Television personalities Wally George and Bill Press squared off Thursday in a boisterous debate over the “Star Wars” nuclear defense program, which Press attacked as “pie in the sky” and George defended as necessary to counter a similar system under development by the Soviet Union.
The debate took place before a raucous audience of almost 400 students at Rancho Santiago College (formerly Santa Ana College). Both debaters were permitted a total of 24 minutes to present and summarize their arguments.
George, the ultraconservative host of television’s “Hot Seat,” opened the debate by blasting the “liberal press"--of which he said Press is part--as “always trying to make us out to be the bad guys, that we’re always wrong and the Soviet Union is always right.”
He likened Press to former British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain giving in to Adolph Hitler’s demands shortly before World War II.
Press, an Emmy Award-winning commentator on KABC’s “Eyewitness News,” said President Reagan’s Star Wars program would “unleash the most dangerous escalation of the nuclear arms race this world has ever seen.”
There are three valid arguments against the program, he said: It would be technologically impossible; it would “trigger the building of more offensive and defensive weapons by both sides,” and it would make the world less safe.
George, speaking to a generally hostile audience, said the program should be called “High Frontier” instead of Star Wars.
“The liberal press has tried to trivialize and degrade High Frontiers to equate it with Star Wars and Flash Gordon,” he said.
It is “a matter of record,” George said, that the Soviets are building their own defensive system and would like nothing better than to see the U.S. program scrapped.