NHPrimary.com: Gore, Bradley campaigns say opponents trying to distort messages
By Kevin Landrigan/The Telegraph of Nashua, New Hampshire
December 7, 1999
Web posted at: 11:10 a.m. EST (1610 GMT)
NASHUA, New Hampshire (The Telegraph of Nashua) -- The rival Democratic presidential primary campaigns accused the other of threatening to completely wipe out the federal budget surplus with the cost of their political promises.
The exchange between spokesmen for Vice President Al Gore and former U.S. Sen. Bill Bradley of New Jersey was one of the sharpest in this race, which remains a toss-up in the first-primary state, based on the latest statewide polls.
The Bradley campaign released its 65-item list of "Al Gore: Promises Without Pricetags" which included the claim that Gore left the cost of a generous new prescription drug benefit for Medicare recipients out of a pie chart that estimates its total new spending.
The Gore campaign claims the cost of Bradley's health care, child poverty and working family programs are $100 billion more than the surplus is expected to be over the next 10 years.
Meanwhile, Bradley accused Gore of lying in concluding that Bradley has signaled an intention to raise taxes to pay for his programs.
"Now in falsely asserting I want to raise taxes, Al Gore is once again turning an honest discussion about a future no one can predict into a proposal I've never made," Bradley said in a statement issued by his campaign.
"Al Gore needs to respect voters enough to be honest not just about his plans but mine. Honesty and trust is what they would like to have in a candidate and what they expect and deserve to have in a candidate."
But Gore press secretary Doug Hattaway claimed Bradley and top aides left the impression in a Washington Post article Monday that he would be willing to raise taxes if need be to pay for his more expensive and more ambitious plan to expand health-care coverage.
"The cost of his (Bradley's) proposal almost forces that kind of tax increase if we are going to make the investment also to preserve Medicare and Social Security," Hattaway said.
"Al Gore has ruled out raising taxes barring some drastic turnaround in the economy. There's a very clear difference between the two."
Bradley New Hampshire spokesman Moe Elleithee disagreed.
"The bottom line is Bill Bradley has never proposed a tax increase to pay for his health plan," he said.
"Al Gore is deliberately distorting the truth."
On Monday, The Post quoted Bradley as leaving open the door to raising taxes if that was needed to pass his health care program.
Bradley's plan would fund free health care for children whose parents could not afford it and would provide subsidies to help working adults obtain coverage. He estimates the cost at $55 billion to $65 billion a year, which he acknowledges is a "big number."
"It's got to cost if you're going to get it done, and so you put it out there and take your chances," Bradley told the editorial board of The Post last week.
"If you're timid in your candidacy, you're going to be timid in your presidency and that's not why I want to be president."
Gore and his campaign have jumped on these remarks and intend to use them against Bradley when the two have televised debates later this month in New York and Washington, D.C., and next month in New Hampshire.
Gore advisers believe Bradley's remarks will lower his standing among independent male voters who might consider the New Jersey Democrat less electable as a nominee against a GOP opponent, who would use the tax issue as a bludgeon as President Ronald Reagan did against former Vice President Walter Mondale in 1984.
But Bradley reminded Gore that both of them voted for a tax increase in 1993 to stimulate a depressed economy after Bill Clinton had campaigned in New Hampshire for a middle-class tax cut.
"Nobody can predict the future of a trillion dollar economy. That's why the vice president also has not ruled out the possible need for a tax increase. He and I have the same position on future taxes," Bradley said.