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Special Event

Gore Makes Campaign Stop in Texas

Aired July 20, 2000 - 1:49 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: We want to take you now live to San Antonio, Texas, Vie President Al Gore campaigning on George W. Bush's home turf today. He us expected to accuse his rival of mismanaging the Texas economy, giving a too big tax cut and hampering health programs in a state where one million kids are now insured.

The vice president is joined by families and health care workers. So we'll listen in for a few moments.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

VICE PRES. AL GORE (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: ... and yet they were working just as hard, 8-10 years ago, with less to show for it. And the difference is we now have policies that are unleashing the potential of the American people and the new economy.

Now, here in Texas, it seems to me that the state government here under Governor Bush has it half right. The people of Texas, as anybody who's been here knows, work just as hard or harder than anybody else. But the question is, is the Bush government here working just as hard for them and helping to ensure that they succeed?

I believe that it's important to fight for people and not the powerful. And one of the most important questions that our nation is going to be deciding this year has to do with our priorities: What are we going to focus on? How are we going to use these unprecedented surpluses?

Well, you know, I understand that Governor Bush is a popular and well-liked governor here, and I want to give him some credit on that score. I think he has a warm and engaging personality, but you know the presidency is more than just a popularity contest. It involves whether or not you're willing to fight for what's right, whether or not you're willing to spend some popularity to do difficult, hard things, and that's where you get to priorities.

Now, faced with a budget surplus nationally, I've been proposing health care for every child, cleaning up the environment, improving the quality of life for all Americans and targeted tax cuts. Here in Texas, faced with the largest surplus ever, courtesy, I would argue, in part at least of the national economic boom that produced surpluses in most states, Government Bush choose a different set of priorities.

Instead of addressing some serious problems that we're going to hear about here today, involving families with children who don't have health insurance, instead, the governor has made his top priority, the first bill he signed, a large tax cut for special interests.

Now, this is a wonderful state, but I think it should be -- and I think most people agree, it should be a state where it's just as easy to raise a child as it is to set up an oil rig. But here are the facts: Texas now ranks number one in industrial pollution, it's number two for child poverty, it's number three for deaths from asthma, it's number two for children living in poverty. And when you look at the issue of health care, Texas is number one for families that do not have health insurance, number two for children without health insurance, number 50 for women with health insurance.

So what would it take to solve that? If you really wanted to address that problem, one way to do it would have been to take the large surplus last year and address the problem, and these representatives who are with me attempted to do that.

Now, at the national level we've attempted to do that. President Clinton and I advocated and passed a few years ago the so-called Child Health Insurance Program, which makes it possible for families that are low-income and low-middle-income to sign up their children for health insurance, if the states allow it.

Now, the facts will show, the record will reflect, that Governor Bush fought against the expansion of that program here in Texas, and when it was passed over his objections he supposedly said to one of the sponsors that they had forced it upon him.

But then there was a long delay before the state applied for the funding. And then, worse than that, Texas became one of the two or three worst states for creating obstacles to sign people up.

Now, here's the -- here are the facts. If a state finds ways to discourage families from signing up for Medicaid or for the CHIP program that's part of Medicaid, then the state saves money in its budget. If they erect all kinds of barriers and obstacles, and families get the notion that they really shouldn't try to participate in it, the state can use that money for other things, like a tax break for the oil companies and other special interests.

Now, the fact is Texas requires, under Governor Bush, a face-to- face interview before children who are eligible for this health insurance can get it. And these families have been made to believe that they have got to go back for another face-to-face interview every six months, and in some cases, every three months. I was just learning about that for the first time here. The paperwork is very difficult. Families that are working have to take many hours off from work, almost always during a workday. The documentation is extensive. And as a result, there are 600,000 children in Texas eligible for health insurance who don't have it. They could be signed up.

Now, since this election nationally is about priorities, I want you to know that I've proposed a plan to ensure that every child has health insurance. And part of my plan is to deal with these kinds of barriers that Texas and a handful of other states have erected, to stop that kind of practice that prevents children that clearly need health care from getting health care.

Now, here's the other thing: By making his top priority a $1.7 billion tax cut for special and powerful interests, the governor evidently did not heed a warning that came early on that there were going to be increased expenditures needed for Medicaid. And now the largest surplus in Texas state history a year ago has become a shortfall. And the shortfall is particularly to be found in the area of health care and also the justice system.

Now you're seeing the internal memoranda coming out. You're seeing a rush by the governor's political allies to try to put a gloss on it. And the governor told one of the newspapers represented here last week that he hopes not to be around to have to deal with it next year.

ALLEN: Vice President Al Gore going after George Bush's policies there in his state. As governor, the vice president saying that George Bush's tax cuts have been too big and have hampered the state's children who don't have health care. Gore pointed out that Texas is number one in industrial pollution; number two in child poverty; and number one for families with no health insurance.

He did give Mr. Bush some credit, saying the governor is a popular governor, but he said, and we quote, "it's important to fight for people and not the powerful."

Let's bring in senior political analyst Bill Schneider from Washington to talk about this approach of going after the governor on his home turf. How did Al Gore sound to you?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, he was making a very powerful case because he -- Gore insisted that this election is about priorities, and his argument is that because Governor Bush in Texas gave priority to a tax cut, quote, "for the wealthy and the special interests," Gore said, there was a shortfall in omney for the poor who depend on Medicaid funds.

Now, at the federal level, there is a huge surplus, and probably enough money to do everything. But what Gore is saying is, to elect Bush would be risky and dangerous because he hasn't got his priorities straight, and look at his record in Texas. If he has to make a choice, he is going to put tax cuts first, and that could endanger the surplus.

ALLEN: Even without Gore, Bush has come under fire for the budget problems in his state. How, Bill, does an issue like in the state of Texas register to voters nationwide.

SCHNEIDER: Well, it varies. We have seen this happen a couple of times. One time it worked, in 1988, when Governor Bush's father ran against Michael Dukakis' record in Massachusetts. You remember that Michael Dukakis was running on the "Massachusetts miracle" in that election, and Governor Bush went there, exposed the pollution in Boston Harbor, talked about the various problems they were having in Massachusetts, and exposed Michael Dukakis as not entirely effective as a governor. It worked in that year. But in 1992, President Bush tried to do the same thing against a governor of Arkansas named Bill Clinton, and said he will do for America what he did for Arkansas, and portraying Arkansas as a horror show, and it didn't work in 1992, in large part because he wasn't able to tie Bill Clinton's policies to the various problems they were having in Arkansas.

ALLEN: And how should George W. now respond to Gore's trip to his state?

SCHNEIDER: Well, first and foremost, he should not make the mistake Michael Dukakis did, which was largely to shrug off the attacks. Michael Dukakis thought they were ridiculous, said that the economy speaks for itself, and he didn't really -- he wasn't very aggressive in fighting back. Governor Bush has indicated he's going to get tough, he is going to defend his record, he is going to defend his honor, and he is going to fight back. So that's one important step.

But I do think he has to make some sort of explanation. he said that the vice president doesn't understand the budget process in Texas, and I would like to hear the explanation from Governor Bush exactly how and why this happened.

ALLEN: We will definitely bring that to the viewers and to you when we hear from the governor. Bill Schneider, as always, thank you.

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