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CAMPAIGN 2000

Gore, Bush Touch Base in the Big Apple

Politics: In their very own political Subway Series in New York, both take part in TV shows. But the campaign attacks go on in other events during the day.

October 20, 2000|MICHAEL FINNEGAN and JAMES GERSTENZANG | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

NEW YORK — In this baseball-crazed city, the Republican and Democratic presidential candidates staged their own Subway Series on Thursday, playing out their politics in TV talk show studios, and, in formal attire, on a shared dais at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel.

Between the two of them, Gov. George W. Bush and Vice President Al Gore taped five television entertainment shows within a matter of hours. Then, in a turn to election-year tradition, they directed jibes at each other, and themselves, at a white-tie dinner that has for decades been a candidate-magnet every four years.

Gore made the economy the centerpiece of his day, presenting the question of how to extend the nation's prosperity as "the big choice" facing voters on Nov. 7.

"We have an obligation to make America work for all the families who work hard every day," he said.

By embarking on a course that Gore says would risk a return to budget deficits, putting off reduction of the government debt and bringing on higher interest rates, "Gov. Bush's plan gambles with our prosperity," the vice president said.

Bush spent the morning in Michigan, where he fought off Gore's attacks on his proposed overhaul of Social Security. He described his plan for the retirement program as part of his "agenda for younger Americans."

Stung by Gore's charge that he would leave Social Security "bankrupt within a generation," the Republican presidential candidate accused Gore of waging what he called an irresponsible "campaign of fear."

Bush told hundreds of supporters in Fraser, a blue-collar suburb of Detroit, that his plan would, in fact, enable "the working class" to join "the investor class."

In New York, Gore spoke at the Low Library at Columbia University. The setting--a chamber of marble columns and stone walls beneath a high, domed ceiling--offered a sense of academic gravitas to his words.

Presenting the decision on election day as "one of the biggest choices America has faced in the last half-century," the vice president said economic prosperity is essential to preserve Social Security, protect the environment, fund domestic programs and give prescription drug coverage to Medicare recipients.

"This is about more than numbers on a spreadsheet," he said to about 300 people, most of them students, who filled the room.

Gore said the election offers a choice between the Bush tax cuts that benefit the wealthiest citizens or his prescription for a balanced budget, lower national debt, middle-class tax cuts and a financial boost for education, Medicare and Social Security.

"We can't do both," the vice president said. "The choice couldn't be clearer: under my plan, zero deficits and a zero national debt within 12 years."

Gore said Bush's economic agenda, built around a $1.3-trillion tax cut, would cause a $1.1-trillion federal budget deficit over 10 years. He said his tax cut plan--valued at $500 billion--would direct specific reductions to middle-income people who pay college tuition or other specific needs.

"I'll be straightforward about this: I am proposing a much smaller tax cut than Gov. Bush," Gore said.

The vice president, with his running mate, Joseph I. Lieberman, and First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton at his side, echoed the message later in a rally with members of the Service Employees International Union.

Bush, speaking Thursday to several hundred people in Fraser, responded to Gore's claim that Social Security would face a $1-trillion shortfall under the Republican plan to allow private investment of some retirement funds.

"My opponent, a man prone to exaggerations at times, seems to be deliberately missing a trillion dollars," said Bush. "Maybe if you've been in Washington too long, you lose your ability to count real money."

Bush said his proposal to let workers put part of their Social Security benefits into private investment accounts would generate $3 trillion by 2016--triple the amount that Gore says the program would drain from the Social Security system.

The Texas governor, who was endorsed Thursday by Los Angeles' moderate Republican Mayor Richard Riordan, said his Democratic rival's "first instinct is to question whether young workers can be trusted to make their own investment decisions."

"This is analog thinking in a digital age, 28K thinking in a broad-band era, an eight-track ideology in an MP-3 world," he said.

Bush delivered his speech to an invited audience on the sprawling factory floor at Visioneering Inc., an aerospace and auto parts manufacturer.

The setting of a Michigan factory was a familiar one for Bush. As he and Gore battle over the swing state's 18 electoral votes, each is seeking support in towns such as Macomb County's Fraser, home to Democrats who shifted Republican to support Ronald Reagan in 1980 and 1984.

On Wednesday, Gore campaigned in Flint, an hour's drive away.

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