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Gore hits Bush on foreign policy

Making a sweeping attack, the vice president takes a strategy lesson from his opponent's father.

Compiled from Times wires, published May 1, 2000

BOSTON -- Vice President Al Gore dismissed George W. Bush's foreign policy thinking as "noticeably blank," casting his Republican presidential rival Sunday as a puppet of "right wing" ideologues such as Sen. Jesse Helms and dangerously fixated on the Cold War past.

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Hinting at a strategy used so effectively by his opponent's father in his 1988 campaign, Gore issued a broadside against Bush, the Texas governor, on everything from Russia and China to arms control and nuclear testing.

Gore dismissed Bush's foreign policy as lacking on 21st century national security challenges such as terrorism, narcotics trafficking, the global environment and international family planning, for which Gore supports additional U.S. aid.

"One has to assume that these gaps in Governor Bush's foreign policy views and experience will be filled by the ideologies and inveterate antipathies of his party -- the right-wing, partisan isolationism of the Republican congressional leadership," Gore said.

With the full-blown attack on Bush, Gore seemed to be executing a classic incumbent strategy, one made especially classic by Bush's father, then the vice president, against another sitting governor in 1988.

The Gore campaign has been sifting through the detritus of the elder Bush's steamrolling of Gov. Michael Dukakis of Massachusetts and has unearthed some useful lessons. Those lessons, for an incumbent vice president defending a relatively popular administration against a relatively unknown governor, are becoming increasingly evident as the days go by. The basic thrust: Try to hamstring the opponent by raising questions about his record and his readiness to be president.

Their routes may be different, but the Gore campaign arrives at the same place where Bush's father arrived a dozen years ago. They both present a sitting vice president as the responsible steward of the current peace and prosperity. And they both cast the challenger as risky and irresponsible.

On Sunday, the speech in Boston's historic Old South Meeting Place was the latest in a series by Gore to paint Bush as lacking the experience and knowledge to be an effective president and world leader.

Gore, who has pledged to make the rejected Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty the first measure he submits to the Senate if elected, chafed at last week's declaration by Helms that he will block any new arms control pacts until a new president is inaugurated.

The administration is negotiating a START III weapons pact with Russia and hoping to adjust the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty to allow for a limited U.S. missile defense system to protect against attacks from rogue states.

"If Governor Bush were to inherit from us an arms control agreement so clearly in the best interests of the American people, is Senator Helms the last word?" Gore asked.

He criticized Bush for promising to heighten the threshold for American intervention in overseas crises and get involved only where there is a U.S. interest.

"Governor Bush dangerously fixates on the Cold War past when speaking of the use of force. He suggests that he would not intervene to relieve even the brutal repression of ethnic cleansing and genocide," Gore said. "We must reject the new isolationism that says, don't help anywhere because we cannot help everywhere."

But if Gore has learned from the 1988 campaign, so has Bush. He has been quicker to respond to attacks than Dukakis.

Condoleezza Rice, Bush's top foreign policy adviser, shot back: "If what the vice president is saying is that the post-Cold War mission of American armed forces is to just intervene in other people's civil wars because we might be able to help, I think that's a headline."

Rice said that Gore's speech lacked credibility, "somewhat typical of the vice president."

"He has this tendency to say that he's going to do one thing and in fact he's . . . done another for seven years."

Rice also accused Gore of trying to sidestep the issue of trade with China for fear of angering union supporters who oppose free trade. Although Gore endorsed China's membership in the World Trade Organization on Sunday, Rice noted that Gore had little to say during violent demonstrations against the WTO in Seattle.

-- Information from the Associated Press and New York Times was used in this report.

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