WASHINGTON (BP)–Presidential candidates Al Gore and George W. Bush agreed on their opposition to the coarseness of popular entertainment and disagreed on school vouchers in the last of their three debates Oct. 17.
Abortion and homosexual rights, issues that had been addressed in the previous debates were not brought up this time for Vice President Gore, the Democratic nominee, and Texas Gov. Bush, the Republican. The questions during the 90-minute event were asked by undecided voters gathered at Washington University in St. Louis.
Education was a primary topic during the evening. Gore charged Bush with supporting a plan that would drain more money from public schools “for private-school vouchers than all of the money that he proposes in his entire budget for schools themselves,” according to a transcript in The New York Times.
There have to be consequences when schools receiving federal funds for disadvantaged children fail to meet standards, Bush said.
“And the consequence is that … portion of federal money will go to the parent so the parent can go to a tutoring program or another public school … or a private school,” Bush said.
He opposes vouchers that can be used at private schools but “might feel differently” if he “thought there was no alternative,” Gore said.
“Under my plan if a school is failing, we work with the states to give them the authority and the resources to close down that school and reopen it right away” with a new administration and faculty plus a team of specialists, he said.
Vouchers “are up to states,” Bush said. “I believe in local control of schools.
“I’d worry about federalizing education if I were you.”
When asked about ways to combat the negative influence of the entertainment media, both candidates said there were things that could be done about the indecency and violence.
“I don’t support censorship, but I do believe we should talk plainly to the Hollywood moguls and people who produce this stuff and explain the consequences,” Bush said, according to a transcript on the Internet site of The Washington Post.
He called for clear ratings systems, greatly expanded funding for character education, “after-school money for faith-based programs and charitable programs to reinforce values” and computer filters “where public money is spent.”
“There ought to be filters in public libraries and filters in public schools so that if kids get on the Internet there is not going to be pornography or violence coming in,” Bush said.
The “best weapon is the off-on button and paying attention to your children and eating dinner with them,” Bush said.
Gore said, “It’s not just movies, television, video games, music, the Internet. Parents now feel like you have to compete with the mass culture in order to raise your kids with the values that you want them to have.”
He cited as an example of his family’s work against the eroding effects of pop culture a campaign by his wife, Tipper, in the mid-1980s that helped get warning labels on recordings. Gore also said he had worked with Internet service providers to enable parents to track their children’s online activity.
Gore said he was outraged at a recent report by the Federal Trade Commission that showed some entertainment corporations had marketed to minors products with adult ratings.
“[Vice presidential candidate] Joe Lieberman and I gave them six months to clean up their act, and if they don’t do it we’re going to ask for tougher authority in the hands of the FTC on the false and deceptive advertising,” Gore said.
He “will respect the First Amendment, but I will do something to help you raise your kids without that garbage,” Gore said.
Gore and Lieberman have been criticized for muting their criticism of Hollywood at recent California fund-raisers attended by entertainment leaders.
Unlike the first two debates, no questions were asked about abortion or homosexuality.
In the opening debate, Gore affirmed his support for abortion rights and the recent approval by the Food and Drug Administration of the abortion pill RU 486.
Bush, who declared himself pro-life, said he did not think he would have the authority to rescind approval of RU 486 nor would he seek to do so as president. Since the debate, an aide has said Bush likely would sign proposed legislation that would tighten restrictions on the drug’s distribution. He would sign a ban on partial-birth abortion into law, Bush said.
In the second debate, Bush said he opposes “gay marriage.” He also said he did not favor “special rights” for homosexuals.
Gore said he supports classifying “sexual orientation,” which includes homosexuality, with such categories as race, age and gender in legislation providing civil rights protection. He opposes same-sex marriage but favors civil unions for homosexuals, Gore said.
The election is Nov. 7.