AL GORE: Hammers Bush on Texas Nutrition Program
"Hungry children need food, not photo-ops," Vice President Al Gore "tartly" declared at a Democratic Leadership Council meeting Saturday, blaming Texas Gov. George W. Bush (R) for leaving one million poor children in Texas without a nutrition program last summer, the Washington Post reports. Pointing to a new report that found Texas left $33 million in federal school lunch money unused, Gore blasted his rival in a voice "dripping with sarcasm" (Connolly, 7/16). He said, "Just because school is out doesn't mean that hunger takes a summer vacation -- or that leadership can go on leave" (West/Hill, Baltimore Sun, 7/16). Gore also criticized Bush for allowing Texas' budget surplus to roll "away like tumbleweed," while the number of uninsured has ballooned in the state. "Now you might think that the governor of a state ranked dead last in the entire nation for families with health coverage, who then gets a surplus courtesy of the national economic boom, might turn his attention to moving from number 50 to say 45 or maybe even better. But nooo!" Gore said. The nutrition study, conducted by the Food Research and Action Center, found that only 9.1% of more than 1.5 million eligible poor children in Texas participated in a summer nutrition program in July 1999. According to Bush spokesperson Dan Bartlett, however, one month earlier participation reached 23%, slightly above the national average. Bartlett also said the state Legislature will likely approve a supplemental Medicaid spending bill next year (Washington Post, 7/16).
In a presidential election campaign bonanza Sunday, Gore appeared on NBC's " Meet the Press," and Bush appeared on ABC's "This Week." Gore tackled a variety of issues, including his shifting stance on abortion. Host Tim Russert pointed out that, in 1987, Gore opposed federal funding for abortion for poor women and called the procedure "arguably the taking of a human life." According to Gore, now an abortion-rights supporter, he changed his position on the issue after talking to women about "the kinds of dilemmas that [they] can face." He said, "I've come to the very deep conviction that a woman's right to choose must be protected regardless of the woman's income." In addition, Gore hinted that he would not require parental permission for a minor to have an abortion, noting that abortion opponents could use the requirement as a "back-door way to try to eliminate abortion." On ABC's "This Week," Bush offered his views on the Medicare quagmire, arguing that the next chief executive must take a leading role in the debate. He said, "I believe the next president must put Republicans and Democrats in a room and say, 'Let's reform Medicare.'" Reform Party candidate Pat Buchanan and Green Party nominee Ralph Nader also hit the airwaves Sunday, appearing on CBS' "Face the Nation" (Seelye, New York Times, 7/17).