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Serious, Thoughtful Discussion of Issues

October 20, 1989

Again you have struck a responsive chord with your column on debates (Joseph N. Bell, Sept. 7). Debate is a misnomer for much of what we hear today. Much of what goes on is confrontational because this attracts an audience, a number of whom believe that whoever yells the loudest has triumphed.

I like to hear true debates in which opposing views are presented in an intelligent manner. However, personalities rather than ideas become the issue. Even physical assault is not unheard of, as illustrated by Rep. Robert K. Dornan (R-Garden Grove) grabbing another congressman on the floor of the House.

Perhaps television bears part of the responsibility with the need to reduce presentations to 30 seconds or less. Guests are too often selected for their flamboyance rather than their intellect. The so-called "presidential debates" have deteriorated to joint press conferences with planted questions known in advance. Republican National Committee Chairman Lee Atwater did not originate the format of evading issues and emphasizing trivia with a dose of mud thrown in, but he is the current master of that tactic.

In defense of television, "The MacNeil/Lehrer News Hour" offers serious discussion of issues with sufficient time for ideas to be examined. Public television does much better than commercial television.

I no longer tune in to programs where it can be known in advance that a point of view rather than an examination of ideas will be pre-sented. Yesterday I heard President Bush state that those who do not wholeheartedly support his solutions to the drug problem are simply engagedin partisan politics. I'm sure we will hear more of this in the election of 1990--if we tune in.

Ray Bracy,

Tustin

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