"You did it."
"No I didn't.""Well, you would have if you could have."
"No I wouldn't."
It might sound like a pair of 4-year-olds bickering over a Ninja Turtle. But really it's just political candidates getting down to crunch time as the 1990 election is but four days away.
Like the debate Friday morning between Rep. Wayne Owens, D-Utah, and Republican challenger Genevieve Atwood at the University of Utah - a debate sparked by sharp disagreements over who really said what and what it all meant.
And when it was all said and done, there were more than a handful of people shaking their heads in bewilderment. What does it all mean?
Well it means Owens is proud of his vote in favor of the just-passed federal budget, calling it the "first steps of fiscal integrity in a decade." To Atwood, it meant accusing Owens of "balancing the budget on the backs of the poor."
To Owens, balancing the budget is an issue of restructuring federal tax laws. To Atwood, it is cutting discretionary spending, scrapping the B-2 bomber and Star Wars, and cutting back on multiple levels of bureaucracy.
To Atwood, it means limiting congressional terms to eight years. To Owens, "it takes eight years to figure out what's going on back there."
To Atwood, it means "severely reducing" agricultural subsidies. To Owens, it means Atwood doesn't know what she's talking about.
To Owens, it means "I have been effective for Utah." To Atwood, it means Owens and his colleagues have created a system where 99 percent of incumbents are re-elected and continue to pass laws from which Congress is exempt.
In fact, about the only thing the two candidates agreed upon was that President Bush should go slow with the Middle East crisis, and that neither one trusts the president totally in how he might ultimately deal with the situation.
Owens accused Bush of using irresponsible rhetoric to bolster Republican candidates on Election Day, while Atwood said the crisis offers a prime example of how to resolve international crises in the 1990s with unified world pressure, not warfare.
The sharpest exchange occurred during a question on how tough the candidates would be in dealing with Israel. Atwood made repeated references to a $90,000 campaign contribution Owens received because of his position on an important subcommittee affecting Israeli interests and said Owens and all serving in Congress should at least acknowledge the conflict of interest.
Owens angrily charged back that Atwood had impugned his integrity by implying that his votes could be bought for a $90,000 campaign contribution, noting that the Israel lobby has been angry at him for advocating negotiations with the Palestinian Liberation Organization.