- The Washington Times - Friday, September 29, 2000

Newt is back.
With fewer than 40 days to go in the presidential race, the former speaker of the House who inspired unified hatred from Democrats as the target for all they despise has emerged as a Campaign Issue.
"It is a time-tested tactic of the Democrats before Halloween to take out the skeletons and try to scare people," said Tucker Eskew, senior communications adviser for George W. Bush.
Al Gore finding himself behind in the polls for the first time since he planted "The Kiss" on wife Tipper has this week repeatedly invoked Newt Gingrich's name. Battling for Florida's 2.5 million senior citizens, the vice president is reviving the "Mediscare" campaign leading up to the 1996 election in an attempt to tie the Texas governor to the former speaker.
"We want to show that [Mr. Bush] is not all that different from Newt Gingrich," said Jano Cabrera, Gore deputy national spokesman. "Many of Bush's priorities mirror those of Mr. Gingrich."
That politicians and the media are making Mr. Gingrich an issue is clear: The numbers don't lie.
He was mentioned 184 times in the New York Times from Jan. 1 through Sept. 27, 164 of which occurred in stories referring to either President Clinton, Vice President Al Gore or Mr. Bush. The former speaker was mentioned 178 times in The Washington Post during the same period, 145 of which included Mr. Clinton, Mr. Gore or Mr. Bush.
All this for a man who left public office Jan. 6, 1999, and has all but disappeared from the daily political landscape since then.
"This is clearly a sign of desperation in the Gore campaign," said Gingrich spokesman Mike Shields. "I don't think that it's a coincidence that the day after he falls behind in the polls he returns to negative campaigning, this time using Newt's name."
Mr. Shields said Mr. Gingrich would not comment on the issue, saying he has "purposely stayed away from day-to-day political stories." But he said Mr. Gingrich is "not surprised."
"It's reflexive on the part of Democrats. Even after he's out of office, they can't quit. That shows the Democrats' hatred of Newt."
While Mr. Gingrich had already been an issue in the New York Senate race with first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton labeling opponent Rep. Rick Lazio a "Gingrich Republican" because he was once one of his deputy whips Mr. Gore has spent this week seeking to link Mr. Bush to the former Georgia congressman.
"[Mr. Gingrich] came after Medicare and tried to cut $270 billion out of it and make a whole series of structural changes that he predicted at the time would cause Medicare to wither on the vine," Mr. Gore said in Des Moines, Iowa, on Wednesday the third straight day he invoked the former speaker, beginning Monday in the key battleground state of Florida.
"Do you remember him saying that?" the vice president asked, drawing nods from a number of people.
"[Mr. Bush] spoke up in support of that plan. He applauded it. He said it was a good plan," Mr. Gore said, referring to 1995 comments by the Texas governor.
In that television interview, Mr. Bush said, "Elderly people will not suffer as a result of this plan. It's going to make the plan solvent. And Republicans will be heralded, not only for saving Medicare but at the same time for having the political courage to balance the budget."
Mr. Gore said Wednesday that Mr. Bush "learned from Gingrich's rhetorical excesses, but the effect of his plan is the same." It would do "virtually the same thing to Medicare that Gingrich proposed: raising premiums, taking money out of Medicare for a tax cut that goes mainly to the wealthy, forcing seniors into HMOs, privatizing Medicare."
Mr. Gore's charge, however, is not supported by facts. Mr. Gingrich's comment referred to the Health Care Financing Administration, the bureaucratic arm that oversees Medicare and sets all coverage.
The actual quote:
"What do you think the Health Care Financing Administration is? It's a centralized command bureaucracy. It's everything we're telling Boris Yeltsin to get rid of… . We believe it's going to wither on the vine because we think people are voluntarily going to leave it voluntarily.
"Notice the difference, again, from the Clinton plan. No one under our plan is coerced into doing anything. If you are 75 years old or 85 years old and you don't want to change, if you do nothing, you stay in the current system."
Mr. Gore's return to the "Mediscare" tactic of 1996 also overlooks one important fact: The Clinton-Gore administration in 1997 signed into law Mr. Gingrich's scaled-down proposal to cut $225 billion from Medicare growth over seven years.
The Clinton-Gore administration had wanted a 7.7 percent increase per year; Republicans proposed 7.2. The two split the difference.
"Al Gore is grasping at straws by attacking Governor Bush for what his administration signed into law in 1997," said Bush spokesman Dan Bartlett. "Just like in 1996, Al Gore is attempting to scare seniors to vote for him. After vetoing Gingrich's Medicare program for political purposes right before the 1996 election, the Clinton-Gore administration signed Gingrich's Medicare proposal into law the very next year."
Mr. Gingrich has already been prominently featured in the New York Senate race. When Mr. Lazio and Mrs. Clinton faced off in their first debate Sept. 13, the first lady used his name 10 times.
"He tells us he's a moderate mainstream member of Congress … [but] he stood with Newt Gingrich," she said.
That prompted a fiery response from the congressman.
"Mrs. Clinton, you of all people shouldn't try to make guilt by association… . Mr. Gingrich isn't in this race; I'm in this race," he said.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide