- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 29, 2000

Vice President Al Gore yesterday taunted his presidential rival, saying on Air Force Two it was "put up or shut up time" and challenged Texas Gov. George W. Bush to offer specific plans on such issues as Social Security and prescription drugs.
"The time for generalities without specifics, I think, is just about over, and so it's time, where specifics are concerned, it's put up or shut up time," Mr. Gore said, suggesting that Mr. Bush might want to reduce the size of his proposed tax cut.
During a chat with reporters, Mr. Gore got no response when he asked the assembled media whether they knew the specifics of Mr. Bush's Social Security plan.
"Do you know what [Mr. Bush's] Social Security privatization plan is? It is the biggest program in America, the most important program in America, and he wants to privatize a big part of it. Do any of you know what the specifics are?"
Mr. Gore then answered his own question: "I know that you don't know the specifics, because he has not shared them."
On May 15, Mr. Bush outlined a plan to give workers the choice of investing up to 2 percentage points of their 12.4 percent payroll tax into IRA-type accounts, and stock and bond mutual funds.
Mr. Gore immediately made specific charges, calling the Texas governor's plan a "risky scheme" that would leave a $1 trillion hole in the Social Security fund.
"That's bad for our nation's economy, because the numbers just don't add up," the vice president said.
Mr. Gore's challenge on Social Security came at the end of a day in which the vice president tried to entice seniors yesterday with a $253 billion federal prescription-drug plan, which Mr. Bush likened to the Clinton-Gore administration's failed "Hillarycare" plan of 1993.
Campaigning in Florida, which has nearly 3 million seniors and a Republican governor named Bush, Mr. Gore promised he would deliver the Medicare coverage that the Clinton administration has failed to enact with Congress for nearly eight years.
"It's just wrong for seniors to have to choose between food and medicine while the big drug companies run up record profits," Mr. Gore told an audience at Florida State University in Tallahassee. "I will fight for a prescription-drug benefit for all seniors under Medicare."
Mr. Bush, meanwhile, stuck to one of his four major campaign issues, education reform, saying Mr. Gore "presides over a national tragedy."
"Seventy percent of fourth-graders in our highest-poverty schools still cannot read," Mr. Bush told reporters in Austin, Texas. "Vice President Gore only offers an illusion of accountability, words with no action."
Mr. Gore's effort to woo seniors in the retirement haven yesterday underscored his desire to win Florida, where Mr. Bush's brother Jeb is governor. Mr. Gore lost points with the state's Cuban-American community earlier this year when he waffled on the federal government's armed seizure of Cuban refugee Elian Gonzalez.
While Mr. Gore railed against "big drug companies," the Bush campaign was pointing out that his running mate, Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, has accepted more than $161,000 in campaign donations from drug makers since 1993.
"It's got to bring into question Al Gore's convictions and credibility," said Bush spokesman Dan Bartlett.
Under the Gore prescription-drug plan, Medicare would pay all the costs of prescription drugs for low-income seniors. For the rest, Medicare would pay half the cost of prescription drugs, up to $5,000 a year. The new government program would cost about $253 billion in the first 10 years.
Mr. Bush favors a voluntary plan, approved by congressional Republicans, that would offer a subsidy to insurance companies for providing drug coverage for low-income seniors. The cost of that program is estimated at $40 billion over five years. President Clinton has vowed to veto it.
The Texas governor yesterday praised a bipartisan commission's plan that he said would allow senior citizens "to pick and choose amongst a variety of plans, all of which will include prescription drugs."
Mr. Gore, alluding to a comment by Bush running mate Richard B. Cheney that the Republican ticket would reveal the details of its own drug proposal soon, said voters could compare them "when the other side gets around to proposing a specific plan."
Mr. Bartlett said Mr. Gore was "proposing a nationalized drug plan that makes the federal government the dispenser of drugs for seniors, similar to Hillary Clinton's attempt to nationalize health care in 1993."
"By proposing a one-size-fits-all, government-run drug plan, Al Gore today fully embraced the old-style, government-knows-best approach the American people soundly rejected when Hillary Clinton tried it in 1993," Mr. Bartlett said.
As he prepared to embark today on a five-state trip to promote his education plan, Mr. Bush cited a National Assessment of Educational Progress study released last week that showed the achievement gap between rich and poor, minority and white students has not improved, and in some cases has worsened.
"Recent studies show us children are being left behind under the Clinton-Gore administration," Mr. Bush said, calling it "an indictment of the status quo and of the last seven years of neglect for our public schools."
This article was based in part on wire-service reports

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