The first 41 minutes of last night’s presidential debate, dominated by discussion of foreign policy, revealed that Republican candidate George W. Bush wanted to conduct foreign policy in the self-interest of the United States only. Democratic candidate Al Gore presented a bigger picture and wanted to base his foreign policy decisions on valuing human rights, democracy, humanitarianism and environmental concerns as well as U.S. interest. While Bush would focus his foreign policy on the U.S.’s interests narrowly defined, Gore expressed a global commitment to humanitarian values.
Also on human rights, Gore favored hate crimes measures that Bush opposed. For example, Bush stated that he opposed Senator Edward Kennedy’s (D-MA) version of a hate crimes bill in favor of Senator Orrin Hatch’s (R-UT) version. Unlike Hatch’s version, Kennedy’s proposed amendments to the Hate Crimes Prevention Act expands an existing federal hate crimes statute to cover cases involving sexual orientation, gender, and disability. Bush invoked right-wing rhetoric in saying, “I don’t think [gays and lesbians] ought to have special rights.” Many gay rights activists view the term “special rights” as a code word indicating an ultra-right-wing position opposing gay and lesbian equality.
Disappointingly, Gore missed opportunities to strongly show his support for domestic partnership protections and for stricter gun control legislation. He seldom, if ever, referred to women. Recent tracking polls show more swing in the women’s vote than in the men’s vote. Where women finally go will decide the outcome of the presidential election.