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CAMPAIGN 2000

Bush Challenges Gore to Publicly Condemn Clinton for Past Behavior

Campaign: GOP candidate tries to taint vice president by association. Democrats hope choice of Lieberman as running mate will help his image.

August 12, 2000|DANA CALVO | TIMES STAFF WRITER

PORTLAND, Ore. — Even as he insisted his campaign was about the future and not the past, George W. Bush baited Al Gore on Friday to forcefully and publicly condemn President Clinton's behavior in office.

"You're either part of an administration, or you're not part of an administration," Bush told reporters aboard his campaign plane Friday. "If Al Gore has differences with the president he ought to say loud and clear what they are."

Friday's comments were the latest attempt by the Republican campaign to taint the vice president with some of the moral outrage that followed Clinton's affair with Monica S. Lewinsky, the former White House intern.

Gore aides hope the issue will be put to rest with the vice presidential nomination of Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (D-Conn.), who was Clinton's earliest Democratic critic, and with further public contrition by the president.

Clinton told ministers at a National Leadership summit outside Chicago on Thursday, "Surely, no fair-minded person would blame him for the mistakes I've made."

Gore, campaigning in Michigan Friday, said he "appreciated what the president has said," adding that, "he has said it before." He also repeated his point that the election is about the future, not the past.

Bush, however, seized on Gore's claim that his campaign "promised a fresh start." He pointed to a newspaper headline that carried the phrase from the vice president Friday and reminded reporters that he used the same words earlier in his own campaign.

"Unbelievable, isn't it?" Bush asked as aides waived a book published by the GOP campaign titled "A Fresh Start for America."

Bush also took aim at the spin surrounding Gore's choice of Lieberman for vice president. "Someone last week asked me, 'Did the vice president pick inoculate Al Gore?' The one question is, inoculate from what?" Bush said. "There is no question the president embarrassed the nation."

Gore has already expressed his disapproval of Clinton's liaison with Lewinsky. Some of the vice president's most unambiguous statements about the affair came at a town hall forum at Dartmouth College last October.

"I understand the disappointment and anger that you feel toward President Clinton, and I felt it myself," Gore said.

Bush backed down Friday when he was asked directly whether Gore could uphold the dignity and honor of the White House.

"I think he can," Bush said, standing next to Sen. John McCain of Arizona, Bush's former rival for the GOP nomination.

A few hours later, McCain introduced Bush to a crowd at the University of Portland as "the man who will restore dignity, honor and respect to the White House in the United States of America."

Colleen Filippello, 28, stood in the bleachers of the gym, holding her 14-week-old son, Anthony, and a sign that read: "We want you to be a president he can look up to."

In addition to McCain and Bush, the crowd listened to Enedilia Hernandez-Schofield, the principal of Echo Shaw Elementary School for the last seven years. Hernandez-Schofield, the son of migrant workers who drove a school bus to help pay her way through college, spoke in Spanish and then English.

For the last six years, test scores at the school where 70% of the children are Latino have increased.

Recent polls in Oregon and Washington have indicated the race is closer than expected in this traditionally Democratic stronghold. But on the route to the event there were also signs of disdain for the Texas governor. One man gave a thumbs down to Bush as he drove by. A woman several miles down the road held a sign that said: "W. I didn't vote for your father either." And a banner posted on a corner asked: "Presidency for sale?"

Republicans have lost both Oregon and Washington state in the last two presidential elections. Still, Friday marked the third time Bush campaigned in Oregon and the fifth time he campaigned in Washington.

"These are states that Gov. Bush has a chance to carry," said Karen Hughes, his communications director.

Bush planned to raise $300,000 Friday evening at the home of telecommunications moguls Christian Siefert and his wife, Linda Nordstrom, whose family founded their namesake department store chain.

After two events in Washington, the next stop is McCain's ranch in Sedona, Ariz. Bush said "Chef Boyardee McCain" had promised chicken and ribs.

Next week Bush and his wife, Laura, will hunker down at their ranch in Crawford, Texas, while the Democrats hold their convention in Los Angeles. Asked if he would be watching the convention on television, Bush replied: "I don't have cable. I'm a fiscal conservative."

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