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Bush Labels Gore Big Spender After Hearing His Budget Ideas

Campaign: The Democrat would overspend surplus projections by nearly $1 trillion, the Texan says, citing a Republican study of his rival's plan.


INDIANAPOLIS — George W. Bush, the Republican presidential nominee, charged Wednesday that Democratic rival Al Gore has promised nearly $1 trillion worth of programs beyond what he can pay for with the projected federal surplus.

In a day of relentless attacks on the vice president, Bush dismissed an economic plan that Gore announced Wednesday as an emblem of big government "overcharging the working people."

"If I might summarize it for you, it says keep sending all your money to Washington, and I'll be glad to spend it for you," Bush shouted here at an airport rally. "And spend it he can. This man knows how to spend that money."

Bush's effort to raise doubts about Gore's budget plan was part of a broader array of attacks by the Texas governor as he seeks to stop the vice president's rise in the polls.

In a new sign of trouble for Bush, a poll released Wednesday in Missouri, a key competitive state, found that Gore has surged from 11 points behind him in early July to a four-point lead (45% to 41%) among likely voters, which is within the poll's margin of error.

Aside from the economy, Bush also attacked Gore's credibility and the condition of the U.S. military.

Bush Offers Critique for American Legion

At the American Legion's national convention in Milwaukee, Bush blamed Gore and President Clinton for low pay, poor morale, decreased readiness and a host of other problems in the military.

"Let's get something straight--these are not criticisms of the military," Bush said. "They're criticisms of the current commander in chief and the vice president for not providing the necessary leadership."

His attack was sharpened by Alan G. Lance Sr., the American Legion's national commander, who excoriated Gore for not accepting an invitation to speak at the convention.

Gore spokeswoman Kym Spell said the vice president couldn't attend because of the economic policy speech he delivered Wednesday. Another Gore aide also noted that the vice president spoke to the same group twice last year.

But Lance told the 7,000 veterans in legionnaire caps, "In the entire history of the American Legion, this has never happened before."

Gore offered to send someone in his place, but "I believe you deserve better than that," Lance said. "America deserves better than that."

Minutes later, sporting his own legionnaire's cap, Bush appeared on stage and saluted Lance.

"George Bush, Post 77, reporting for duty," said Bush, who served as a pilot in the Texas Air National Guard during the Vietnam War.

He turned to the crowd and added, "I want to say something to my fellow Texans: Behave yourselves."

At other campaign stops Wednesday in Pennsylvania and Indiana, Bush touted his plan to cut $1.3 trillion in taxes over 10 years.

"This is a plan that trusts the people," he hollered to several thousand supporters in an airport hangar here. "It's a plan that says we trust you. We trust your judgment. We don't trust planners and thinkers and bureaucrats in Washington, D.C. We trust the people of Indiana."

Bush said Gore's budget plans--from health care and education spending to targeted tax cuts--would overspend a projected $4.6-trillion surplus over the next 10 years by nearly $1 trillion.

"That's the hidden secret thus far of this campaign, and today we're going to start talking about it in plain terms: They spend more money than is available," Bush said Wednesday on NBC-TV's "Today" show.

John Cogan, an economic advisor to Bush, said Gore's budget plans would leave the government "$900 billion in the hole" after 10 years.

He cited a Senate Republican budget study that found Gore's $200 billion in proposed retirement savings would actually cost $750 billion; his preschool plan would cost $100 billion, not the projected $50 billion; and his education plan for the disabled would come to $80 billion, not $20 billion.

Bush also used the debate over economic issues to mock Gore's credibility.

"The other day, I heard him say he is for the people, not the powerful," Bush said. "Well, Mr. Vice President, you are the powerful. You've been in power for eight years. Eight years ago, you said you were going to give the middle class a tax cut, and you're having to say it again.

"I want America to add up all of the promises my opponent made; all the promises in the course of this campaign," Bush told cheering supporters at a rally in Scranton, Pa.

"That's the easy side of the campaigning. Go to one community and make a promise here, go to another community. When you add it up, he spends the whole surplus on bigger government. He won't admit it."

Meanwhile, Bush vice presidential running mate Dick Cheney hit the same notes Wednesday, lashing out at Gore on the economy at one stop and on the military at another.

In Wilmington, Del., Cheney said Gore's excessive spending "leaves him with three options."

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