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Graham goes on attack for Gore

By BILL ADAIR

© St. Petersburg Times, published July 4, 2000


WASHINGTON -- Sen. Bob Graham got to show off his political fastball for the Gore campaign on Monday.

Speaking to reporters about Vice President Al Gore's new Medicare drug plan, the Florida Democrat blasted Texas Gov. George W. Bush for failing to offer a plan of his own.

"Gov. Bush is AWOL on this issue," Graham said in a conference call with reporters.

The former Florida governor, who has been mentioned as a possible Gore running mate, said Bush had earmarked so much of the budget surplus for a huge tax cut that he may not be able to afford a Medicare drug plan.

"I think it's time for Gov. Bush to announce in the same detail (as Gore) what his plan is going to be, what changes he would make in his tax proposal to create someroom for this," Graham said.

Medicare is a critical issue for the next president because of the large wave of baby boomers retiring in the next 10 to 20 years, Graham said.

"I think the American people deserve, on an issue as central as this, to have a clear statement by Gov. Bush as to what he would do if elected," Graham said.

A Bush campaign spokesman responded that the governor has been consistent in proposing to allocate $5-trillion over five years to both save and strengthen Social Security and Medicare, including prescription drug benefits.

Gore has said little about picking a running mate, but his campaign has interviewed Graham. Many pundits have said Graham is a contender because he could help Gore carry Florida. A campaign spokesman said Graham, author of a bipartisan Medicare drug plan, was chosen to speak Monday because of his "leadership" on the issue.

Graham sidestepped a question about his vice presidential prospects, joking that he just wanted to work as a health care expert for the St. Petersburg Times and other news organizations.

Graham's plan differs from Gore's because Graham's has a $250 deductible, while Gore's has no deductible.

Graham said Monday that the plans might differ about a few details, but that they are "genetically half-brothers."

- Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

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