BRADLEY 2000: Former Labor Sec. Endorses Former Senator
Robert Reich, former secretary of labor under President Clinton, yesterday endorsed Bill Bradley for the Democratic presidential nomination, the New York Times reports. Noting that the "times call for bold solutions," Reich declared, "Bill Bradley will provide them," citing the former senator's plans to address universal health care, child poverty and school improvement, all elements of the "nation's great unfinished agenda" (Dao, 11/16). He added, "The Clinton Administration, of which I am proud to have been a member, has got America back on track. Now ... we can widen the circle of prosperity" (Bazinet, Daily News, 11/16). Reich also conveyed respect for Vice President Al Gore, explaining, "I have absolutely no doubt that, were he elected, he would make an excellent president. But given the challenges ahead, Bill Bradley's commitment, his dedication and his vision make him, to my mind, an even better president." In response to the announcement, Gore spokesperson Chris Lehane said, "Mr. Reich has been a voice for the left-behind in society. I certainly hope he prevails upon Sen. Bradley to renounce his campaign plan to lock out the most vulnerable in society from receiving quality health care coverage, which is precisely what his call to dismantle Medicaid will do." Bradley embraced the endorsement, saying, "I've had no better day in this campaign" (Sobieraj, AP/Contra Costa Times, 11/16).
More Praise, More Criticism
Bradley collected another endorsement last week from New Hampshire's Nashua Medical Group. Dr. Bill Siroty, a member of the health care professionals organization, said, "We need something more than incremental changes. We need something bold. Gore is not addressing it. Rather ... he's attacking Bradley's plan" (Landrigan, Nashua Telegraph, 11/12). But not all health care-related groups support the proposal. New York Democratic health care advocates and gay and lesbian leaders decried Bradley's plan to dismantle Medicaid. Calling it "one of the most successful programs ever passed by the Democratic Party," New York State Sen. Tom Duane, who is HIV-positive, said, "[D]ismantling Medicaid is not only a big idea, it is a bad idea." New York Councilwoman Christine Quinn added that there are "thousands of people living with AIDS in New York who need Medicaid for their health care. ... it is simply outrageous to eliminate it." Bradley spokesperson Kristen Ludecke, however, claimed that under "the Bradley proposal people with AIDS would be put into a separate risk pool. A benefits package would be designed to meet their needs. So there is absolutely no cause to suggest their benefits would be reduced" (Marinucci, San Francisco Chronicle, 11/15).
A Christian Science Monitor editorial today notes that while advocacy groups and the candidates may consider health insurance a "salient political issue," only about 6% of the public is even paying attention to the current Gore-Bradley debate. If this debate is to take on any real significance in the mind of the public and lead to "another, more successful attempt at reform, more care must be taken to build a public consensus and embrace an approach that serves all Americans," the editors conclude (11/16).
An Iowa state poll of likely caucus participants reveals that Gore still leads Bradley, but the "gap is closing," the Spokane Spokesman Review reports. Released Sunday, the survey shows that Iowa Democrats favor Gore over Bradley, 54% to 32%, with a 4.4% margin of error. A June poll counted Gore's support at 64%, compared to 24% for Bradley (11/15). Such high levels of support for both candidates will eventually lead them to turn to negative campaigning, according to some analysts. "This race is ripe for going negative. You can't have everybody like both candidates. Somebody has to say, 'Gee, you really can't vote for this guy because ... .' Otherwise, you might as well toss a coin at the end," New Hampshire pollster Dick Bennett said. The health care debate could serve as a prime example. Gore has stepped up attacks on Bradley's health plan, and Bradley already has accused Gore of "abandon[ing] that fundamental Democratic principle of basic health care for all," AP/Nando Times reports. Drake University political scientist Dennis Goldford explained that the campaign is "still reasonably genteel, but they're approaching the line" (Sobieraj, 11/16).