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Press Bill Press is co-host of CNN's Crossfire. He is providing exclusive analysis to CNN during the election season.

Bill Press: Gore and Lieberman set new campaign agenda

August 18, 2000
Web posted at: 4:42 p.m. EDT (2042 GMT)

Even if he is still behind the polls after Los Angeles, Al Gore has succeeded in changing the agenda for the presidential campaign of 2000.

In Philadelphia, George Bush tried to set his own agenda: tie the sins of Bill Clinton to Al GoreÕs tail; and paint Republicans as the party of family values and morality, contrasted to those free-living, free-loving, amoral, if not immor al Democrats.

Al Gore met that head-on. He named Joe Lieberman as his running mate. Checkmate! Lieberman is Mr. Morality in the United States Senate. And the embodiment of disgust with ClintonÕs Oval Office pranks.

BushÕs campaign plan immediately collapsed, leaving an empty canvas for Gore to paint a new one. He did so, Thursday night in Los Angeles.

On the podium, Gore is no Clinton. Nobody is. But he gave the best speech IÕve ever heard him give. He certainly gave a much more powerful and more substantive speech than George Bush.

Gore had three challenges Thursday night: to energize the delegates in the audience, introduce himself to the American people, and set forth a new campaign. He met all three.

First, in the most dramatic moment of the evening, Gore declared his independence from Clinton - whose name he mentioned only once in 51 minutes. Yes, I served with Bill Clinton for 8 years and, yes, IÕm proud of it, Gore told the world, but from now on heÕs his own: ÒI stand here tonight as my own man, and I want you to know me for who I truly am.Ó

Gore next told his own story, and it is a compelling one: a family man, Vietnam vet, theological student, investigative reporter. HeÕs a man dedicated to public service, with extensive experience as Congressman, Senator and Vice-President. No doubt heÕs qualified to be president, compared to that young whippersnapper from Midland, Texas.

Then Gore laid out the battle plan for the campaign: ÒWe are for the people, they are for the powerful.Ó In combative words reminiscent of Harry Truman, Gore vowed to take on the special interests. He would fight against the big tobacco companies to keep cigarettes out of the hands of teenagers. Fight against big drug companies to provide seniors on Medicare with prescription drug benefits. Fight against the HMOÕs for a patients bill of rights. And, Gore promised, he would fight against all corporate interests by making campaign finance reform his top priority and the McCain-Feingold legislation the first bill he sends to Congress.

True, those battles are already being waged by the Clinton Administration. But Gore also added a few goals of his own: providing universal preschool for all kids by the year 2010; making college tuition payments tax-deductible; and doubling federal spending on medical research. He also broke with Clinton by vowing to sign legislation ending the marriage income tax penalty - the same legislation Bill Clinton vetoed just two weeks ago.

Gore also left no doubt whoÕs in charge. So what if Joe Lieberman is soft on school vouchers? There will be no federal funds to private religious schools under his administration, Gore said. Delegates roared with approval. The camera didnÕt show the reaction on LiebermanÕs face.

ItÕs a whole new campaign after Los Angeles, with a whole new set of issues. ItÕs no longer a referendum on Bill Clinton. ItÕs now Al GoreÕs party and Al GoreÕs platform.

As Gore has reshaped the debate, Republicans are for the big corporations, Democrats are for working families. That gives voters a stark contrast and a clear choice for November.


Monday, August 14, 2000

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