GEORGE W. BUSH: Pledges Increased Research Funding
Wooing voters in FloridaMiami Herald reports. Speaking to a crowd of retirees at the Sun City Center retirement community, Bush said, "I will lead a medical moonshot to reach far beyond what seems possible today and discover new cures for age-old afflictions." Bush's promises included a $5.1 billion boost for the National Cancer Institute by 2003 to "renew the war on cancer." Bush plans to draw the additional money for medical research from the federal budget surplus (Silva, 9/23). Bush's visit to Sun City was the culmination of a "week-long display of promised middle-class benefits," including Social Security, Medicare, prescription drugs and education" (Broder, Washington Post, 9/23).
Money Doesn't Grow on Trees
Democrats questioned how Bush planned to fund his "moonshot," the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. But while Gore spokesperson Doug Hattaway said Bush "can't pay for the promise he's making," Gore's own plan has some loopholes -- Gore aides said $18 billion of Gore's $83.9 billion pledge for medical research would come from the projected budget surplus and the remaining funds would hail from "higher tobacco taxes." According to the Inquirer, however, a contradiction lies in Gore's budget blueprint, which calls for the tobacco tax proceeds to be put away in a lockbox, not to be available for spending. Bush spokesperson Ari Fleischer said, "No matter how you count it, the vice president is underfunding what is necessary to fight diseases of the elderly. But worse, he is again making up phony claims."
Too Little, Too Late
Meanwhile, Gore's camp countered that Bush's effort is tardy, coming several months after Gore's own proposal to boost the NIH research budget (Raum, Philadelphia Inquirer, 9/23). Although the latest visit marks Bush's 10th foray into Florida, which holds 25 much-coveted electoral votes, Republicans are complaining that Bush "did not move early enough" to campaign in Florida -- which represents 10% of the electoral votes needed to win the presidential election -- and voiced that the campaign "was slow to explain ... Bush's stands on the issues that are critical to the aging population here, from prescription drugs to protecting Medicare and Social Security." Tom Slade, former State Republican Party chair, said, "We should have been off the block a bit earlier on our senior citizen issues" (Berke, New York Times, 9/24).