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CAMPAIGN 2000

Gore Touts Foreign Policy Experience

Politics: Vice president outlines an agenda that focuses on issues 'before they become crises.'

May 01, 2000|EDWIN CHEN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

BOSTON — Vice President Al Gore called Sunday for "a new security agenda" that anticipates problems around the world before they become crises and said Texas Gov. George W. Bush lacks the international experience to serve as commander in chief.

In a blistering attack on the presumptive Republican presidential nominee's credentials, Gore said "gaps in Gov. Bush's foreign policy views and experience" could leave him beholden to a dangerously isolationist wing of the GOP.

"I believe America can do better--for our own national security, and for the ideals we must model to the world," Gore said in a major address here before the International Press Institute. "We need a new generation of thinking."

Drawing Comparisons With George W. Bush

Foreign policy is considered one of Gore's fortes, and it was a key factor in his selection as Bill Clinton's running mate in 1992.

Now the presumptive Democratic standard-bearer hopes voters will contrast his experience in arms control and global affairs with that of a two-term governor with little hands-on experience in such issues.

As if to drive home that point, Gore mentioned the Vietnam War--which ended 25 years ago Sunday--and noted it was "a conflict I witnessed with my own eyes" as an Army journalist. Bush was a pilot in the Texas Air National Guard, but did not serve in Vietnam.

Gore's speech to a convention of international journalists was one in an ongoing series in which he has sought to contrast his views with Bush's.

In a wide-ranging speech, Gore laid out broad principles of an activist agenda based on a strong national defense and diplomatic initiatives.

The vice president's remarks seemed designed to confront, at least in part, years of Republican criticism that the Clinton-Gore foreign policy lacks a cohesive strategy, forcing America to lurch from one crisis to another.

In striking back, Gore asserted that Bush is "stuck in a Cold War mind-set" and is blithely unaware of new global realities that are far more complex than the "classic security agenda--the question of war and peace among sovereign states."

"From what we can tell of his foreign policy, Gov. Bush does not prepare us to meet the grand challenges of both the classic and new security agendas," Gore said.

The Bush campaign, responding to Gore's remarks, disputed several of his characterizations of Bush's positions or statements, and said the vice president's address "underscores why Al Gore has a problem with credibility."

"Instead of offering a strategic vision for America's role in the world in his speech today, Al Gore offered yet another series of strange and unfounded attacks on Gov. Bush's foreign policy agenda," the Bush statement said.

The statement noted that Bush has stated he would pursue a "distinctly American internationalism."

Gore said the underpinning of his "new security agenda" is "forward engagement," which he defined as "addressing problems early in their development before they become crises, addressing them as close to the source of the problem as possible, and having the forces and resources to deal with those threats as soon after their emergence as possible."

Gore took issue with Bush on several points.

He criticized the governor for proposing to "skip" a generation of military weapons while stressing the development of more advanced systems. Such a move, Gore said, could leave U.S. forces unprepared for more immediate exigencies.

"If I am entrusted with the presidency, I will lead the effort to ensure that America has the new generation of weapons we need," he said.

Gore suggested that Bush harbors potentially dangerous and outdated views toward Russia and China, warning that those nations can no longer be regarded as enemies.

"The reality of the global age is that Russia and China are indeed competitors, but also vital partners in our efforts to tackle problems menacing to us all," he said.

Although he believes that engaging Russia "clearly is the right thing to do," Gore said he strongly disagrees with Moscow's policies toward Chechnya.

Similarly, he said, Washington must "build a bridge" to Beijing even while it continues to "prod" China on human rights and religious freedom.

The Bush campaign, in its rebuttal to Gore's remarks, said Bush recently told Russia's foreign minister: "I don't view you as the enemy" and "It's time to define relations." It also quoted Bush as saying he views China as a competitor, but "not a strategic partner."

Gore said he would strengthen and renew "key alliances" around the world. "We must remain open to further enlargement of NATO, we must bolster our trans-Atlantic ties and we must build a strong, stable relationship with the European Union," Gore said.

He said the United States "must encourage Japan . . . to join us in meeting the global responsibility to assure growth, greater trade and higher living standards."

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