MOST Americans did not get the opportunity to hear the debate on CNN's "Larry King Live" between Ross Perot and Vice President Al Gore.
Here are several important segments that should not have been missed:
King: We have Vice President Al Gore and former presidential candidate Ross Perot here tonight to discuss the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Gore: The American public should know that all the ex-presidents, living and dead, support NAFTA. So does Rush Limbaugh. And Mother Teresa. And Gandhi. Mr. Perot's criticisms often miss the point of how NAFTA will help every single American, Mexican, Canadian and Somalian.
Perot: Hey, listen, you're lyin' when you say I don't clarify the issues. You're just afraid one of your fat cat, thousand-dollar-suit-wearin' friends will lose out on some killin' made by putting 25 million Mexican laborers in shantytown stickhouses.
Gore: Where did you get that figure?
Perot: Hey, will you let me finish a sentence, just one sentence? Maybe if you put your little ear out, it might get filled with something other than lies and tricks, or is that beyond you people? Now, you ready to listen, or are you going to interrupt me so I can't tell the truth? I can play it hard or I can play it soft. May I just finish one sentence? You aren't fooling the American people at all. Are we here to debate an issue or just hear you give a speech? I don't know about your time, but I could be out talking to real people.
King: Go ahead, Ross.
Perot: Thank you. Now, can we get serious? NAFTA is the biggest sucker-America agreement ever devised. Look, it's going to cost $60 billion to clean up pollution along the U.S.-Mexican border, another $80 billion to fix up the infrastructure. And who's going to pay for that? The American taxpayer, that's who. Now, that's just fine for you and your friends who are going to make money hand over fist on the backs of Mexican workers, but I have to worry about the American people.
Gore: You say it's going to cost how much?
Perot: Is that the way you're going to conduct this debate, Larry? He gets to say anything he wishes, and I get cut off every time I begin a sentence? Fine. The American people will see right through that. Go ahead. Say what you want. Go ahead.
King: We have stopwatches on the debate, and so far you've had equal time to the millisecond.
Gore: There have been 435 studies that have shown that NAFTA will create more jobs. Sure, NAFTA is controversial, but so was the Louisiana Purchase, the creation of NATO, the Lewis and Clark expedition, the Taft-Hartley Act and the replacing of Pete Best with Ringo Starr.
Perot: Do I get a chance to say something now? Or is this just a conversation with a lying vice president? Look, if NAFTA was so good, you wouldn't have to push it. People would trample you for it. Those little Mexicans would be running across the border screaming for it. Look, folks [turning to camera], if you don't remember anything else, remember these two things: This little NAFTA agreement isn't going to solve diddlysquat. The Mexican economy is only 3 percent of America's. Second, if NAFTA passes, you can kiss America good-bye.
Gore: Now, Ross . . .
Perot: Please! Just let me complete one sentence! Please? One sentence? This is why we have a four trillion-dollar debt. How can we discuss the important issues if you won't even let me make one point on the great issues of our time? [Silence] Now, let's talk about the foreign lobbyists. NAFTA will make the foreign lobbyists happy, but no one else. All the real, everyday, normal people outside the Washington Beltway oppose it: me, my son, Admiral Stockdale, Ralph Nader and, before he died, Curtis Lemay told me he opposed it.
Gore: The American people must know what's at stake. It is our very future. Remember free trade, the Maine, Plymouth Rock and the Golden Rule!
Perot: This is ridiculous, Larry. You let him run like Niagara Falls, and I don't even get a trickle.
Richard Vatz is a professor of rhetoric at Towson State University.