NYTimes.com Article: Al Gore for President

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Date: Wed Nov 01 2000 - 12:15:01 PPET

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Lorin Rivers

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Al Gore for President

October 29, 2000

Despite all the complaints about the difficulty of falling in love
with either Al Gore or George W. Bush, these two very different men
have delivered a clean, well-argued campaign that offers a choice
between two sharply contrasting visions of the future. Even though
Vice President Gore is a centrist Democrat and Governor Bush has
presented himself as the most moderate Republican nominee in a
generation, they have sketched very different pictures of the role
of government and how actively the president should help families
secure adequate education, health care and retirement. This is also
the first presidential campaign in recent history centered on an
argument over how best to use real, bird-in-the-hand resources to
address age-old domestic problems while also defining the United
States' role in a world evermore dependent on it for farsighted
international leadership.

 Having listened to their debate, we today firmly endorse Al Gore
as the man best equipped for the presidency by virtue of his
knowledge of government, his experience at the top levels of
federal and diplomatic decision-making, and his devotion to the
general welfare. We offer this endorsement knowing that Mr. Bush is
not without his strong points and that Mr. Gore has his weaknesses.
But the vice president has struggled impressively and successfully
to escape the shadow of the Clinton administration's ethical
lapses, and we believe that he would never follow Bill Clinton's
example of reckless conduct that cheapens the presidency. Like
Senator John McCain, Mr. Gore has been chastened by personal
experience with sleazy fund-raising. He has promised to make
campaign finance reform his first legislative priority, whereas Mr.
Bush is unwilling to endorse the elimination of special-interest
money from American politics.

 We commend Mr. Bush for running a largely positive, inclusive
campaign. He has not reviled government like Ronald Reagan in 1980
or played on divisive social themes as his father did in 1988. But
on women's rights, guns and law-enforcement issues, he has a harsh
agenda, and the centerpiece of his domestic program is a lavish tax
cut for the rich that would negate the next Congress's once-in-
a-century opportunity to move the country toward universal health
care and stabilization of Social Security and Medicare.


 Mr. Bush has asked to be judged by something more
than his positions. He offers himself as an experienced leader who
would end the culture of bickering in Washington and use wisdom and
resoluteness in dealing with domestic social problems and
international crises. But his r sum is too thin for the nation to
bet on his growing into the kind of leader he claims already to be.
He does have great personal charm. But Mr. Bush's main professional
experience was running a baseball team financed by friends and
serving for six years as governor in a state where the chief
executive has limited budgetary and operational powers. His three
debates with Mr. Gore exposed an uneasiness with foreign policy
that cannot be erased by his promise to have heavyweight advisers.
John F. Kennedy, as a far more seasoned new president, struggled
through the Cuban missile crisis while his senior advisers offered
contradictory advice on how to confront a Soviet military threat on
America's doorstep. The job description is for commander in chief,
not advisee in chief.

 The vice president has admitted to his limitations as a speaker.
But Al Gore has a heart and a mind prepared for
presidential-scale challenges. When it comes to the details of
policy making, he will not need on-the-job training.

 Taxes and the Economy

 Preserving the nation's remarkable
prosperity must be considered the thematic spine of this election.
Mr. Gore helped stiffen Mr. Clinton's resolve to maintain the
budgetary discipline that erased the federal deficit, stimulated
productivity and invigorated the financial markets. Now, Mr. Gore
and his running mate, Senator Joseph Lieberman, promise to maintain
fiscal rigor while using the surplus on spending programs and tax
breaks for the working families that profited least from the
biggest boom in American history. More specifically, Mr. Gore would
seize this opportunity to improve the environment and spend more
money to hire teachers and build schools. We like his capitalism
with a conscience more than the trickle-down sound of Mr. Bush's
compassionate conservatism.

 To be blunter, Mr. Bush's entire economic program is built on a
stunning combination of social inequity and flawed economic theory.
He would spend more than half the $2.2 trillion non-Social Security
surplus on a tax cut at a time when the economy does not need that
stimulus. Moreover, as Mr. Gore has said repeatedly and truthfully,
over 40 percent of the money would go to the wealthiest 1 percent
of taxpayers. Mr. Bush would expand some programs for schools, but
he also embraces the Republicans' ideologically driven approach of
using vouchers to transfer money from public to private schools.
There is nothing compassionate or conservative about blowing the
surplus on windfalls for the wealthy instead of investing it in
fair tax relief and well-designed social programs.

 The nation's biggest domestic need remains universal access to
health care. Neither candidate would move as fast as we would like.
But Mr. Gore has outlined steps that would start us down the road
to covering the 45 million uninsured Americans. He would expand
Medicare, guarantee prescription drugs for seniors and provide more
opportunity for the uninsured to obtain coverage. Mr. Bush favors a
bipartisan approach on these issues, but his proposals have seemed
reactive rather than driven by an inner passion.

 Mr. Gore's commitment to Social Security is deeply rooted, too,
and more responsible. His proposal to supplement the system with
personal investment retirement accounts is superior to Mr. Bush's
plan to privatize part of the system. The governor's scheme would
siphon money out of Social Security at the very moment when both
seniors and younger taxpayers want to see long-term fixes to ensure
its solvency.

 Foreign Policy

 Upon his arrival in Washington more than two decades ago, Mr. Gore
set out to master the intricacies of arms control and foreign
policy. He broke with his party to support the war against Iraq in
1991. He was an advocate of military force in the Balkans, and
today he calls for a more muscular approach to using American
forces to protect the country's security interests and prevent
genocidal conflicts abroad.

 We have expressed concern here that Mr. Gore might sometimes be
too eager to project power overseas. But it is also true that Mr.
Bush's repeated objections to using troops for peacekeeping and
nation-building do not add up to a mature national- security
vision. Neither does his promise to rely on his running mate,
former Defense Secretary Dick Cheney, and his likely secretary of
state, the retired general Colin Powell.

 Mr. Gore will have advisers, but he will not need a minder. He
understands that in order to influence the allies an American
president must lead from the front. He has already been eye to eye
with the world's leaders. While Mr. Bush has a contracting
definition of national security, Mr. Gore has been in the forefront
of redefining it to include issues of health and environment and
the containment of regional conflicts that can metastasize into
threats to world peace.

 Rights and Values

 Mr. Gore has said that abortion rights are on the ballot in this
election. So are other issues such as civil liberties,
environmental protection and gun control. The next president may
appoint up to five Supreme Court justices and thereby exercise a
lasting impact on the daily lives of Americans. A court tilted by
conservative Bush appointees could overturn Roe v. Wade and assert
a doctrine of states' rights that would take environmental
protection out of federal hands. Ralph Nader and his supporters are
not simply being delusional when they say there is no real
difference between these candidates. They are being dishonest, and
dangerously so.

 Mr. Gore brings a lifelong record of protecting basic rights for
women, minorities and gays, while Mr. Bush has almost no record at
all. The vice president has been the driving force in this
administration's environmental successes, and he understands the
need for federal regulation for environmental tasks like saving the
Everglades and for American leadership to combat global warming.
Mr. Bush is for an unrealistic regimen of negotiating with industry
on air and water problems and for letting the oil companies loose
in sensitive areas.

 The Real Choice

 Most citizens know that Mr. Gore wins any comparison with Mr. Bush
on experience and knowledge. Yet many voters seem more comfortable
with Mr. Bush's personality and are tempted to gamble on him. We do
not dismiss this desire for someone who they feel does not talk
down to them and would come to the White House free of any
connection to Mr. Clinton's excesses. But it is important to
remember that the nation's prosperity, its environmental progress
and its guarantees of civil rights and reproductive freedom took
years to build. They could be undone in a flash by a pliable and
inexperienced president driven by a highly ideological Congress.

 Mr. Gore does have a tendency to be patronizing and to exaggerate.
But he has a career of accomplishment that can stand on its own
without exaggeration. Despite his uneven performance in the
debates, the content of his campaign in these final days
demonstrates how much he has grown in the last year. Voting for him
is not a gamble on unknown potential.

 We support Albert Gore Jr. with the firm belief that he will go
just as far in bringing "honor and dignity" back to the White House
as Mr. Bush, and that he will bring an extra measure of talent and
conviction as well. His seriousness of purpose, his commitment to
American leadership in the world and his concern for those less
fortunate in American society convince us that he will lead the
country into a creative, productive and progressive era at the
beginning of the 21st century.

The New York Times on the Web


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