How Much Chutzpah Do They Have?
This year he pushed a major reform that combined most of Gore's
spending proposals with stronger accountability measures. He has
supported some voucher plans, saying they offer "hope to a whole
new group of low-income kids."
He considered privatization a way to shore up the system's
finances, but recently dumped the idea, saying it would "savage"
the program. He supports Gore's plan, but he also wants to look
at raising the eligibility age and the payroll tax, and adjusting
the cost of living index.
He has regularly voted to limit civil damages, saying the system
has "become a lottery in which literally a few people do very
well but most...don't really get adequately compensated."
Critics say his stance is a sop to the insurance industry (his
He has teamed up with Bill Bennett to hand out "Silver Sewer"
awards to producers of sexually explicit and violent films,
music, TV and video games. He co-authored the law on the V chip,
which lets parents filter what their children watch.
Like Gore, he has consistently supported free trade, angering
unions. But also like Gore, he has pushed for increases in the
minimum wage, prohibitions against hiring permanent replacements
for striking workers and lengthier unemployment benefits.
He slammed Clinton and Gore for their White House coffees and
"the fund-raising madness of the 1996 election." Both parties,
he said, "hung a giant FOR SALE sign on our government." Some
Democrats who agreed with his support for reform wished he
weren't so blunt.
Teachers' unions love Gore's plan: $115 billion over 10 years
for teacher training, universal preschool and smaller classes.
He backs tougher standards but is fuzzy on what happens to
failing schools. He calls vouchers a "big and historic mistake."
Calling Bush's privatization plan "risky," he says he will shore
up the program by using the surplus and paying down the debt
(which could save $200 billion a year in interest). Like Bush,
he has a private savings plan, but his is paid for out of
Trial lawyers (big donors to the Democrats) give Gore a perfect
score: he has opposed nearly every attempt to limit punitive
damages. "Gore has always--and I mean always--been a friend to
trial lawyers," says the v.p. of the Trial Lawyers of America.
In the 1980s he and Tipper were criticized by Hollywood--a big
source of party money--for their fight against obscene lyrics. In
1987 the couple expressed "regret" about their crusade, promising
that their zeal would never amount to censorship.
By pushing for free trade, he has brought business support to
his party. He bucked labor to push for NAFTA and China's
entrance into the wto but now assures unions that labor and
environmental standards will be part of all future treaties.
He says he brings "the passion that comes from personal
experience" to the battle for reform, promising that the first
bill he will sign into law will be a ban on soft money. He wants
to create a "Democracy Endowment" to help pay the costs of
--By Andrew Goldstein