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Gore Calls It a GOP 'Masquerade Ball' That Hid a Desire for Days of Old

Campaign: Democrat says the Republicans also replayed the 'politics of personal attacks' and underscored their big business agenda.


CHICAGO — Vice President Al Gore offered a scalding review Friday of the Republican National Convention, calling it a "masquerade ball" that hid the GOP's yearning for "the faded days and the rusted ways of the Old Guard."

Fresh from a weeklong family vacation, Gore waited only a few hours after the lights went out in Philadelphia to offer his harsh critique.

"Behind the masks we found the same politics of personal attacks," Gore said about the four days of Republican festivities. "Behind the balloons and the bunting is a massive budget-busting tax giveaway primarily benefiting the wealthy. . . . Behind the flashing video wall is an agenda of rising gas prices and smog-filled skies that is of Big Oil, by Big Oil and for Big Oil.

"They're for the powerful and we're for the people," he summed up, repeating the line as if he were road-testing it for the fall.

First Major Labor Group to Back Gore

The vice president delivered his remarks before an audience of 2,500 foot-stomping members of the International Assn. of Fire Fighters, meeting in Chicago for its biennial convention. In January 1999, the association became the first major labor organization to endorse Gore.

The vice president used his 25-minute Chicago appearance to unveil a retooled stump speech, blending biography and populist appeals, and to preview his own convention, which starts in just over a week. Gore said he intends to celebrate "eight great years of prosperity and progress" when Democrats gather in Los Angeles.

"I'll be talking about the new heights Americans can reach if we stay on the right track and make the right choices," he said. Not once, however, did Gore mention President Clinton, who was the subject of repeated attacks in Philadelphia.

The next two weeks loom as a vital period for Gore because Bush, who already leads in many national polls, has leaped even further ahead as the result of the traditional post-convention "bounce."

Over the next few days, as the result of a calculated strategy, attention is likely to shift away from the GOP nominee and focus instead on Gore, who plans to reveal his running mate Tuesday.

"I know we're starting out behind," Gore told the firefighters. "I know it's going to be a tough fight--with powerful forces lined up against us. . . . But you deserve a president who will take on the toughest odds and battle the big interests."

Appearance Seemed to Energize Candidate

The rousing reception seemed to energize Gore and his wife, Tipper, back campaigning after their stay at an exclusive island off North Carolina. During his time off, Gore relaxed, nursed an aching lower back, worked on his convention acceptance speech and continued mulling his selection of a running mate.

The vice president disclosed this week that he has narrowed his list of prospects to six finalists, although Gore told reporters aboard Air Force Two on Friday morning that he could still turn to "an out-of-the-box possibility."

As the Los Angeles convention nears, with its expected emphasis on Gore's biography, the vice president began anew efforts to make his personal story better known to Americans, whose rough knowledge of Gore largely consists of seeing him stand silently by Clinton's side.

At one point, in a veiled contrast to Bush and running mate Dick Cheney, Gore noted pointedly: "I volunteered and enlisted [during the Vietnam War] because I loved my country." Bush served in the Texas Air National Guard and Cheney has no military service.

Referring to the just-ended GOP convention, Gore noted that Cheney's acceptance speech repeated the Democratic campaign cry of eight years ago--that "it's time for them to go."

"That was a familiar line, wasn't it?" Gore asked, chuckling.

"Well, let me tell you what time it's not. . . . It's not time to give in to the big drug companies. . . . It's not recession time in America--like it was back in 1992. It's not time to move backward. It's time to move America forward. It's time for all of our people to keep moving toward more prosperity and progress."

Gore Talks Up Accomplishments

Gore also vigorously touted the Clinton administration's various accomplishments, especially in reviving the economy, noting that 22 million jobs have been created in what is now the strongest economy in history.

Then the vice president enumerated his own issues. Among them are a balanced budget each year; continued debt-reduction; adding prescription drug coverage for Medicare recipients; a broad patients' bill of rights; a step-by-step program toward universal health insurance coverage, starting with children; universal preschool; increasing the minimum wage by $1 per hour and pay equity for women.

"You ain't seen nothing yet," Gore said, ending with his signature tag line.

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