- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 7, 2000

Although today's vote for president is expected to be the closest in years, the fact of the matter is that George W. Bush's fitness to occupy the Oval Office dwarfs Vice President Al Gore's. That judgment is true across the range of issues, from national security to the preservation of economic prosperity, as the editorial page of The Washington Times has argued in numerous issue-specific editorials during the past three weeks. Mr. Bush's superior fitness for the presidency is clearly evident when comparing the candidates' philosophies of government and their characters.

In terms of philosophy, Mr. Bush's reflexive inclination is to maximize personal freedom. He does this through his proposals for broad-based tax reductions, market-related health care options for the elderly, partial diversion of Social Security taxes to voluntary private investment accounts and alternative educational opportunities for those otherwise confined to the nation's worst public schools. For any given issue, on the other hand, Mr. Gore's reflexive response is to maintain or increase the role of government in people's lives. His embrace of the status quo would inexorably lead to the bankruptcy of unreformed Social Security and Medicare programs or to the conditioning of tax relief on behavior that Mr. Gore personally approves.

After eight years of Bill Clinton as president, one conclusion is indisputable: Character truly does matter. The stains on the dignity of the presidency that will comprise Mr. Clinton's principal legacy can hardly be removed by his principal partner. Mr. Gore may not have sullied the presidency by engaging in reckless sexual behavior, but the vice president's indefatigable fund-raising efforts during the 1996 re-election campaign were every bit as tawdry as Mr. Clinton's Oval Office promiscuity.

It isn't just in fund-raising endeavors that Mr. Gore has been politically unprincipled. Throughout the quarter-century during which he has been a force in American politics, Mr. Gore has shown himself to be a man whose other principles have repeatedly wavered or simply been thrown overboard. Depending upon the electorate to which he was appealing at any particular time, Mr. Gore has flip-flopped on innumerable issues, including abortion, gun control, Social Security privatization, tobacco and Elian Gonzalez.

Mr. Gore now seeks to be promoted from "Solicitor in Chief" to commander in chief. Mr. Gore has often cited his willingness to vote with the Republicans in the Gulf War, but the story of his vote as one of 10 Democrats to break ranks is equally disturbing. According to credible allegations from former Republican Sen. Alan Simpson, who, as Senate minority whip in 1991, was responsible for scheduling speaking time for senators supporting the war in the Persian Gulf, Mr. Gore brazenly bargained his vote in favor of the war in exchange for longer speaking time than the Democrats were offering him to oppose the war. Nobody whose personal political calculus has allowed him to bargain his vote on matters of life and death involving half a million American soldiers deserves to be anywhere near the Oval Office.

Mr. Bush has repeatedly proven that he understands the importance of character in the Oval Office. Drawing a direct contrast with the vice president, Mr. Bush declared at a Pennsylvania rally, "In my administration, we will ask not only what is legal, but what is right. Not just what the lawyers allow, but what the public deserves. In my administration," Mr. Bush promised convincingly, "we'll make it clear there is the controlling legal authority of conscience. We will make people proud again, so Americans who love their country can once again respect their government." For that reason, in addition to all of the others, he deserves to be the next president of the United States.

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