- The Washington Times - Monday, February 21, 2000

ALBANY, N.Y. Al Gore yesterday said the Republicans who are trying to keep him from the White House are "morally blind."
The vice president, with Senate candidate and first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton at his side, referred to Bob Dylan's 1960s protest song, "Blowin' in the Wind," as he campaigned for support in New York's black community.
In a sometimes impassioned speech to more than 800 people at a largely black church, Mr. Gore accused the Republican challengers for the White House of being blind to racism.
"There are those who have 20/20 vision who are morally blind … some of those individuals just left the state of South Carolina," Mr. Gore said, his reference to Saturday's GOP primary drawing laughter from the audience at the Wilborn Temple First Church of God in Christ.
Mentioning the Confederate battle flag that flies over the South Carolina Statehouse, Mr. Gore paraphrased a Dylan song and said, "They looked at that flag and they turned their heads and pretended that they just didn't see."
Calling the flag "that accumulated heritage of injustice," he said the Republican reaction reminded him of those who say racism is gone and that America has become color blind.
"They use their colorblind the way duck hunters use their duck blinds they hide behind it and hope the ducks won't know what they're up to," Mr. Gore said.
Mr. Gore and the first lady, campaigning together for the first time this year in New York, where Mrs. Clinton is making history as the first first lady to seek public office, had warm words for each other, and a few hugs.
"She stands for the best values of New York state," Mr. Gore said of Mrs. Clinton, who is pitted against New York City Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani in the Senate race. "Her voice will be heard. Her vision will make a difference… . I will stand up for her."
"No one in America is more qualified to lead us than our vice president," Mrs. Clinton said.
The three-hour service was part of the annual weekend conference sponsored by the state legislature's black and Hispanic caucus. It came a day before Mr. Gore and Democratic presidential rival Bill Bradley were to debate at the Apollo Theatre in Harlem.
After some handshaking, Mr. Gore took off for New York City where he was meeting with the editorial board of the Amsterdam News, a major black-oriented newspaper.
The conference brings together hundreds of the state's top black and Hispanic leaders, who represent an increasingly powerful voting bloc in New York state. Blacks and Hispanics made up 15 percent of voters in the state's 1998 statewide elections.
A big test of that minority voting power will come in the March 7 primary, which is considered a major showdown for Mr. Gore and Mr. Bradley, a former New York Knicks basketball star. Both have made major appeals to minorities in their bids for the Democratic presidential nomination.
While there has been speculation that Mr. Gore and the first lady didn't want to be seen together as they work to escape the long shadow of President Clinton, aides to both have denied that is true.
One Gore adviser, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said last week that "for the next 19 days, she helps us tremendously. Her numbers are just off the charts with Democratic primary voters."
Some of those attending the service appeared surprised by Mr. Gore's address.
"It was the first time I've seen Gore really speak with some passion," said Joseph Rhodes III, 47, of New York City.

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