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Gore criticizes White House for handling of economy, war

Former Vice President Al Gore answers questions at the
Former Vice President Al Gore answers questions at the "Leadership '02" retreat in Memphis on Saturday.  

MEMPHIS, Tennessee (CNN) -- Former Vice President Al Gore Saturday criticized the Bush administration's handling of the economy and the war on terrorism, specifically citing the administration's failure to capture al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

It was the first time Gore, the 2000 Democratic presidential candidate, has publicly criticized President Bush on the war.

"They haven't gotten Osama bin Laden. They've refused to allow enough international troops to enter Afghanistan to make sure this country doesn't slide back under the control of these warlords," Gore said in his keynote speech at a fund-raising dinner for the Shelby County Democratic Party.

"President Bush has allowed his political team to use this war as a political wedge issue to score political points and divide this nation," he added.

He also chided members of the Bush administration for not always putting the American people first.

Gore holds retreat for key Democratic loyalists 

"This year we have seen regulators appointed to head the FCC (Federal Communications Commission), the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, all of the other agencies that are not really looking after the people of this country," Gore said. "They are looking after the people that they're supposed to be reining in."

In the wake of recent profit misstatements by major corporations -- including the collapse of Enron and the guilty verdict against its accounting firm, Andersen -- Gore said he thought Bush should do more to help restore Americans' economic confidence.

"I believe that a president of the United States facing this kind of situation ought to be restoring confidence in our economy and ought to be instructing the people in charge of these agencies to lay down the law," Gore said.

Earlier Saturday, Gore also established a time frame for deciding whether or not to run for president in 2004, saying he will make a decision by early next year.

Gore is in Memphis for a weekend retreat for "Leadership '02," his political action committee, which is focusing on the 2002 elections.

-- CNN Political Editor John Mercurio contributed to this report




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