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Brooks Jackson: A fact check of the second presidential debate

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The exchanges were polite in Wednesday night's presidential debate between Democrat Al Gore and Republican George W. Bush. In all, it was a walk on the mild side with no more than the usual ration of exaggeration.

Gov. George W. Bush  

"It seems like we're having a great lovefest now," Bush said at one point during the 90-minute debate in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

Gore overstated his proposal for educational standards when he said, "I think we should require states to test all students."

That was not Gore's position before. He has previously called for testing a sample, not all students.

And Bush stumbled a bit talking about hate crimes legislation in response to a challenge by Gore, who pointed out the Texas governor's failure to support a hate-crimes bill in the Lone Star State. By way of example of the need for such a law, Gore cited the case of James Byrd, a Jasper, Texas, man who was chained to the back of a pick up truck and dragged to death by three men. Jasper was black; the three men were white.

"Guess what?" said Bush. "The three men who murdered James Byrd, guess what is going to happen to them? They're going to be put to death."

Vice President Al Gore  

Actually, only two were sentenced to death in the Byrd case. The third man convicted was sentenced to life in prison.

And while Bush did sign a 1997 bill toughening Texas's hate-crime law, he took no public position on a 1999 bill that would have specifically covered crimes motivated by a victim's sexual preference. It died in committee.

When they tangled on health insurance they were both right.

"The facts were right, about Texas ranking dead last in families with health insurance," Gore asserted.

U.S. Vice President Al Gore and Texas Gov. George W. Bush

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Gore has a point. Census Bureau figures show Texas leads the nation in the percentage of persons with no health insurance.

Bush didn't argue that, but asserted that the "rate of uninsured, the percentage of uninsured in Texas has gone down while the percentage of uninsured in America has gone up."

That is just barely true. Since Bush took office in Texas -- the percentage of persons with no health insurance has edged down from 24.5 per cent in 1995 to 23.3 percent last year, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

And in that same period the national rate has gone up the tiniest bit, from 15.4 percent to 15.5 percent.

Gore waffled when Bush brought up his past support for raising taxes on fuel, an option mentioned in the vice president's 1992 book "Earth in the Balance."

"He's right that I'm not in favor of energy taxes," Gore responded. "I am in favor of tax cuts to encourage and give incentives for the quicker developments of these new kinds of technologies."

In 1992 Gore wrote in his book "Earth in the Balance" that "higher taxes on fossil fuels ... is one of the logical first steps in changing our policies in a manner more consistent with a more responsible approach to the environment."


Q: What should the United States do to resolve the conflict in the Middle East?


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Q: What are the basic differences between the two of you on the environment?


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But that was then, and now is now.

Bush may have stretched a point when he said he supported the administration on Kosovo.

Bush said Wednesday night that he supported bombing Serbia, saying: "I thought the president made the right decision in joining NATO in bombing Serbia. I supported them when they did so."

But back in March of 1999, Bush's support was slow in coming, and heavily qualified: "I share the concerns and misgivings of many Texans and Americans," Bush said on March 25, 1999. Our prayers are with the American soldiers, and I wish them success."

But that was then, and now is now.

It wasn't really a lovefest -- Gore and Bush disagree deeply. But for 90 minutes they stuck about as close to the facts as politicians are able.

Where do Bush and Gore stand on issues of importance to Europe? Launch our Interactive Guide.

View the latest tracking poll or dig into our poll archives.


Watch selected policy speeches and campaign commercials from the major presidential candidates.

See where George W. Bush and Al Gore stand on the major issues.

Who are your elected officials? What is the past presidential vote and number of electoral votes in your state? What are the presidential primary results and exit polls? Find out with these state political and election facts.

Get Election 2000 zip code searchable candidate biographies and other material for races for governor, Senate and House in our Election Guide.

How much money have the candidates raised? Here are their quarterly reports to the Federal Election Commission.

If you need to know who's up in 2000 and what seats are open, launch this quick guide.

WEB WHITE AND BLUE is a partner in the Web White and Blue rolling cyber-debate, a daily online exchange among the major presidential candidates. Look for twice-daily updates Sunday through Friday until election day.


Thursday, October 12, 2000


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