Bradley, Gore offer subtle differences
By Bill Schneider/CNN
October 27, 1999
Web posted at: 6:11 p.m. EDT (2211 GMT)
WASHINGTON -- Two Democrats, both moderately liberal. What's to choose?
On the issues, there's no big difference of kind between Al Gore and Bill Bradley. But there are differences of degree. After all, they both have long voting records in Congress. Gore served eight years in the House and eight in the Senate. Bradley served 18 years in the Senate.
As Al Smith used to say, let's look at the record.
Abortion: Both candidates are strong supporters of abortion rights. However, Gore used to be more conservative on this issue. As a House member from 1977 to 1985, Gore opposed Medicaid funding of abortions for poor women. Bradley favored abortion rights, including Medicaid funding, throughout his years in the Senate.
Education: Both candidates want to expand funding for public education. Both have plans to recruit new teachers. However, Bradley once voted in favor of tax credits for tuition payments to private schools, and for an experimental voucher program. Gore voted against both.
Health care: Both candidates have offered detailed proposals to reform the health care system and expand coverage. However, Bradley's plan is bigger. It guarantees coverage for all children and offers universal access to adults at a cost of $55 billion to $65 billion a year. Gore's plan would expand coverage for children and working parents without guaranteeing it for all -- but at a lower cost estimated at $10 billion to $15 billion a year.
Economy: Both candidates have supported the Clinton economic program and both favor free trade measures like NAFTA. However, back in 1981, Bradley voted in favor of President Ronald Reagan's budget cuts. Gore voted against them. On the other hand, in 1985, Gore voted in favor of the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings bill that mandated across-the-board spending cuts if Congress and the White House failed to reduce the deficit by a targeted amount. Bradley voted no. In 1986, Gore supported a constitutional amendment to require a balanced budget. Bradley opposed it.
Civil rights and gay rights: Both candidates strongly defend civil rights, affirmative action and gay rights. Both favor legal protections for domestic partnerships. Both oppose gay marriage. However, Bradley would allow gays to serve openly in the military, while Gore calls for a more compassionate application of President Bill Clinton's "Don't ask, don't tell" policy. Bradley favors amending the 1964 Civil Rights Act to include gays. Gore has not endorsed that proposal.
Welfare reform: Probably the biggest issue difference between the two candidates came on the defining issue for President Bill Clinton as a New Democrat. In 1996, Gore supported the welfare reform bill. Bradley voted against it.
Is one candidate consistently more liberal than the other? No. It varies by issue.
Sure, Gore can drag out old votes where Bradley voted with conservatives on Reaganomics and school vouchers. But Bradley can do the same to Gore on abortion rights and the balanced budget amendment.
In the end, voters are not going to judge these candidates on political correctness. They're going to want to know, "What have you done for us lately, and what are you going to do for us now?"