COL EDITIORIAL BRIEFS Debate reflections

Candidates Bush, Kerry come out swinging

The audience generated the questions in a town hall-style debate between President Bush and Sen. John Kerry last Friday in St. Louis. The questions were relevant and direct. It indicated that the issues in this year's presidential race are clear to anybody paying even the slightest attention. The economy matters, but war will determine this election.

Voters are mulling over the now solid evidence that Bush took the country to war in Iraq on shaky grounds. Reports have made it clear that there were no weapons of mass destruction or links between Saddam Hussein's government and al-Qaida.

Still, voters are also considering one of President Bush's strongest rationales for going to war in Iraq; the idea that it is better to fight terrorism over there rather than over here. That America has not had a terrorist attack in our homeland since 9/11 should not be lost on anybody.

In the second debate, Bush rose above his poor performance in the first debate and matched Kerry in style. Bush, though, had to deal with poor economic numbers. He is the first president since Herbert Hoover to preside over a net loss of jobs during his term. It is a dubious record, but one that doesn't seem to have gripped the public like the war.


In the coming third debate, war will likely again trump the economy as the issue the pair will press each other the hardest.


; ARTStoberFEST in full swing

We are now in the midst of Rochester's ARTStoberFEST, a month-long celebration of the local arts scene.

ARTStoberFEST, a brainstorm of Mayor Ardell Brede, highlights the wide array of cultural events and organizations the community supports. Indeed, the official kick-off on Oct. 2 featured two dozen exhibits by arts-related organizations, and performances by several of them.

From music and dance to drama and the fine arts, Rochester hosts something for nearly every interest. And this time of year, with so many of the groups just starting their performance seasons, is an ideal time to become acquainted with what the arts mean to our community.


; Presidential polls galore


Two non-traditional polls show President Bush with a sizable lead over challenger Sen. John Kerry. These aren't polls taken by polling organizations, rather they're fun methods used by retailers.

According to, Costume seller has been tracking the sales of presidential candidate masks for many years. For the last six presidential campaigns, sales of candidate masks have been a perfect predictor of that year's winner. This year, Bush leads Kerry 57 percent to 43 percent in mask sales.

In Texas, the restaurant chain Flying Saucer holds its own poll at its 10 locations across the state. Voters select their candidate by buying a glass of beer with a picture of Bush or Kerry on it.

So far, Bush leads 1,756 beer votes to 1,245 for Kerry.

We aren't taking these results too seriously, but these methods may be almost as reliable as the national polls we've seen change in recent weeks.


; Trust at stake

Last week, a report was given to Congress by a top American inspector that concluded there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq prior to the U.S. invasion in 2003.


This report joins earlier issued reports that concluded there were no links between the regime of Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda, the terrorist organization responsible for the 9/11 attacks on America.

President Bush used both the potential for WMDs and links to Al Qaeda as reasons to attack Iraq.

The latest WMD report was presented to the Senate Armed Services Committee. Sen. Mark Dayton, D-Minn., a committee member, and one of 23 Senators who voted against going to war in Iraq, said the reports could further erode the public trust in the presidency.

"President Bush has committed a colossal betrayal of the public trust," said Dayton.

The loss of trust is crucial should the presidential election winner -- Bush or Kerry -- be forced to ask the nation to commit troops to another war. If the reason is a preemptive strike based on intelligence, there will be protests.

The loss isn't in further questions, it is the potential that the next president might not use troops when they are genuinely needed or that a delay in commitment until all intelligence is certain is the threshold for the use of troops. Delay from either scenario could mean disaster. This is the problem that comes from a lack of trust.


; RPU making right moves


Rochester Public Utilities has brought its yet-unfinished plans to construct additional transmission capacity from the Prairie Island nuclear-powered electricity generation plant to Rochester. Finished plans are still nearly a year out, but opening the development to the public is a wise idea.

Transmission development is a large-scale public project. Community buy-in is crucial.

The best reason RPU should anticipate public support is the utility has a rock solid reason behind the proposal. Quite simply, the region, and Rochester are slowly being bottlenecked by the lack of access to more electricity. This means growth -- not yet, but in time -- will be held back.

RPU is making the right moves by going public. Openness is always the way to win support.

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