|NEW HAMPSHIRE DEBATES|
January 27, 2000
QUESTIONER: The first question goes to Mr. Gore. When it comes to electoral politics, your critics, including some Democrats, say that you will do almost anything to win, including reinventing yourself, using consultants no matter what their reputation, and running not just a tough but a mean-spirited campaign. Newspaper editorials here in New Hampshire and around the country accuse you of distorting Mr. Bradley's record. Is this really necessary to win your party's nomination?
AL GORE: I have never run a negative personal attack against my opponent, and I never will. I have never even mentioned his name or shown a picture in an advertisement, and I have no plans to. It's not a negative attack to defend Medicaid when Senator Bradley proposes to substitute vouchers, or subsidies as he prefers to call them, limited to $150 per month per person. It is not anything but an exercise in democracy to defend Medicare and say what all the independent analysts have said, that because the baby boom generation is about to retire, doubling the population of Medicare recipients, we need to start putting money into the trust fund.
QUESTIONER: Thank you very much. The next question goes to Senator Bradley. A lot of observers have said basically both of you are so similar on policies-- you may not agree with this, but observers say this-- that you're so similar on policies that the real question here is who has the personality and the temperament to be the next President. With that in mind, Senator Bradley, will you please outline for me your worst behavior on the basketball court?
BILL BRADLEY: This is a very personal question. (Laughter) My worst behavior on the basketball court, I...occasionally was holding John Havlicek when I played the Boston Celtics. You know, there's a competition going on, there are elbows thrown. Occasionally, blows are thrown; that's part of the game. So if you're asking me about that, I think that's what I would say. Politics is different. Politics should be something that's higher. Politics should be something that elevates us, it should not be something that drags us down. I'm trying to get beyond politics as usual to a kind of politics that allows Americans to realize that they're part of shaping our collective futures.
QUESTIONER: Mr. Gore, if you would like to pose a question to Senator Bradley...
AL GORE: I have asked you this before, but I have looked at the record and I found that the '81 budget cuts that Ronald Reagan proposed resulted in an increase of one million children losing health care under Medicaid, and one and a half million children living in poverty. Why did you support those Reagan budget cuts?
BILL BRADLEY: Well, first let me say that during the Reagan era I was the point man in the Democratic Party against the Reagan efforts, and my job was to try to diminish the effect of those budget cuts. We succeeded in doing that. Ultimately, I voted for the Reagan budget, but the fact is if people had voted as I did for the Reagan budget and against the tax cuts, there would not have been the deficits of the 1980's.
AL GORE: I just don't see how you can vote for Ronald Reagan's budget cuts and then try to campaign like Robert Kennedy.
BILL BRADLEY: Well, let me just say when Al accuses me of negative campaigning, that reminds me of the story about Richard Nixon that said Richard Nixon is the kind of politician who would chop down a tree and then stand on the stump and give a speech about conservation. It just won't fly.
QUESTIONER: Mr. Bradley, your turn to pose a question to Vice President Gore.
BILL BRADLEY: Al, Hillary Clinton said the other day that consistency on fundamental issues of principle is important. She went on to express how she and Rudy Giuliani have the same position on choice now, but that he had changed his position to arrive there and she had always been there. My question to you is do you think she's wrong?
AL GORE: I have always supported Roe V. Wade. I have always supported a woman's right to choose. And let me say that if you entrust me with the presidency, I will guarantee that a woman's right to choose is protected.
BILL BRADLEY: Well, you still didn't answer the question whether consistency on formal issues of principle is relevant; I think they are. And I can understand why you wouldn't answer the question, because when you were in the Congress, you had an 84% right- to-life voting record. People can evolve, but your campaign shouldn't go around saying that you have always been for a woman's right to choose, because the record shows you have not.
QUESTIONER: All right. Let's go on... Let's go on to the next group. Mr. Gore, you have a question for Mr. Bradley.
AL GORE: Don't I have a... don't I have a...
QUESTIONER: I'm sorry, you do get a chance to respond.
AL GORE: Yes, I thought that I did. Thank you, Tom. I have always supported a woman's right to choose, and I...
BILL BRADLEY: That's not true, Vice President Gore.
AL GORE: ...I have always supported roe V. Wade and a woman's right to choose, and the...
BILL BRADLEY: Al, that's not true.
AL GORE: ...If I could finish? I haven't interrupted you, bill. The exceptions to the general rule that Medicaid should provide funding for abortions constituted virtually the only votes in the House of Representatives during those years, and I've told you that I wrestled with that. But if you want to know what my position is, you can hear me right now, and not just here but in every speech that I have made. I support a woman's right to choose.
QUESTIONER: All right. If you could ask a question now of Senator Bradley, Mr. Gore...
AL GORE: Yes. On the question of welfare reform, I believe that it has been an important achievement. In fact, we have moved seven million people from welfare to work, cutting the rolls in half. You voted against it in the United States Senate, and I'm wondering why.
BILL BRADLEY: I voted against it because I didn't think it was in the best interest of the country. And I am wondering why you think it's working so well when, because of welfare reform, there are one million children in this country today who don't have health insurance, who have lost their health insurance because of welfare reform. I also think that although the welfare rolls have dropped, that people in deep poverty have increased.
QUESTIONER: Mr. Bradley, a question for Mr. Gore.
BILL BRADLEY: Al, you've made a proposal that we take 30-second ads off the air, and you know, that translation is, you're well- known, I'm not. You take them off, you win. And I look at that, and I say I understand why you did it. But the real problem is negative ads, not 30-second ads. And the AP ad watch calls one of your ads unfair and misleading. And my question to you is why should we believe that you will tell the truth as President, if you don't tell the truth as a candidate?
AL GORE: That's not a negative attack? Let me say in response, Bill, first of all, I have proposed that we debate twice a week and take all of the 30-second, 60- second TV and radio ads off the air. Now, as for criticism of negative campaigning, one newspaper recently called your attacks muddying your image. You had... You were forced to apologize for a negative personal attack. You introduced Willie Horton into this campaign.
BILL BRADLEY: If you talk about a flier that was immediately repudiated that went to a couple of hundred people versus an advertisement on television, that's like comparing a gnat to an elephant. You're the elephant of negative advertising here.
AL GORE: Let's be honest here, Bill. What you're uncomfortable about is that when you put out your health care plan and you realized that nobody in New Hampshire or Iowa can take advantage of it...
BILL BRADLEY: That's not correct. That's not correct.
AL GORE: ...And you realized that more than half of all the seniors get not a penny from your prescription drug benefit, you realized you made a mistake. But instead of correcting the plan, you decided to shoot at the messenger that pointed out what's wrong with the plan.
BILL BRADLEY: Both of those are incorrect. You have said you want universal health insurance, but you have no way of getting there. And so instead of facing up to that fact and admitting to people that you have no way to get to universal health insurance, you decide to pick this number or that number out of our proposal, when in fact the proposal will cover people in this country.
QUESTIONER: And with that, our time is up. We do want to thank Vice President Gore, Senator Bradley, both of you for being with us. And to all of our viewers here in New Hampshire and across the country, thank you.
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