- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 31, 2000

From combined dispatches

Richard B. Cheney yesterday charged the Clinton-Gore administration has "neglected" America's military.
"Our military today is overused and under-resourced," the Republican vice-presidential candidate said in a speech in Atlanta.
Mr. Cheney, who was defense secretary during the 1991 Gulf war, said the administration had reduced the defense budget "far beyond any careful weighing of the national interest."
Meanwhile, campaigning in New Hampshire yesterday, Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush outlined a five-year, $6.7 billion plan to help low-income college students.
The Bush-Cheney ticket took the offensive on defense and education issues as polls showed Vice President Al Gore gaining ground in the Midwest and widening his lead in California.
In Illinois, a poll shows Mr. Gore ahead 46 to 41 percent, while the presidential race is a dead heat in Michigan, where Mr. Bush had enjoyed an advantage in earlier polls. Mr. Gore was also ahead by 15 percentage points in Maryland, where the race had been even in July.
While Mr. Gore campaigned in Oregon yesterday, promising to protect Medicare funding "in an ironclad lockbox," Mr. Bush blamed the Clinton-Gore administration for failing to close the "achievement gap" of low test scores for minority students.
"While some [students] are flourishing, others are languishing," the Texas governor told an audience of 800 at a high school in Hampton, N.H.
He called the Clinton-Gore record on education "seven years of stagnancy."
Mr. Bush proposed increasing the maximum amount for a first-year Pell grant to $5,100 from the current $3,300. Pell grants are federal tuition subsidies for low-income college students.
Mr. Bush also advocated establishing a $1.5 billion "college challenge" grant to help states establish merit-scholarship programs.
Appearing at the Southern Center for International Studies in Atlanta, Mr. Cheney pledged that a Republican administration would boost military pay and benefits, and improve housing for service members and their families.
Mr. Bush's running mate made clear he was criticizing the Clinton-Gore administration, not the military.
"To point out that our military has been overextended, taken for granted and neglected that is no criticism of the military. That is a criticism of a president and a vice president and the record they have built together," said Mr. Cheney, who is making a campaign swing through several Southern states, including North Carolina, Georgia, Mississippi and Florida.
Gore campaign spokesman Doug Hattaway yesterday accused the Republican ticket of "twisting facts about our military for partisan gain" and insisted: "Our military is the strongest, most capable, most ready fighting force in the world."
A recent Army report showed the lowest possible readiness levels at more than half of Army training centers. Congressional reports and studies by civilian defense analysts have recently noted the U.S. military suffers from a shortage of Air Force and Navy pilots, aging equipment and aircraft, and declining morale.
The Gore campaign yesterday sought to turn attention to the vice president's health-care proposals for the elderly. Mr. Gore has already proposed a $253 billion prescription-drug benefit program for retirees under Medicare.
Mr. Gore yesterday proposed $400 billion in new funding to prop up the Medicare program, which he promised to put out of reach of "politicians."
"Let's remove the temptation to raid the cookie jar," the vice president said of his "lockbox" promise.
But the Gore campaign faced a new attack on the health-care front, as a Republican group announced a new television ad warning that the Democrat's drug benefit would dip into seniors' Social Security checks.
Featuring an elderly woman who says, "Get your hands off my Social Security check," the Republican Leadership Coalition spot begins today in Pittsburgh and Washington.
"We believe we caught Gore trying to pull a fast one," said Republican consultant Scott Reed. "He hasn't admitted his [prescription-drug] plan is to take it out of Social Security checks."

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