- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 12, 2000

CLEARWATER, Fla. Texas Gov. George W. Bush yesterday questioned Vice President Al Gore's credibility in pledging to crack down on Hollywood's exploitation of violence while accepting millions of dollars in campaign donations from the industry.
"I think the man's short of credibility on the issue," Mr. Bush told reporters as he arrived in Florida to promote his prescription-drug plan. "He could have taken a strong stand [previously]. Now that we're close to the election, maybe he's changed his tune."
Mr. Gore took aim earlier yesterday at the makers of violent and adult-rated movies, music and video games, urging them not to market to children.
During a town-hall meeting at West Haven Elementary School in Belleville, Ill., the vice president called on the entertainment industry to invoke "a cease-fire" and to adopt, within six months, recommendations in a Federal Trade Commission report released yesterday.
"I know that the best solution for this is self-regulation, self-restraint and industry policy, that all the companies buy into, to stop doing what is clearly wrong," Mr. Gore said.
If the industry does not comply, Mr. Gore said, he will investigate whether the FTC has sufficient authority to crack down on deceptive advertising.
Mr. Gore's warning that he would give the entertainment industry six months to "clean up its act" on marketing violence to children or face government action clearly galled Mr. Bush.
Mr. Bush said Mr. Gore "chose to distance himself" last summer when President Clinton announced that the FTC and the Justice Department would investigate the industry. He linked Mr. Gore's shrinking from the issue to the $13.6 million in political donations this election cycle from Hollywood to the Gore campaign and the Democratic National Committee.
"He had an opportunity to stand up and take the same position [as Mr. Clinton], but he chose not to," Mr. Bush said.
Mr. Gore's schedule this week includes several fund-raisers in which the Democratic National Committee hopes to raise $7 million from donors attending concerts by such stars as Bette Midler, Cher, Michael Bolton, Jimmy Buffett, Paul Simon and James Taylor.
The Bush campaign distributed to reporters a Los Angeles Times article from Aug. 10, 1999, describing Mr. Gore's attempts to woo contributors in Hollywood at the same time the administration was announcing the FTC probe.
"At the private meeting with potential donors, Gore distanced himself from the federal inquiry into Hollywood's marketing of violent movies launched recently by President Clinton," the article stated. "Participants said Gore made clear that the government study disparaged by some in Hollywood as a witch hunt was the president's idea, not his, and was initiated without his input."
The same newspaper article noted that during Mr. Gore's failed presidential run in 1988 he held a private meeting in Los Angeles with recording-industry executives in which he "backpedaled" from his role in a high-profile Senate hearing into "unsavory" music lyrics. Mr. Gore's wife, Tipper, waged a campaign at the time to put warning labels on music recordings with sexually explicit or violent lyrics.
Bush spokesman Dan Bartlett said, "Al Gore waving around a report that he denounced at a Hollywood fund-raiser just a year ago makes him a deserving candidate for an Oscar award in hypocrisy."
Mr. Bush said he would work with Hollywood executives "to come out with a better product." But the Republican presidential nominee stopped short of saying government regulation was required to tone down violence on film and in videos.
"I'm going to remind moms and dads that their biggest responsibility is to make sure their children are not watching or playing with these violent games," Mr. Bush said.
He also said character education is needed in faith-based schools.
Mr. Bush opened a busy week of coast-to-coast campaigning in Florida with his brother, Gov. Jeb Bush, also a Republican. He vowed to win the state, where polls show Mr. Gore leading.
"Don't blame it on my brother," a smiling Mr. Bush said of Mr. Gore's recent gains in state polls. "We're going to carry Florida."
Mr. Gore has campaigned aggressively in Florida, which has 25 electoral votes and which the Bush campaign considers crucial to victory. Mr. Gore's turnaround here began in late August, when he chose the state as the place to announce his prescription drug plan, one week before Mr. Bush released the details of his own proposal.
Mr. Bush and his brother visited the On Top of the World retirement community here on the Gulf Coast, where the candidate promoted his $158 billion plan to provide seniors on Medicare with a prescription-drug benefit. Unlike Mr. Gore's $253 billion proposal for a government-run system, Mr. Bush's plan would pay for seniors' premiums with private insurers.
"We need to have a variety of plans available for seniors … instead of a failed HMO called the federal government," Mr. Bush told an audience of about 500 seniors. "The federal government ought to be humble enough to allow you to make choices. If you're sick of what's going on, the best way to reform the system is to have options."
Jeb Bush told the seniors: "My dad came here as a candidate. I came here as a candidate. This is like icing on the cake… . This is a huge election. I know of one man that can change the culture of Washington, bring civility back to Washington, D.C., work together with the Congress … to build a better future for our country. And that's my brother, George W. Bush."
Continuing a change in his campaign style that favors more intimate settings, the Texas governor held a cordless microphone and stood in the midst of seniors in an auditorium as he took their questions. One woman asked if he would sign a ban on partial-birth abortions.
"If Congress puts a bill on my desk, I'll sign it," Mr. Bush said to applause. Congress has passed such a ban on late-term abortions three times in recent years, but Mr. Clinton vetoed it each time and Congress lacked the votes to override him.
A retired World War II veteran told Mr. Bush that he wants him to restore "honor and dignity" to the White House.
"I'm sorry you have to say that," Mr. Bush replied. "But that's a pledge I've made and I'm going to keep it."
An elderly woman told Mr. Bush, "Every day you're in my prayers that God is going to make you a president." As the crowd cheered loudly, Mr. Bush walked over to the woman and kissed her.
The candidate held a $500,000 fund-raiser last night in the Palm Beach area at the home of Lowell "Bud" Paxson, founder of the Paxnet family-oriented television network.
Mr. Bush will campaign this morning in Florida before flying to St. Louis and then to Washington state, where he will announce a conservation initiative tomorrow.
Andrew Cain contributed to this report in Chicago.

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