- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 16, 2000

LOS ANGELES Vanquished presidential candidate Bill Bradley pledged to the Democratic National Convention last night to campaign for Vice President Al Gore, whose truthfulness he challenged during the primary season.

"But now we're in the general election, and it's absolutely essential that we get behind Al Gore. I support him. I endorse him. I'll work hard for his victory," Mr. Bradley said, then cited his own agenda to change campaign-financing laws and ensure that no American child lives in poverty.

"If we don't end child poverty in our lifetime, shame on me, shame on you, shame on all of us," Mr. Bradley said.

"Our country needs a Democratic president, a Democratic Congress and most important, a Democratic conscience. Electing Al Gore and Joe Lieberman is the right thing to do for our country."

Mr. Bradley's role as a featured speaker in the televised prime-time hour capped the convention's quietest evening.

Delegates also routinely approved a party platform at a six-hour session largely given over to an old-time litany of liberal causes and to Kennedy family reminiscences of John F. Kennedy's "New Frontier," which began with his nomination here 40 years ago.

Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg's appearance on a nationally televised segment produced the convention's most emotional moment, recalling her slain father's spirit and demand that constituents give of themselves.

"It is time once again to ask more of ourselves [to create] a prosperity of kindness and decency," she said before introducing her uncle, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts who roused the delegates with a call for new spending for medical care.

"This is not the time to play partisan games with human health," he said. "Let there be no mistake about it. There is a profoundly deep difference between the Democratic and Republican nominees on this issue this life and death issue of health care for Americans."

Besides calling for a prescription drug benefit under Medicare, the platform also affirms the party's longtime pro-choice stand on abortion and backs broader rights for homosexuals. It also supports a middle-class tax cut reminiscent of the one that President Clinton promised in 1992.

The list of party stances also mentions its opposition to school-choice voucher plans and to partial privatization of Social Security.

Major party conventions have long produced platforms that list talking points intended mostly to appease internal interest groups without hog-tying a candidate whose priorities or principles varied right or left.

Designated keynote speaker Rep. Harold E. Ford Jr. of Tennessee used his time to deliver what once was called a "favorite son" speech praising Mr. Gore.

"At the height of the Cold War, when those on both sides of the aisle were stuck on how best to bring peace and security to America, Al Gore, at the age of 34, offered a comprehensive strategy to reduce the threat of nuclear war while keeping America safe and strong," said Mr. Ford, a rising star in his party, in the young, clean-cut mold of Republican Rep. J.C. Watts Jr. of Oklahoma, who also is black.

Mr. Ford also underscored Mr. Gore's Vietnam service, presumably because his opponent did not serve there. Texas Gov. George W. Bush was a jet fighter pilot in the Air National Guard.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson, whose own ambitions of high office faded years ago, continued to show his clout in a party that gave him a hero's welcome last night in a city he called "home of the dream-makers who entice the world, and home of the janitors and sanitary workers who clean up your world."

He said Democrats offer true diversity, while the Republicans offer only what he called "the inclusion illusion" at its convention in Philadelphia two weeks ago.

The man who once called New York "Hymietown" praised the 2000 Democratic ticket "headed by a Southern Baptist and an Orthodox Jew."

Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota implored delegates to remember the Democratic Party "gave America the minimum wage and the 40-hour workweek… . Social Security and Medicare [and] advanced the civil rights movement and the equal rights struggle."

"In the last century, Democrats proposed these ideas and Republicans opposed them each of them, every chance they got. They're still doing it today. But they were wrong then. And they are wrong now," Mr. Daschle said.

Mr. Bradley's speech lauding Mr. Gore came months after a bitter primary campaign that may yet come back to haunt Mr. Gore.

In a New Hampshire debate Jan. 26, Mr. Bradley asked Mr. Gore, "Why should we believe you will tell the truth as president if you don't tell the truth as a candidate?"

That media sound bite was so enticing the Republican National Committee put it on a huge billboard near a Gore campaign office in Nashville, Tenn.

Mr. Bradley told a National Journal interviewer here that "whatever happened in any primary" has nothing to do with November's race with Mr. Bush.

Reviving a theme that netted him 359 delegates without winning a single state, Mr. Bradley predicted a wave of public opinion would roll over old campaign-finance laws "and when it breaks, it will carry the trappings of political privilege with it."

"Every generation has to fight for democracy in its own way. Our fight is campaign-finance reform. Let the Democratic Party take up the torch of reform once again and return politics to the people," he said, denying his vision is unrealistic.

"I call them common sense. I call them Democratic. I call them American," Mr. Bradley said, arguing that election stakes include a Supreme Court majority and the future of Social Security.

"Don't read our lips. Watch what we do," he said after characterizing Mr. Gore as "a man of wide-ranging intellect with a … life view infused with tolerance and rooted in religious faith."

Campaign finance also troubled Sen. Russell D. Feingold of Wisconsin, who asked the party to ban corporate gifts at future conventions out of "concern and dismay that 'soft money' fund raising has become so much a part of this convention. It should not be."

One after another through the three-hour afternoon session, 41 speakers swung at the Republicans while saying a few words for a favorite issue, including D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton's plug for D.C. statehood and full representation in Congress.

"Al Gore and the Democrats will bring full congressional representation to 500,000 taxpaying residents of the District of Columbia, autonomy without undemocratic intervention by the Congress, and statehood," said the delegate who can vote in committee, but not on final action in Congress.

Other featured topics included abortion and homosexuality.

"All of America has benefited from the contributions of gay and lesbian Americans," said Juanita Owens, a college administrator who called herself "an 'out' lesbian of color."

She said, "We are your children, your co-workers, your neighbors, your friends. We are your teachers, carpenters, doctors, bus drivers. We are an integral part of this country.

"There are even gay Republicans. I don't understand why," Miss Owens said.

A day earlier, party Treasurer Andrew Tobias said the Democratic Party has "made my life and the lives of millions of other gay and lesbian Americans immeasurably better. No amount of money can buy that."

Abortion speakers included Kate Michelman, president of the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League, and Rep. Nita M. Lowey of New York, who said the issue is "of paramount importance to every family in America."

"I won't mince words. This election will determine whether Roe vs. Wade continues to be the law of the land, or whether we return to the days of illegal abortion, when thousands of women died," Mrs. Lowey said, calling Republicans the enemy concerning abortion.

"At every turn, even when we try to reduce the need for abortion through better access to contraception, they stand in the way," she said.

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