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Inside the debate, moderate civility; outside, mob rules

BOSTON, Massachusetts (CNN) -- Massachusetts state troopers, sporting riot gear, had to make use of their nightsticks on a number of boisterous protestors Tuesday night outside the University of Massachusetts Boston presidential debate venue, as Al Gore and George W. Bush traded licks inside.

A demonstrator displays a sign showing support for Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader during a demonstration outside the University of Massachusetts in Boston.  

Supporters of Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader, disgusted that their man was barred by the Commission on Presidential Debates from participating in Tuesday night's showdown, burst through police barricades on University Drive -- the main thoroughfare to the campus -- as the debate drew to a close.

Their ranks grew more formidable as the evening wore on. A group of hundreds early in the evening exploded into thousands by 10 p.m EDT, based on police and observer estimates. As the first of three Gore-Bush debates drew to a close, restless protestors at the front of their lines broke through metal barricades and charged into the street.

U.S. Vice President Al Gore and Texas Gov. George W. Bush

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Many sat in the center of the avenue, locked arms and chanted, while others in the protestors' rear lines launched volleys of rocks and other objects at police as they moved in to clear the roadway.

The Boston Globe reported Wednesday morning that 16 of the estimated 5,000 protestors on hand were arrested -- most of whom were Green Party backers.

But theirs was not the only cause represented here Tuesday night.

At a traffic circle that feeds cars onto University Drive -- or "rotary," as they are known here -- perhaps 25 anti-abortion protestors held large signs reading "Gore's choice: Abortion."

The full-color signs featured a large photograph, approximately one-by-three feet, of a dismembered, bloody fetus.

Across the street, separated by the pavement, Massachusetts state troopers and a long line of buses bearing ticket-holders and VIPs, stood a phalanx of abortion rights supporters -- as many as 300 -- most of whom bore signs reading "Pro choice."

Most of these demonstrators cast glances and occasional taunts back across the street, but the groups were separated by enough space and security officers to avoid any physical confrontation.

Also, on Morrisey Avenue, further away from the debate site, a long line of protestors -- many of whom claimed to be Palestinian immigrants -- marched toward the debate site chanting, "Justice for Palestine." Of this large group, which managed to slow traffic approaching the campus to a crawl, most were women and children.

Lehrer cracks down

Jim Lehrer's regular nightly audience is accustomed to seeing a man of measured tones and dignified manner as he delivers all manner of grim news.

Lehrer, host of the Public Broadcasting System's "Newshour," moderated Tuesday night's debate -- as he will the next two, in Winston-Salem, North Carolina and St. Louis -- and conducted himself in a similar manner through the contest's 90 minutes.

Jim Lehrer moderates the first of three presidential debates  

But those in the audience at the University of Massachusetts' Clark Athletic Center saw a different side of Lehrer -- a stern, professorial and somewhat menacing side.

"I see a few familiar faces here in the crowd," Lehrer said, smiling, as he took his seat in front of the auditorium's center stage. He then turned toward the crowd, and in no uncertain terms, told them to shut up once the candidates hit the stage.

"Those who know me know I won't hesitate to turn around and point someone out," Lehrer warned, intimating that he just might add a name on national television to any one of those familiar faces caught jawing during the debate.

The audience must remain "absolutely silent," Lehrer said. There was to be no talking, no laughing, no applause, no outbursts of any sort. And, he warned, all pagers and cellular telephones must be turned off and stowed out of reach.

"You want to see an angry person?" Lehrer said, eyebrows raised. "Let me hear a cell phone go off."

"When I raise my right hand to you (just before the candidates arrive)," Lehrer concluded, "that means, 'That's enough. Cool it. Let's go.'"

Suitably warned, the audience obeyed.


Vice President Al Gore scored a few negative marks from some observers for his off-camera reactions to some of Texas Gov. George W. Bush's responses to Lehrer's queries, and to some of Gore's answers and rebuttals.

The vice president's open microphone captured heavy, heaving, sometimes anguished sighs escaping Gore's lungs as Bush time and again accused him of distorting the numbers behind the Republican tax cut proposals, and of advocating the growth of a behemoth, free-spending federal government. Captured on camera on occasion, Gore could be seen glaring and grimacing as Bush spoke.

Gore heave sighs scored him a few negative marks from observers.  

Gore Campaign Director Bill Daley, asked about the reactions minutes after the debate ended, said Gore was rightly "upset with mistakes Bush made, upset with his behavior."

Gore, though, told CNN early Wednesday that prior agreements between the campaigns, the moderator and the Commission on Presidential Debates stipulated that the candidates would not be shown reacting as their opponents spoke. He promised to curb such behavior at the next two rhetorical contests.

Gore also slipped in some digs at Bush when questioned about the uncertain political future of Yugoslavia, where President Slobodan Milosevic refuses to cede power to opposition leader Vojislav Kostunica, who apparently defeated the Serb strongman at the polls two weeks ago. Milosevic's government has so far refused to release the election results.

Gore made clear that he knew all the principles' names when asked by Lehrer if the U.S. should intervene militarily to oust Milosevic -- mentioning Kostunica numerous times -- and gave a brief history lesson of the region. Yugoslavia consists of Serbia and Montenegro, he said, adding later, "Look, World War I started there."

Bush blunders

Bush had his share of problems Tuesday night, two of which must have left his advisors wincing behind the scenes. Bush campaign aides said heading into the debate that Bush was going to have to work to avoid the sort of verbal blunders reporters have become accustomed to documenting on the campaign trail.

Bush was tripped up by a question on how he would handle "crisis under fire."  

Most of those have involved malapropisms and mispronunciations, which Bush managed to avoid through much of Tuesday night.

But he was tripped up by a question posed by Lehrer on how he would handle the difficulties and uncertainties of the presidency. The presidency Lehrer said, is "90 percent having to deal with the unexpected." Lehrer challenged both to describe how they would handle "crisis under fire."

Gore answered first. When Bush followed, he said, "I've been standing up to big Hollywood, and big trial lawyers." With a trademark smirk, he then stepped a few inches back from his lectern and said, "Was the question about emergencies?"

A few minutes later, Bush appeared to stumble over a question on how he would address a financial crisis, such as the collapse of a major financial institution, saying first he would go to "Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan to get all the facts and the figures," then "have my secretary of the treasury be in touch with the financial centers not only here but at home."

"And I would come up with a game plan to deal with it," he said. "That's what governors end up doing."

Where do Bush and Gore stand on issues of importance to Europe? Launch our Interactive Guide.

View the latest tracking poll or dig into our poll archives.


Watch selected policy speeches and campaign commercials from the major presidential candidates.

See where George W. Bush and Al Gore stand on the major issues.

Who are your elected officials? What is the past presidential vote and number of electoral votes in your state? What are the presidential primary results and exit polls? Find out with these state political and election facts.

Get Election 2000 zip code searchable candidate biographies and other material for races for governor, Senate and House in our Election Guide.

How much money have the candidates raised? Here are their quarterly reports to the Federal Election Commission.

If you need to know who's up in 2000 and what seats are open, launch this quick guide.

WEB WHITE AND BLUE is a partner in the Web White and Blue rolling cyber-debate, a daily online exchange among the major presidential candidates. Look for twice-daily updates Sunday through Friday until election day.


Wednesday, October 4, 2000


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