Voters in a Mirror

Yes, Senator Dole, there will be another debate, though not exactly the one you asked of President Clinton in San Diego. The next debate is in the minds and hearts of voters who need more to go on than they have received even at this late stage in the campaign.

For the campaign is "more than a contest of candidates," as Mr. Dole said in the same city in those first and finest moments of his candidacy: "It is a mirror held up to America. It is a measurement of who we are, where we come from, and where we are going." He didn't stop on that bridge to the past he has been tied to since the GOP convention. "We recognize," he said, "that America is preeminently the country of tomorrow."

Mr. Clinton's version of a mirror was to ask all to join in voting and working for the future. The participating forum audience of carefully selected "ordinary people" was a proxy for the national audience. Questions mainly asked for light on how to solve problems and maintain traditional inclusiveness of all Americans.

Many topics, such as foreign policy, needed more discussion. Dole seldom received direct questions leading to his pinpricks at Clinton's public ethics. Clinton's ignoring of them was a prudent debating tactic. But as voters continue the debate within themselves they should have direct White House answers to such allegations as misuse of power and being influenced by foreign money.

When Mr. Dole says, "We've got the ideas," what are those ideas - beyond the tax cut?

When Mr. Clinton says it's the age of Dole's ideas that bothers him, what ideas does he mean - beyond bygone Senate votes?

If the campaign is a mirror, voters don't want to go through the looking-glass to political wonderland. They want to see their country reflected in candidates they feel they know even when they disagree with them.

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