tax relief, job production, healthcare and Medicare restructuring.

Too bad neither was able to tell us specifically how he is going to administer his prescription.

Both candidates spent too much of their allotted time responding not to the questions but piling on the rhetoric and accusing one another of oversights. How meaningful is that?

George W Bush performed better in this debate. He appeared better informed and more sure of himself. Somebody coached him pretty well.

Our panel: Where they live

Kerry performed to his usual high standard, although he seemed a bit tired. He was once again ready with facts and impressive statistics when answering questions and rebutting Bush's contentions.

Unfortunately, Bush's better preparation meant he was better able to rattle off his standard ideology with regard to domestic policy.

And Kerry's facts and ready figures did very little to explain his "better plan". To be fair, each candidate seemed to offer a more substantial explanation of his program to provide better healthcare options (Kerry) or education (Bush).

But each evaded specific important questions regarding funding for his healthcare plan (Kerry) or his "No Child Left Behind" initiative (Bush). And those weren't the only questions they ducked.

While two minutes is not nearly enough time to provide solutions to America's domestic problems, I feel that neither Kerry nor Bush would be able to do so if they were given from now until election day.

Your comments:

Just because Kerry says his plans are "better" doesn't mean that he has ways of getting them done
Chad Taylor, Ocala, Florida, USA
I'm wondering if I actually watched the same debate that the rest of the people did. Linda's review is correct. However everyone's anti-Bush rhetoric unabashedly worries me since they apparently don't realise that just because Kerry says his plans are "better" doesn't mean that he actually has ways of getting them done. He's the most liberal senator out there as well as the most absent from the Senate. If you actually look at his record in the past you'll see he only votes for what he thinks is popular and not what he thinks is right. If you dislike Bush, that's fine with me, but don't vote for Kerry.
Chad Taylor, Ocala, Florida, USA

I regret to say the electorate in my country has many characteristics of small child. We want our cheap gas, we want our huge sport utility vehicles, we want tax cuts, we want prescription drug coverage and Social Security. Senator Kerry has to tiptoe around a lot of this. He knows the Republicans will distort and take out of context anything he says, so he can just barely say he'll roll back Bush's tax cut on the $200,000-and-up tax brackets. Even then, Bush goes on the stump and claims "Sen. Kerry wants to raise your taxes!"
George R Martin, Richmond, California, USA

Remember, these debates are aimed at the undecided voter. I assume that undecided voters tend to be people who don't follow politics very closely. Policy details probably won't win them over. I think this explains the nature of the debates.
Andrew Davis, Chicago, IL, USA

This debate has shown once again that Mr Kerry does not know the difference between saying something and doing it. You can increase the minimum wage up to a hundred dollars a minute and you will end up having more people work part time. That's because employers do not pay minimum wage, they pay money. The same goes for outsourcing: levelling the field means imposing higher tariffs and higher prices. So, instead of fractionally increasing the wages, give people better jobs through education.
Klaus, Dallas, TX, USA

The problem I have is with how Kerry is going fund his healthcare program. In the third debate he did in fact go into detail on how he intended to pay for it. I don't think he explained it clearly and it was a little quick, but that's the limit of the two minutes he has to answer the question. Like someone else said, if you really want to know about Kerry's plans in full detail, just go to his website and click on the link that says 'plan'. He has a whole book on it, free.
Roland, California, USA

President Bush has stated his position on minimum wage increases in previous speeches. He believes that increasing the minimum wage would have a dampening effect on small businesses, which he believes are the engine of our economic recovery.
Andrea, NY, USA

I will grant that Linda Alston has some good points, but also remember that neither candidate wants to commit political suicide by explaining what really needs to be done. The Social Security question was a good example. We all know tough decisions must be made soon about SS funding for the future, but at least Kerry's plan didn't include what would cause the immediate collapse of the present system, as Bush did (giving the youth of today the option to move all their SS taxes into a private investment fund). And Kerry eloquently pointed out Bush's flaw in thinking. Overall, debating skills hinge on avoiding tough questions, re-routing them to easier topics. Yes, we'd all love to know what each candidate is really thinking, but we just have to try to gauge their intent from their answers, that's our job as voters.
Trent Toler, Logan, UT USA

I agree with Linda that the third debate had too much rhetoric and too little substance. We voters will simply have to look at the record, specifically George Bush's record. Kerry has not yet had a chance to move beyond what he apparently feels he needs to say to what he would actually do if he were president. I encourage Linda to consider two facts: John Kerry wants an increase in the federal minimum wage. George Bush, yielding to corporate PACs, does not favour any increase unless individual states have veto power. John Kerry realizes the emptiness of promises to cut taxes. (Our country is already drowning in debt. How will we pay for essential programs?) Bush promises tax seemingly benefiting any and every voter, but his administration has just engineered a huge tax-relief program especially for corporate America. Voters should be intelligent enough to see where the Bush/Cheney interests lie.
Laurel Sparks, Madison, IN U.S.A.

I am amazed how the lady has ignored the sharpest points in the debate. For example, she generalizes the matter of George Bush's refusal to back renewal of the ban on assault weapons into a sort of all-purpose commentary on "gun ownership". Kerry was talking about AK-47s etc. The proliferation of guns in this country; any kind of guns, is terrible enough, but for Bush or your panel member to write off the question of a ban or no ban on the worst of all (now) available firearms as if there were no differences is mightily irresponsible.
M L Evans, Oxnard, CA USA

I think that Linda's summary was the closest to reality from your entire panel. She has summed up the problem only too well. Neither of them will actually talk in specifics. As a guest to this country I still tentatively ask the question "Are these two really the best this country has to offer?" Of course the answer is a resounding "No" but as politics here are driven entirely by money and nothing else it's probably the best we can expect.
Nigel Aves (Brit in America), Longmont - Colorado - USA

While Linda is correct that two minutes is not enough time to provide full details of John Kerry's plans for fixing the mess that Bush has created, she evidently tuned down the multiple requests that Kerry made for viewers to go to the website for full details.
Bill Burton, Vancouver, WA USA

Bill Burton stated "she evidently turned down the multiple requests that Kerry made for viewers to go to the website for full details". That's a bit elitist thinking everyone has access to the internet. And Kerry should state it in his own words. Not direct people to something his speech writer put into HTML.
E Hanington, McLean, VA, USA

I agree with your comments Mr Burton. I have said the same thing to many people on other forums on the internet. Everyone is complaining that Senator Kerry talks of a "plan" and want to know what the plan is. How can the man explain his plan for our future in just a couple of minutes? George Bush doesn't have that problem. He can say it in two seconds flat: more of the same!
Thomas, Metairie, LA, USA

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