Bradley's legislative record may give glimpse at Democratic primary fights
By Gene Randall/CNN
September 8, 1999
Web posted at: 6:03 p.m. EDT (2203 GMT)
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- As an announced Democratic challenger to Vice President Al Gore, Bill Bradley's 18-year Senate record will be put under a Gore campaign magnifying glass. Beginning, perhaps, with the way he announced he was leaving the Senate.
"We live in a time," Bradley said in 1995, "when on a basic level politics is broken... Neither political party speaks to people where they live their lives."
The Tax Reform Act of 1986 tops any Bradley campaign fact sheet. Former Republican Sen. Bob Packwood, then Finance Committee Chairman, says Bradley was the moving force.
Sen. Bill Bradley announced Wednesday that he's a candidate for president
"But for him," Packwood says, "I think we would not have made it. Maybe you can say that about two or three other people also, but his contribution was overwhelming, no other way to describe it."
But Bradley was also known as someone who rarely engaged in the political rough and tumble. His campaign calls it "an ambivalence to legislative politicking."
"He felt it was kind of dirty in some ways to go through the give and take, which is dirty in many respects, to actually make things happen," said Norm Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute.
On what did happen, Bradley and Al Gore supported a lot of the same issues, including NAFTA. But both the Gore and Bradley camps appear ready to emphasize the differences between them.
Bradley says he supports ethanol subsidies, sacred to farmers in Iowa. But he once called the payments highway robbery. Gore says he's always backed ethanol subsidies. Bradley voted for a series of private and parochial school voucher experiments dating back to 1980. Gore opposes vouchers.
In 1996, Bradley supported partially privatizing Social Security. Gore says that's a bad idea. And back in 1981, Bradley voted for President Ronald Reagan's budget with its sweeping cuts in social programs. As a Tennessee congressman, Gore voted against Reagan.
On race, Bradley has been praised for eloquence. Gore is prepared to charge that Bradley is more talk than action. And the vice president's people will remind Democratic primary voters that in 1995, Bradley publicly toyed with the idea of a third party challenge to their own president.
As a former professional basketball player, Bill Bradley knows it takes more than a great outside game to win. In the months ahead, he must convince Democratic primary and caucus voters that he'd be an effective leader on the inside, as well.