Kitch table debate

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(Host) As the second presidential debate approaches, commentator Bill Seamans reflects on how it may differ from the first.

(Seamans) The next presidential candidate confrontation will concentrate on domestic issues and on the problems of ordinary working people struggling to make ends meet. We could call Friday night’s meeting the Kitchen Table Debate. I hope that the talk will be about what’s piled up between meals on kitchen tables all over the country: bills, car payments, mortgages, tuition, job problems, medical costs, social security worries – on and on and you know the rest.

The kitchen table is the family focal point around which the problems of our working class usually are discussed. Families with members serving in the deadly chaos of Iraq talk about painfully worrisome hopes for the best. If there are teenagers present the question heard more and more these days is whether the military draft will be needed after the election because of what the Democrats call President Bush’s tragic miscalculation in Iraq.

The real test for President Bush and John Kerry on Friday night could be whether they can reach beyond the locution of poli-speak and effectively communicate with those around the kitchen table – do Bush and Kerry have the personal chemistry and the ability to talk kitchen table language – plain spoken understandable facts not spun in the babble fog of Washington. The election may well depend on it.

Many of that legion of political soothsayers called pundits say that Mr. Bush, with his assumed Texan populist personna, will have an advantage over John Kerry’s more formal demeanor – never mind what Bush says or how he says it. So Kerry, they predict, will have more of a personna struggle than he had in last Thursday’s meeting talking comfortably about the nuanced complexities of foreign policy and national security.

I think that we can expect that most of those who will be listening Friday night will want to hear blue collar talk not seminar speak. They will want to hear in plain language about how much more the war will cost in lives and limbs because the burden of loss is on service persons from the lower classes – not on the youth of the elite. They also may want to know why they hear that corporations are earning record profits supplying the war effort when so many of their jobs are being sent overseas and that there even is a Bush administration move to eliminate overtime.

Bush and Kerry will be talking to millions of Americans who are striving to reach a higher financial, social, and educational level in accord with the American tradition. They at the least want to enable a better life for their children and that objective is becoming harder and harder to achieve.

Candidate Kerry anticipated the focus of Friday night’s dialogue with President Bush when he said, “The American dream is on the ballot.”

Kerry could have said, “The Kitchen Table is on the ballot.”

This is Bill Seamans.

Award-winning journalist Bill Seamans is a former correspondent and bureau chief for ABC News in the Middle East. He spoke to us from our studio in Norwich.

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