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How Much Chutzpah Do They Have?

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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 biggest donor).

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 general revenues.

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 campaigns.

--By Andrew Goldstein


Cover Date: August 21, 2000



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