- The Washington Times - Monday, July 17, 2000

Texas Gov. George W. Bush is not sure the $60 billion national missile defense system planned by the Pentagon would be the most effective and says he would not move forward to deploy the system unless there is proof it works.

"I think we ought to expand the research on ABM [anti-ballistic missile system] … it's the boost-phase system that we need to spend money and time and effort to … determine its feasibility," Mr. Bush, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, said in a wide-reaching interview yesterday on ABC's "This Week."

He explained that a "boost-phase" system is able to intercept hostile or accidentally launched missiles shortly after they take off. In contrast, the national missile defense system being tested by the United States attempts to intercept a missile on re-entry.

"Many think the most effective systems are those that intercept a rocket on launch," the governor told ABC.

The Bush interview followed a lengthy one his key rival, Vice President Al Gore, the presumed Democratic nominee, gave Tim Russert on NBC's "Meet the Press."

On NBC, Mr. Gore declined to say if he believes President Clinton should let the next president decide whether the Pentagon should proceed with the NMD it is testing.

"I'm not going to forestall President Clinton's judgment on that question. That's his judgment to make… . I'm not going to try to take that decision away from him," said Mr. Gore.

The system has been tested three times, with two test failures. However, members of Congress especially Republicans believe a national missile defense system is necessary to protect the United States from missiles launched by rogue nations, such as North Korea, Iran or Iraq.

System proponents argue the tests showed failings in old technology. The effectiveness of cutting-edge technology is still unknown, they say.

In the "Meet the Press" interview, Mr. Gore brushed aside questions about whether consumer advocate Ralph Nader, nominee of the Green Party, is cutting into his support, particularly in critical states such as California and Michigan. Mr. Gore said voters eventually will want to pick "between two stark choices" him or Mr. Bush.

Mr. Nader, who appeared on CBS' "Face the Nation," said he is not concerned about the effect he might have on other presidential candidates.

"I wouldn't be running if I were worried about taking votes away from Al Gore or George W. Bush. Nobody is entitled to votes. They have to earn them," Mr. Nader said.

Reform Party candidate Pat Buchanan, a former Republican and fierce abortion opponent, also appeared on "Face the Nation." Mr. Bush is "moving leftward," Mr. Buchanan said, and the Democratic and Republican parties "have become Xerox copies of each other."

"I'm running to give the American people an authentic choice," said Mr. Buchanan. He blamed his poor showing in the polls around 2 percent on the fact that he has been trying to build his party and has not received a lot of national exposure.

Mr. Buchanan accused Mr. Bush of "blowing smoke" in refusing to rule out picking a pro-choice running mate. "I don't think he's going to appoint a … pro-abortion running mate. There would be an explosion at his convention. I don't think he has the nerve to do it," said Mr. Buchanan.

Mr. Gore is trying to "distort" Mr. Bush's record as Texas governor, Mr. Bush said on ABC. The Gore effort will backfire because "people are tired of Washington attack politics," Mr. Bush said.

"If this election is decided on my effectiveness as a governor and on the record of Texas, I'll win by a landslide," said Mr. Bush.

As for a national missile defense system, he said, "When I'm president … I will build and deploy a system that will work."

He said he believes the system now under development will work, although he is not convinced it would be the best.

Asked if he would refuse to deploy a system built before the technology has been demonstrated to work, Mr. Bush said, "That's an accurate statement."

Russia insists a national missile defense system would violate the ABM treaty it signed with the United States in 1972. In fact, that treaty would seem to allow only small ground-based systems.

The proposed national missile defense system is ground-based, and some in Congress argue a sea-based system would be preferable. The U.S. Navy has said adding ship-launched interceptors would greatly enhance NMD capability.

"Under the current ABM treaty … sea-based systems are not allowed to test sensors off of satellites, so it makes it very hard for us to deploy the most effective systems," Mr. Bush said yesterday.

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