Maer Roshan: So both conventions are now over, and the race begins in earnest. Which party put on the better show?
Ed Koch: I think the Democratic convention was better, frankly -- not because I'm a Democrat, but there was more excitement, less control, you weren't really sure . . .
M.R.: What weren't you sure of, exactly?
Ed: Well, I wasn't sure who was going to sing. Laughter.
Al D'Amato: I think both of the conventions should be cut down to 48 hours. Nothing gets decided there anymore! To have them go on for four days -- I thought I'd die of boredom! It's a waste of money and time. In terms of holding the attention of the American people, no one cares.
M.R.: Well, someone must have been paying attention. By the time they were over, Gore went from fifteen points behind to five points ahead.
Al: Look, after a week of constant bam-bam politicking, of course he's gonna get a bounce. But the fact is, this race doesn't even begin until Labor Day. Unless someone commits a major gaffe, this thing is going to be a two-point race to the end.
Ed: I think there's no question that the Democrats got across their message. Now the Republicans are attacking Gore for engaging in class warfare. But what's wrong with class warfare? Bush realizes that the Democrats have a huge edge on the issues. He denounced Gore for saying he's against Big Oil and pharmaceutical companies and HMOs. I think most Americans believe these companies need to be reined in. Pharmaceutical and insurance companies aren't evil, but their excesses are. Republicans won't dare take them on. Democrats will.
Al: Wrong. Al Gore is a captive of the philosophy that government can do better than the individual, but I don't believe that's true. Let me tell you what's excessive, Ed -- our taxes! Thirty-nine-point-six percent is excessive! And then you have city and state taxes, so if you live in New York, you may pay close to 50 percent of your income in taxes. I think to categorize a tax reduction of 39.6 percent to 33 percent as some kind of victory for the rich is wrong. That is class warfare. The fact is, under Bush's plan, 6 million low-income people won't have to pay any taxes at all! Middle-income families are going to save appreciably. What's wrong with that?
Ed: I'll tell you what's wrong with it. We now have a huge surplus, and the Republicans want to give a $1.6 trillion tax cut with 42.6 percent going to 1 percent of the wealthiest people in this country. That's not right. The Gore people say, "Instead of a massive tax cut for millionaires, we're going to have a $500 billion cut, and give most of it back to the middle class. Then we're going to take part of the surplus and expand programs for the needy and elderly." It's a question of priorities.
Al: Exactly, and the Democrats' priority is more money for the government and less money for the people. Bottom line, Ed, we're both capitalists now. I want the tax cut! Laughs.
M.R.: Throughout this campaign, Gore has stressed policy over personality. Do you think that's a winning strategy?
Ed: I've said from the very beginning that Gore is a bore, but the issues are not boring, and people recognize that. This is going to be the most issues-oriented campaign of the modern era. Gore knows he can't compete on a personality basis. But he can cream Bush on the issues.
Al: Bush is a likable guy, and let's be honest, who wants to listen to Al Gore for the next four years? But in the end, this election will come down to the debates. Gore will undoubtedly be prepared. But if Bush demonstrates a command of the issues and holds his own, he'll definitely win.
M.R.: Last week, the independent counsel announced he was pursuing yet another grand-jury indictment against Clinton. How do you think this will affect the election?
Al: When news of the grand jury leaked out, every Democrat rushed to blame the Republicans. A week later, when a Democratic judge admitted he was the source of the leak, not one admitted, "By the way, we were wrong."
Ed: They should apologize.
Al: But they won't. The truth is, this does not help Republicans. People are sick and tired of all these scandals, and if I were George Bush and elected president, I would immediately pardon Clinton. This is not national security. We aren't talking about treasonous acts. The country doesn't need this anymore.
Al D'Amato is a columnist at George.
Ed Koch is a columnist at Newsday.