- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 24, 2000

KANSAS CITY, Mo. An increasingly confident George W. Bush yesterday sketched out the shape of a Bush presidency only two weeks before Americans go to the polls.
"I will be an activist president with conservative principles," Mr. Bush told a crowd in the key Midwestern battleground of Missouri.
"And I will focus the nation, the Congress and the presidency on big goals."
Mr. Bush repeated his litany of campaign promises restoring morale in the military, improving public education and shoring up the Social Security and Medicare systems but this was his most explicit attempt to tie them together in a single presidential vision in contrast with Democrat Al Gore.
"Government should expand opportunity and trust people with responsibility," he said. "Government should help us live our lives, but not run our lives. Government should offer a helping hand, not a heavy hand."
Mr. Bush's campaign is showing increasing signs of confidence as post-debate polls show him with a small but consistent lead. The campaign has been making efforts for weeks to make Mr. Bush look presidential, concentrating on the theme that he is "ready to lead."
The campaign has enlisted 29 Republican governors to stump for Mr. Bush, testifying to his leadership qualities.
"With George Bush as president, our country will experience a new dawn of optimism and bipartisan governance that seeks out the best of America and draws energy and ideas from all Americans," Kansas Gov. Bill Graves said at the Missouri rally.
Mr. Bush echoed that theme, portraying Mr. Gore as part of an administration more interested in political battles than legislation.
"When I go to Washington, I won't be looking for arguments, I'll be looking for answers," he said. "I won't be trying to score points, I'll be making progress."
Mr. Bush was even more specific in another comment about Mr. Gore: "For 7 and 1/2 years, the vice president has been the second biggest obstacle to reform in America … and now he wants to be the obstacle-in-chief."
He even quoted President Clinton:
"We have crossed the lines of division, we are working with Democrats to do the people's business," he said in explaining the work Republican governors are doing. "We have found progress at the vital center of American politics."
"Vital center" is one of Mr. Clinton's favorite phrases to describe his own work and the "New Democrat" movement he helped found along with Mr. Gore and Mr. Gore's running mate, Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman.
Mr. Clinton has used the phrase repeatedly in the past eight years to celebrate his own victories, most recently in this year's State of the Union address when he described the changes his administration has made since defeating President Bush the current Republican candidate's father in 1992.
"We restored the vital center," Mr. Clinton told Congress in January, "replacing outmoded ideologies with a new vision anchored in basic, enduring values: opportunity for all, responsibility from all, a community of all Americans."
Although he borrowed a common Clinton phrase, Mr. Bush made clear he holds the current administration in low regard. He repeatedly described Mr. Clinton and Mr. Gore as "obstacles" to reform, an apparent reference to the administration's opposition to initiatives of the Republican-led Congress since 1994.
He mocked the administration for failing to live up to past promises to offer a middle-class tax cut and reform Medicare.
The Clinton-Gore administration "came in with ringing promises, and now it is leaving with a sigh," he said.
Mr. Bush also seemed to distance himself somewhat from his own party. Republicans, he said for example, "need to learn that good people disagree" over abortion.
He also went out of his way to call for government spending to help the poor and disadvantaged, rhetoric that has not been popular with Republican politicians in recent years.
"I think when we find somebody suffering and can't possibly help themselves, our government and our nation must help… . There are times when we need to step up and help people" he said.
Mr. Bush campaigns today in Illinois, Tennessee and Florida. Later in the week, he will visit Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin.
This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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