Clinton vs. Dole, round 1…

Bill Clinton and Bob Dole obviously took their opportunity to “debate” on “60 Minutes” seriously. But considering the 60-second timeframe, they were able to do nothing more than hurl sound bites and standard party fare at each other. This was a plastic wrap debate–thin and transparent.

The transcript itself is instructive. Clinton spoke 174 words. Dole spoke 193 words. To put that into some kind of perspective, each man’s total is about the size of a letter to the editor.

I don’t want to give you the impression that this “debate” represents much of an argument, but I did find two moments in the two minutes particularly interesting–both in the rebuttals. Clinton, correctly, takes Dole to task for engaging in “either-or” thinking as he was similarly accused. The point is largely vacuous, but demonstrates the kind of “debate” that’s possible and plays well in short sound bites: boxing jabs.

Dole recovers with a well-placed red herring (not a negative criticism): “With all due respect, Mr. President, much of our current problems can be traced to the economic hangover of the 90s.” And he follows the red herring up with pure snark (again, not a negative criticism): “But I