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Gore rips Bush on Iraq, economy

Former vice president reiterates pledge not to run in '04

Al Gore says the Bush administration engages in a
Al Gore says the Bush administration engages in a "systematic effort to manipulate facts" to advance its agenda.

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NEW YORK (CNN) -- Former Vice President Al Gore on Thursday lambasted the Bush administration for its handling of the war in Iraq, the economy and the environment, accusing the president of giving short shrift to "basic honesty."

In a scathing speech delivered at New York University, Gore listed what he called numerous false impressions the American public had about Iraq in advance of the war and about the president's tax cuts before they were enacted.

"Here is the pattern that I see: The president's mishandling of and selective use of the best evidence available on the threat posed by Iraq is pretty much the same as the way he intentionally distorted the best available evidence on climate change and rejected the best available evidence on the threat posed to America's economy by his tax and budget proposals," Gore said.

The Bush administration, Gore said, employs a "propaganda machine" that engages in "a systematic effort to manipulate facts in service to a totalistic ideology that's felt to be more important than the mandates of basic honesty."

Gore, the Democratic presidential nominee in 2000, also used the speech to reiterate his decision not to run in 2004, and he saluted the nine Democrats running.

"I'm not going to join them," he said, "but later in the political cycle I will endorse one of them because I believe we must stand for a future in which the United States will again be feared only by our enemies; in which our country will again lead the effort to create an international order based on the rule of law; a nation which upholds fundamental rights even for those it believes to be captured enemies; a nation whose financial house is in order ... a republic once again comfortable that its chief executive knows the limits as well as the powers of the presidency."

Gore's comments came one day after former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo called on him to enter the race and dismissed the commentary from the Democratic field as "babble." (Full story)

Gore's speech -- his first major public policy address in almost a year -- was a damning indictment of the Bush administration. The liberal grass-roots group sponsored the event at NYU.

Gore called on the president to "rein in" Attorney General John Ashcroft and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, accusing them of abusing power.

He also assailed the administration's environmental policies, accusing it of trying "to protect the oil and coal industries from any restrictions at all."

Gore urged Bush to cooperate fully with the national commission looking into intelligence the administration had before the September 11 attacks.

Gore called the removal of Saddam Hussein from power "a positive accomplishment in its own right for which the president deserves credit, just as he deserves credit for removing the Taliban from power in Afghanistan."

But, Gore said, "in the case of Iraq, we have suffered enormous collateral damage because of the manner in which the administration went about the invasion. And in both cases, the aftermath has been and is being badly mishandled."

Gore said there was a time when he blamed Bush's advisers for the problems, but "obviously I was wrong. ... I've just about concluded that the real problem may be the president himself, and that next year we ought to fire him and get a new one."

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