- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 15, 2000

An abortion-rights group will endorse Vice President Al Gore, who has been criticized by his Democratic presidential rival Bill Bradley for his mixed record on abortion early in his political career.
The endorsement by the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League gives Mr. Gore a boost on what's been one of his most vulnerable issues in his nomination contest with the former New Jersey senator. NARAL President Kate Michelman plans to deliver the endorsement today in Washington, D.C., said Will Lutz, a spokesman for the group.
The two candidates have been battling to attract core Democratic voters, from blacks to women, where Mr. Gore holds a strong lead over Mr. Bradley, according to national polls.
To that end, the vice president has been aggressively soliciting endorsements with groups such as NARAL that had hoped to remain neutral in the Democratic contest. Mr. Gore wrung a similar endorsement for his candidacy last week from the Human Rights Campaign, a large homosexual-rights group.
In the past, Miss Michelman has said that both Mr. Gore and Mr. Bradley are reliable supporters of abortion rights. She has also said she is confident in Mr. Gore's support for abortion rights now, even though he cast a series of pro-life votes when he was in Congress.
Meanwhile, in San Francisco, Mr. Bradley accused Mr. Gore of employing "scare tactics" to discredit his health care plan and said the vice president's leadership on the environment has been little more than "window dressing."
Mr. Gore, a continent away, focused on education and black voters. He promoted his ideas for college-tuition help in Rochester, N.Y., then headed to Brooklyn to address students at Medgar Evers College, named for the slain civil rights leader.
Mr. Bradley was in Northern California to announce a plan to preserve ecosystems and to try and undercut Mr. Gore's image as an environmentalist.
But his sharpest words were on Mr. Gore and health care, in a news conference after the speech. He responded to Mr. Gore's assertion over the weekend, in an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle, that Mr. Bradley's health plan would leave thousands of people with diseases such as AIDS without coverage an incendiary charge in the Bay Area, which has a large homosexual community.
Mr. Gore "should be ashamed," Mr. Bradley said.
Mr. Bradley has proposed replacing Medicaid with subsidies so that the poor and disabled could buy their own insurance.
He argued his proposal would serve AIDS patients and the poor better than Mr. Gore's because it would allow them to sign up for the same coverage given to federal employees a plan that prohibits discrimination on the basis of pre-existing conditions.
Some AIDS patients currently cannot sign up for private coverage because of their disease, Mr. Bradley said.
In a speech at the Sierra Club's national headquarters, Mr. Bradley said the Clinton-Gore administration has spent too little money from offshore oil-drilling royalties on protecting public lands, has prosecuted too few polluters, has done virtually nothing to rally the public behind the "Kyoto Protocol" climate-change agreement and has failed to follow through on the Central Valley Project Improvement Act, which sought to better balance water use in the heart of California.
"That is not leadership. It's window dressing," Mr. Bradley said.
Mr. Bradley promised if elected to halt all oil drilling off the coast of California. Mr. Gore has pledged to do the same, but Mr. Bradley questioned why Mr. Gore couldn't dissuade Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt from extending about three-dozen offshore leases to petroleum companies last year.
Mary Nichols, California's resources director, told reporters in a telephone conference call that Mr. Babbitt had no choice in the matter after Interior's top lawyer advised him that the federal government must extend the leases.
Mr. Bradley said he would create wilderness refuges in the ocean, similar to those in national forests.
He received the endorsements yesterday of Stewart Udall, who served as Interior secretary under Presidents Kennedy and Johnson, and of Brent Blackwelder, president and founder of Friends of the Earth.

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