Republicans clash in final debate
January 27, 2000 -- As the Democratic candidates close in on the
pivotal New Hampshire primary, campaigning turned clashing, as former
Sen. Bill Bradley accused Vice President Gore of dishonesty and
flip-flops on abortion.
The statements came during Wednesday evening's final debate before
the primary in Manchester. Gore countered the charges by saying
Bradley has resorted to negative campaigning -- and is now dragging
the race through the mud.
"All I can say is it's politics as usual," Bradley said
of Gore. "It's 1,000 promises and 1,000 attacks. A promise
to every special interest group and attack, attack attack."
Gore responded: "Look, Bill, we've had some heated disagreements
in this campaign but let's keep it to the substance of the issues.
I haven't accused you of lying. The people out there are tired of
But Bradley insisted that the attacks weren't personal, and accused
Gore again of knowingly distorting his record. Gore -- who realized
the statement raised questions about his character -- responded
that Bradley is the one on the attack.
"Why should we believe you will tell then truth as president
if you won't tell the truth as a candidate?" Bradley said.
Gore labeled that another "negative personal attack" and
noted that Bradley has pledged to conduct a clean campaign.
"So if you're going to talk about a higher standard, you're
going to have to live by them," said Gore.
"I think we need a fresh start in Washington," Bradley
Aides have signaled that Bradley would be much more aggressive
in the final days of the campaign in New Hampshire, and his tone
in the debate may be a reflection of that shift.
Political analysts said Bradley was hurt in the Iowa caucuses because
he had not responded quickly enough to Gore's charges.
Both men return to the campaign trail today for the final sprint
to the Feb. 1 primary next week, although Gore was cutting his day
short to return to Washington to be present at President Clinton's
final State of the Union address tonight.
On the Republican side, debate once again turned to the two issues
that have so far most strongly defined the party's campaign -- taxes
Texas Gov. George W. Bush and Arizona Sen. John McCain cautiously
addressed questions about their pro-life positions. Bush said the
party "must be big enough to welcome" various views on
this issue and others -- a move seen as trying to attract the state's
The Arizona senator steered clear of remarks earlier in the day
suggesting he might allow his daughter to decide whether she would
end a pregnancy.
Former ambassador Alan Keyes, who placed third in the Iowa caucuses,
forced the issue early in the debate.
"How can you take the position that you would subject such
a choice to a family conference or any other human choice?"
Keyes asked McCain. "Isn't it God's choice that protects the
life of that child in the womb."
McCain declined to answer, saying, "I will not draw my children
into this discussion," adding he is the only candidate with
a 17-year congressional record of voting against abortion. McCain
has favored exceptions for abortion in cases of rape, incest or
when the mother's life is endangered.
A half-hour later, he returned to the issue and Keyes.
"You know, Mr. Keyes, you attacked me earlier on ... my position
on defending the rights of the unborn. I want to tell you something,"
said McCain, a decorated Vietnam War veteran and former prisoner
of war. "I've seen enough killing in my life. I know how precious
human life is. And I don't need a lecture from you."
Former Reagan administration official Gary Bauer challenged Governor
Bush to pledge to nominate only opponents of abortion to federal
Although Bush says he is strongly pro-life, he reiterated that
he will nominate judges who "strictly interpret" the Constitution,
a stand similar to the one former President Ronald Reagan made while
campaigning in 1980.
Publisher Steve Forbes, bolstered by his strong second-place finish
in Iowa, also challenged Bush by questioning the governor's record
Forbes cited a series of what he said were shortcomings in tax
cuts, education and the size of government.
"So many half stories, so little time," Bush replied.
Forbes later complained to reporters that Bush and McCain got far
more time to speak, while he, Bauer and Keyes were "treated
like potted plants. That's not fair."