BRADLEY/GORE: Bradley Attacks Gore for Tobacco Stance
With the Iowa caucuses less than two weeks away and with Democratic presidential hopeful Bill Bradley trailing rival Vice President Al Gore in that state, Bradley took to offense yesterday, attacking Gore for a wavering tobacco stance. Specifically, Bradley faulted Gore for a 1985 vote against a Bradley-sponsored amendment to prevent a drop in the tobacco tax and a 1988 letter Gore wrote to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette opposing a ban on tobacco advertising. Indicating that smoking cessation is "key" to his health care plan, Bradley suggested that he could "save billions to pay for [it] with measures such as spending an extra billion [dollars] on anti-smoking programs at the CDC, doubling funding for community health care centers and supporting new research into the causes of youth smoking" (Crowley/Zuckman, Boston Globe, 1/12).
Responding to accusations of breaking his pledge against negative campaigning by dredging up 15-year-old voting records, Bradley defended his move, saying, "If you believe something over time and you feel deeply about it, then you have to be consistent over time. I've been consistent over time with regard to tobacco. And I think this illustrates that [Gore] hasn't." The Bradley- sponsored amendment in question fell two votes shy -- one of them belonging to then-Senator Gore -- of cancelling a scheduled reduction in the tobacco tax to prevent increased Medicare premiums. Bradley said Gore's vote "lays out a very clear point in time where there was a disagreement over who supported Big Tobacco and who supported Medicare." Gore has since taken a more anti-tobacco stance, specifically after the loss of his sister to lung cancer (Allen, Washington Post, 1/12).
Gore's campaign retaliated against the attack by pointing out "various times" Bradley voted against higher cigarette taxes as a New Jersey senator (Gold/Gerstenzang, Los Angeles Times, 1/12). Gore further argued that Bradley's attack "smacks of sort of desperate negative campaigning," adding, "I'm not sure why he would do something like that except that the caucuses are approaching and he's engaging in negative campaigning. You know, he said he wouldn't do that, but I guess he changed his mind." Bradley maintained that he was still campaigning positively, but had stepped up the competitive nature of the battle. Acknowledging that he and Gore no longer disagree on tobacco, Bradley noted, "I said through the campaign that I was going to be positive -- I still am going to be positive, I'm still going to try to give people something to vote for" (Washington Post, 1/12).