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CAMPAIGN 2000

Gore Rocks the Youth Vote on MTV

September 27, 2000|JAMES GERSTENZANG | TIMES STAFF WRITER

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — He knew which CD was in his CD player (Sister Hazel). He was ready when he was asked whether he would legalize medicinal marijuana (absolutely not). He clearly doesn't like the works of rapper Eminem, but he wouldn't censor him.

But Vice President Al Gore, who seems to have an answer to every question, was momentarily stumped Tuesday by this one: Paper or plastic?

"Oh, man, I've never figured that one out," he said, wrapping his arms across his chest and telling the MTV audience: "Just lump it up in your arms and take it all out like this."

Then he said, quietly, "I usually get paper 'cause I like the paper."

When a politician visits the MTV audience, it seems, there's no telling what he will be asked.

But for the most part, as Gore taped an hourlong segment for the cable music video network at the University of Michigan, he found that, with only a few exceptions, a college audience is curious about the same things as an older audience: Education, guns, health care, the environment.

But he was also peppered with questions about Napster ("terrific," but even with such innovative downloading software, the rights of artists must be protected, he said), marriage benefits for gays and lesbians (he is opposed to same-sex marriage but favors "legally recognizing civic unions") and whether he ever cheated on a test ("No. You kidding me?" he said, feigning indignation).

And what about Ralph Nader?

One student said he was drawn to the Green Party presidential candidate but worried that a vote for Nader would translate into a vote for Texas Gov. George W. Bush, the Republican presidential candidate.

"But I really want to vote for who I feel best represents my interests and values," he said, and not "the lesser of two evils."

To the applause that greeted the question, Gore said he had, throughout his career, "fought for a clean environment," favored public financing of elections and opposed "powerful special interests," whether oil companies or health maintenance organizations.

"I want you to vote your heart, but I want to convince you that I will do the kind of job that will make you proud of our process and make our country the kind of place you want it to be," he said.

The vice president, campaigning in one of the most hotly contested states in the presidential election, worked the opposite end of the electorate spectrum in the afternoon, spending another hour at an Ann Arbor community center in a question-and-answer session on Medicare with elderly people.

Gore was introduced to the university audience by an MTV video biography, which noted that as a Harvard student, he rode a motorcycle and on occasion "smoked the herb." He joked during some segments of the tape but was silent during the reference to marijuana use.

He offered both promises and predictions.

In response to a question, he forecast that universal health care would be available in the United States within a decade.

And he promised that, as president, the first civil rights action he would take would be to sign an executive order banning racial profiling, which he described as "a new label for a very old process."

And at every opportunity, he reminded the audience of approximately 150 students that education is "our No. 1 priority."

He emphasized his abortion rights credentials, gaining applause, and said the abortion pill RU-486 should be made available to American women.

To a fan of Marilyn Manson and Eminem who was concerned that a Gore administration might restrict such artists, the vice president said: "I completely oppose any government efforts to control content." Manson's and Eminem's music have been criticized for explicitly violent and sexual imagery.

But, Gore added:

"I don't go along with the notion that if material like that becomes widely accepted and nobody thinks a second thought about it, that there are no consequences to it. I think that what we listen to . . . does have an effect on us."

During a break in the taping, the 52-year-old Gore, wearing an olive-toned long-sleeved shirt and pleated khaki trousers, approached a box where MTV officials, some in business attire, were seated. He exclaimed, "The suits! The suits!"

MTV, which planned to debut the program Tuesday night and repeat it several times before election day, said it had invited Bush to take part in another interview.

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