The first of two debates between the College Republicans and the
Young Democrats was deemed a success Thursday night, with both
parties saying the most important point of the evening was student
“We want to see a more engaged campus,” said Stephanie Gibbs, a
sophomore political science major and Democrat.
Gibbs shared the Democrats’ podium with fellow sophomore
political science major Daniel Buck.
Republican debater John Biber, a senior agriculture business
major who shared debating duties with senior J.T. Davis, a criminal
justice major, agreed.
“Everyone hates to hear the opposite of the opinion that they
have, (but) the thing they hate most is not hearing that voice at
all,” he said.
The Democrats seemed to catch the Republicans off-guard early in
the debate, while discussing the training of Iraqis to assume
control of their own government. The Republicans claimed 125,000
Iraqis have undergone training as part of President George W.
Bush’s plan to turn control over to the Iraqis, but the Democrats
disagreed, citing articles that quote “internal Pentagon sources”
that put the number closer to 8,000.
When the Democrats requested attribution for the Republicans’
data, Davis and Biber did not produce a source.
Later, the Democrats seemed poised for a similar stumble, when
Gibbs was unable to find quotations refuting Davis’ claim that Sen.
John Kerry, if elected, would allow other nations to veto the
United States’ right to go to war.
Davis noted that Kerry opposed the first Gulf War in 1992, and
suggested that the senator was too willing to cede to other
“Obviously, there’s no global test high enough for John Kerry,”
Gibbs was unable to immediately respond to Davis’ accusations,
but eventually cited a remark from Kerry in one of the presidential
“He said, ‘no one has the right to pre-empt (the United
States),'” Gibbs said. “What he means by a global test is that we
need to be able to legitimize the actions we take afterwards.”
No winner was declared, in keeping with the debate’s informal
nature. Biber said the kind of scientific polling and screening
necessary to choose a winner were costly and impractical for a
college debate. He also noted that the majority of audience members
were firmly aligned with one of the groups, making an
audience-based decision unlikely.
“I would say that the College Republicans said everything
straightforward and quoted the president very well,” said Crystal
Korrey, a sophomore political science and religion major who
supports Bush and thought the Republicans won.
Toby Coffman, a junior finance major, was not so sure of a
winner, although he too plans to vote for Bush.
“On style, I think the Republicans were more calm, the Democrats
got kind of excited, but on the issues, it was about a tie,”
Points raised by the Republicans included Kerry’s shifting
stance on the war in Iraq and his voting record, which the
Republicans criticized as being anti-defense.
Davis said he believed the senator’s voting record was
indicative of shifting stances.
“As policies change, his positions changes,” Davis said after
the debate. “He is a flip-flopper, and with all due respect, he’s
flip-flopped on more issues than just the war.”
The Democrats focused on Iraq, saying rebel attacks on coalition
forces were unabated and Iraq’s infrastructure was arguably worse
since the coalition invasion.
“How is it making it better, when you have raging bands of
insurgents decapitating people?” Buck asked.
Although the debate remained civil, speakers traded periodic
insults and some audience members scoffed audibly at the
“Sorry, it’s going take a second, because we have to work with
facts on this side of the isle,” Buck said during a pause while
organizing his opening remarks.
The Republicans responded with jabs of their own. While
discussing possible weapons of mass destruction, Biber cited
international worry over Iraq’s weapons program.
“You may be familiar with Hans Blix,” he said dryly, when noting
United Nations’ concerns.
Audience members said they enjoyed the debate.
“I like this kind of thing,” said junior microbiology major
Michelle Keefer. “It amuses me.”
Another debate between the Young Democrats and the College
Republicans is scheduled for Oct. 25, the time and location has not