If It Were Up to Me...

With all due respect to Dr. James Fishkin -- who looks like a very nice man and for whom I sort of feel sorry because he threw this big party and the presidential candidates and the press didn't come and people keep criticizing his idea -- if my sister Cindy and I ran a National Issues Convention, we'd do things a little differently:

* We would not serve beans to 459 anxious delegates right before they had to sit in a confined space for more than four hours during a live television broadcast.

* We would not let the Austin Chamber of Commerce host the Welcome to Our Hick Cowboy Town banquet on Friday night. Armadillo races? Line dance lessons?

* We would not have allowed such a vast overuse of the greeting "HOWDY!"

* For $3.9 million, we'd squeeze in more facts. The 14-page tabloid, "Issues '96", which served as the delegates' "guide to public deliberation," was conservatively peppered with a few facts, most of them not attributed to any source. Some of the statements were highly questionable, like the assertion that "most other industrialized nations, which provide all families with child care, health care, and financial assistance when necessary... have healthier children and fewer social problems." Like France, for instance? Instead, we'd give a computer to each group crammed with as much information -- facts, studies, numbers -- as our $3.9 million would buy.

* We wouldn't pay the delegates to come; we'd pay the candidates. If they didn't answer questions they were asked or lapsed into campaign-ese, delegates could throw wadded up balls of paper at them.

* Every group would get to ask at least one question.-S.B.

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