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Carter largely failed to exploit Ford's slip during the debate. But next day he called Ford's remarks "absolutely ridiculous," and his staff considered preparing a series of radio commercials to be beamed primarily at ethnic communities. Chortled Carter Political Director Landon Butler: "We couldn't have picked a better ethnic coordinator than Ford."
THE "ETHNIC" REACTION
Ford's statement dumbfounded and dismayed "ethnic" groups. So far, at least, only a minority echoed the charitable view of Boleslaw Wierzbianski, of the Polish Daily News in Jersey City, N.J., that the remark was "a lapse of linguaa slip of the tongue." Added Feliks Gadomski, general secretary of the Assembly of Captive European Nations: "I was shocked by what he said, but you have to judge him on the whole American Government policy."
More common was the view of Aloysius Mazewski, president of the Polish American Congress and the Polish National Alliance: "People can't understand it. They know the President knows better." (After a phone call from Ford, Mazewski said he felt "satisfied" by the President's explanation.) Said Wisconsin State Representative Joseph Czerwinski: "It's something out of Alice in Wonderland. Voters are going to question why the fellow sitting in the Oval Office has such an unclear picture of what's going on in Eastern Europe." Casimir Bielen, director of the Ohio division of the Polish American Congress, said: "He has minimized the hopes of people who want freedom." Said Janet
Branden, president of Polanki, the Polish women's cultural organization in Milwaukee: "I was going to vote for Ford. Now I don't know. I feel I can't vote for either one."
THE EXPERTS' VIEW
The Eastern European blooper aside, Ford gave an adequate performance (see following story). The whole debate was a 90-min. slugfest, in which both candidates threw roundhouse punchesa sharp contrast to the first dreary confrontation. But last week's encounter was more style than substance. Both candidates showed something of a box-score mentality, with Carter ticking off the names of the countries he has visited and Ford listing the names of the foreign leaders he has met. Carter greatly overstated America's weaknesses in the world. Ford's inability to put across his Administration's successes or clearly explain its policies dismayed Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who had spent hours briefing him. Yet Carter had a hard time criticizing those policies, since he agrees basically with most of them, differing largely on style and emphasis.
Many experts gave both candidates low marks. Said Soviet Expert Adam Ulam of Harvard: "Neither one had any feeling for the terribly complex problems we have in dealing with Russia and the Communist countries. Much of the debate was nothing more than posturing." Added Vanderbilt Chancellor Alexander Heard: "Both candidates tended to make debating points in a way that raised doubts about the political-education value of these debates."