Gore, Bradley clash on campaign finance, gays in the military
January 5, 2000
Web posted at: 9:56 p.m. EST (0256 GMT)
DURHAM, New Hampshire (CNN) -- Vice President Al Gore and
former New Jersey Sen. Bill Bradley opened a whirlwind week-
and-a-half of presidential debates Wednesday night in the
university town of Durham, New Hampshire, where for an hour
the two challenged each other over campaign finance, gays in
the military, and the notions of political leadership and
Bradley and Gore met at the University of New Hampshire in the state that will hold the first primary of the campaign on February 1
Gore and Bradley ascended the stage of the University of New
Hampshire's Johnson Theater, and with little in the way of
formality immediately began their bout with a discussion of
President Bill Clinton's conduct through the entirety of the
Monica Lewinsky scandal. The focus of their answers to the
Clinton question -- which was posed by a reporter from New
Hampshire's staunchly conservative Union Leader newspaper --
focused on the qualities of leadership.
The notion of leadership became a recurring theme as the
"Anytime the president lies, he undermines his authority and
squanders the public's trust," Bradley said, adding that he
believed Gore, in his role as vice president, likely had no
choice but to stand behind Clinton.
"The vice president was the vice president," Bradley said.
"He was not critical of the president."
Gore said that though the president's actions were
indefensible, he needed to act to defend the "office of the
president" from "partisan Republicans" bent on a "thoroughly
disproportionate penalty" for Clinton's actions.
Bradley and Gore clashed repeatedly on the differences
between leadership and experience, with each acknowledging
that their multiple years in government, including
overlapping terms in the Senate, amounted to significant
Nonetheless, Bradley slammed Gore for his ability to lead,
saying Gore's proposed social agenda would do little for the
working poor, who he said are not benefiting from record
prosperity during the Clinton-Gore administration.
"The challenge of this time is to take our unprecedented
prosperity and turn it to the benefit of those left behind,"
Bradley said. "That's what (kind) of leadership is required
in this country."
But Gore countered Bradley's attempts to take the high road
on social issues a number of times throughout the evening,
saying Bradley's massive social aid agenda, which includes a
proposal to re-write the federal Medicare and Medicaid
insurance systems, was faulty.
"(Bradley's) plans do not save a penny for Medicare, and do
not include comprehensive education reform," the vice
Bradley accused Gore of repeatedly misrepresenting his plans
to overhaul Medicare and Medicaid, alleging that Gore had
purposefully miscast his health insurance proposals by trying
to frighten minorities.
"You have said that I am going to destroy Medicaid without
saying what I plan to replace it with. (Your assertions) that
my plan would hurt African Americans and Latinos have
offended me," Bradley said, confronting the vice president.
Medicaid is the federal health insurance system that provides
treatment coverage for those with little or no regular
"I am going to replace Medicaid with something better,"
Bradley continued. "Some 40 percent of minorities do not have
coverage (under Medicaid). They would be covered."
Gore stood by his long-standing criticism of the Bradley
health plan, asserting he believes it is too big and unwieldy
to adequately cover the full spectrum of the population. He
coined a Harry Truman witticism to make his point.
"I'm not giving him hell," the vice president said. "I'm
telling the truth, and he thinks its hell."
Gore also took the initiative on the issue of campaign
finance, which Bradley has called his own since a joint
appearance with GOP presidential candidate Sen. John McCain
of Arizona in December.
Gore said he supports full public financing of political
campaigns and an elimination of "soft money" political
contributions, and he challenged Bradley to drop the 30-
second television spots he has been running in New Hampshire.
"I think we should eliminate the dollars that go to
television ads and debate twice a week," Gore said, adding
that he would be willing to drop TV ads in New Hampshire,
where Bradley leads Gore in most polls of potential
"Polls in New Hampshire show that you are ahead," Gore said
directly to Bradley. "I am asking the people of New Hampshire
to give me a come-from-behind, upset victory here."
Bradley scoffed at the proposal, saying that though he
champions a full-scale reform of the campaign finance system,
television ads will be key to his success nationwide, because
he is not as well-known as the vice president.
"If you want to get into people's living rooms, you have to
get into their living rooms," Bradley argued, before saying
to Gore, "Your come-from-behind underdog speech brings tears
to my eyes."
Gore responded, "I hope my come-from-behind underdog victory
brings tears to your eyes."
On the issue of whether gays who serve in the military should
be accorded the opportunity to disclose their sexuality free
of scrutiny or consequence, Gore said he was not in favor of
the Clinton administration's "don't ask, don't tell" policy,
and anyone he appointed to the Joint Chiefs of Staff would be
required to support a policy similar to Truman's moves to
integrate the military after World War II.
"I would insist that any individual I appoint support my
policy," he said.
Bradley said he would move toward placing gays in the
military, but he would not necessarily expect anyone on the
Joint Chiefs to question his leadership. He would only expect
his orders to be carried out.
"When you're president, you're commander-in-chief. You issue
orders. And soldiers are good soldiers, and they follow those
Pundits, journalists and scores of Democratic Party
operatives flooded into Durham on Wednesday for this first
presidential debate of the year 2000.
The debate launches a series of candidate forums in the
course of the next few days. A Republican debate is set for
Durham Thursday evening, followed by another GOP debate in
Columbia, South Carolina, on Friday; a Democratic debate
Saturday in Johnston, Iowa; and a New Hampshire Republican
Party "Salute to the Next President" dinner Sunday, to be
attended by all six Republican hopefuls.
Gore, bolstered by the endorsement of influential
Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Edward Kennedy earlier in the
day, spent much of Monday readying himself for an expected
intense exchange with Bradley, who has steadily gained
formidable support among New Hampshire Democrats the last two
Bradley spent the early portion of the day granting radio
interviews in the Boston area and appearing with his wife
Ernestine at a health clinic. Later in the day, the couple
appeared at a women's rally, where they touted the
endorsement of the former senator by a number of abortion-
The Wednesday debate was the fourth for Gore and Bradley in
the 2000 election season. The event was sponsored by New
Hampshire Public Television, the New England Cable Network,
and the Union Leader. It was moderated by ABC News anchor
Peter Jennings, and questions were posed by a panel of three
New Hampshire journalists.
The Union Leader reported Wednesday a sudden surge of media
interest in the Wednesday debate. Some 280 news organizations
were sending reporters to the event, surprising the debate's
organizers, the newspaper said.
Press contributed to this report, which was written by
Ian Christopher McCaleb.