- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 3, 2000

NEW YORK Bill Bradley yesterday picked up where he left off after his narrow loss in Tuesday's New Hampshire Democratic primary: questioning the veracity of Vice President Al Gore.
"How can the people trust a candidate who doesn't respect them enough to tell them the truth in the campaign?" Mr. Bradley asked during a 30-minute speech in Greenwich Village.
The former senator told a large crowd at a church on historic Washington Square that he is seeking the nation's highest office for one reason: "I want to be the president of the United States to use the power of that office to do good."
Meanwhile, Mr. Gore, who also made an appearance yesterday in this key primary state, said his narrow victory in the nation's first primary means voters rejected Mr. Bradley's politics of "personal vilification."
"I did not respond and I will not respond in kind, and I think the voters in New Hampshire rejected that approach last night," Mr. Gore said in a television interview yesterday.
"What they endorsed was an affirmative approach about our future, and I think that's building now," he said.
But the morning after the vice president's four-point win, the former New Jersey lawmaker said he will continue to put Mr. Gore's trustworthiness on trial.
"I think it's a legitimate issue," Mr. Bradley said in a television interview. "I am strongly for campaign finance reform. I still think the scandals of 1996 hang over his head, and he's got to make further explanations. I think the issue of telling the truth to the American public is absolutely central."
Mr. Bradley's renewed offensive means Mr. Gore faces questions about his trustworthiness from both parties heading into March 7, when Democrats vote in 14 states. The Gore campaign, for its part, mounted a counteroffensive yesterday.
In Greenwich Village, a group of Gore supporters circulated an "open letter" to Mr. Bradley at the rally, urging him "to leave your negative attacks and distortions behind in New Hampshire."
The letter was signed by 19 local elected officials, including Rep. Major R. Owens, New York Democrat.
Mr. Bradley is hoping for a good showing in New York, where polls have shown him leading. He got some help yesterday from a few state luminaries and even a handful of his old teammates from the NBA New York Knicks.
"I think if you take New York, you take the country," former Mayor Ed Koch told the crowd, before asking them to swear an oath to bring 10 persons to the polls to vote for Mr. Bradley.
"We've got the home court advantage now," said actor Ron Silver, an avid supporter of Mr. Bradley. The line drew a huge cheer from the crowd at the rally, where Mr. Silver served as master of ceremonies.
Mr. Silver caused a brief moment of embarrassment when he accidentally referred to Mr. Bradley as "Dukakis," the former Massachusetts governor who lost badly to Vice President George Bush in 1988.
"Hey, I worked for Dukakis," the actor said with a shrug.
In his speech, Mr. Bradley never mentioned his loss in the New Hampshire primary the previous night, instead offering his familiar litany of programs: universal health care, licensing of handguns and sweeping changes in the campaign finance laws.
Late in the day, Mr. Gore moved on to Ohio State University, where he shed his blue sport coat and bounded onto the stage at the student union to the power chords of the Rolling Stones' "Start Me Up." Many of the 500 students held "Buckeyes for Gore" signs.
Mr. Gore, promoting his pugilistic persona as an "alpha male," said a dozen times that he wants to fight to protect abortion, to protect the environment, to get more children health insurance, to improve public schools and to preserve the nation's economic prosperity.
"Help me in the election March 7," Mr. Gore said. "Let's fight for a better America."
Earlier yesterday, Gore campaign chairman Tony Coelho seemed unconcerned about the prospect of a bitter five-week faceoff across the country in which Mr. Bradley all but calls Mr. Gore a liar.
"I don't think this [issue of the Clinton-Gore campaign finance scandal] is any secret to the Republicans," Mr. Coelho told reporters at a hotel in Manhattan.
"In a political process, the American people quickly decide who are winners and who are losers, and they attribute certain attitudes to both."
Mr. Coelho rejected suggestions that Mr. Gore had failed to put Mr. Bradley away in New Hampshire. He noted that Mr. Gore is the only presidential candidate who has not lost in the 2000 campaign.
"Let's make sure we understand. Going into this election it was that George Bush had this thing all wrapped up and all he needed to do was have the crown put on his head. That's what you folks wrote," Mr. Coelho told reporters.
"I think we've done extremely well, and the individual you folks anointed has not done well. And I think that's the story."
The Gore campaign is not eager to embrace President Clinton in the run-up to March 7. Mr. Gore did not mention Mr. Clinton in his Tuesday night victory speech in Manchester, N.H. Mr. Coelho walked away yesterday when asked when the president will campaign with Mr. Gore.
The vice president also sidestepped a question about whether he will campaign in New York with first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, who will officially declare her Senate candidacy Sunday.
"I think she's going to win her race, and I understand she's going to announce this weekend," Mr. Gore told CNN. "And I think she'll make a great senator."


Andrew Cain, traveling with the Gore campaign, contributed to this report from Ohio.

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