- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 4, 2000

It has been nearly three months since Texas Gov. George W. Bush and Vice President Al Gore wrapped up their nominations as their parties presidential candidates. During this period, what appears likely to be the most defining characteristic of this year's presidential election has become explicitly clear: Mr. Bush has emerged as the candidate of change, and Mr. Gore has entrenched himself as the candidate of the status quo.

Gambling that the current trend of peace and prosperity will prove decisive in November, Mr. Gore has embraced status quo policies that fail to address the nation's most pressing challenges on the horizon. For his part, Mr. Bush is doing something that hasn't been done since Ronald Reagan sought the presidency 20 years ago. He is boldly seeking a mandate. Whereas Mr. Reagan sought a mandate to reverse the economic, diplomatic and military setbacks produced by failed liberal policies, Mr. Bush seeks a mandate to address both the current and the long-term problems that remain unaddressed by today's peace and prosperity.

No educational problem is nearly as socially catastrophic as the dysfunctional public school systems that continue to plague America's largest cities. Yet it is Mr. Gore, himself a product of private schooling and the father of children exclusively taught in private elementary and secondary schools, who stands in the D.C. schoolhouse door blocking the exit of poor, inner-city students who would have qualified for federally funded scholarships if the Clinton-Gore administration had not blocked that innovative school-reform experiment. Under the Republican proposal, D.C. public schools would not have lost a dime of their funding. But thousands of fortunate students would have been able to escape what is regarded as one of the worst public school systems in the nation. Even D.C. school superintendent Arlene Ackerman offered no objection to the plan. But Mr. Gore did. Mr. Gore's answer is to pour additional billions of federal dollars into failed, unaccountable systems. By contrast, Mr. Bush would demand accountability, and if results were not achieved, he would permit poor students to use their share of Title I federal funding money spent for the benefit of disadvantaged students to attend private schools.

In the face of nearly $20 trillion of unfunded liabilities in the Social Security system, Mr. Gore has demagogued Mr. Bush's proposal to permit workers to use part of their payroll taxes to establish private investment accounts, whose returns would almost certainly exceed the feeble return prospective retirees can expect from Social Security. No less than Democratic Sens. Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Bob Kerrey endorse private investment accounts. But not Mr. Gore.

The Clinton-Gore administration blocked the promising reforms devised by a majority of members serving on a bipartisan Medicare commission. What is now likely to emerge on the Medicare front is the addition of yet another costly benefit subsidized prescription drugs. Mr. Gore will have helped to produce the worst of all possible Medicare outcomes higher costs in the absence of reform. Nothing could be more status quo than that.

No status quo policy embraced by Mr. Gore offers more apocalyptic danger to the American public than his continued fascination with the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty, a relic of the Cold War that drastically limits the nation's ability to defend itself against accidental launches and missile attacks from rogue states. Dragged kicking and screaming last year into signing bipartisan (97-3 in the Senate and 317-105 in the House) legislation requiring the United States to deploy a technically feasible national missile defense system at the earliest possible moment, the Clinton-Gore administration has since concentrated its efforts on asking Russia for permission to deploy a very limited and, thus, a deeply flawed land-based system in Alaska. Mr. Bush has made it clear that the United States does not need the permission of Russia, which isn't even a signatory to the ABM Treaty, to defend itself against missile attacks from the likes of North Korea, Iraq and Iran.

In some cases, Mr. Gore goes beyond the status quo and becomes reactionary. Consider his proposals for campaign finance and trade. In March, Mr. Gore unveiled his solution for campaign-finance reform a $7.1 billion, taxpayer-subsidized "Democracy Endowment" fund that would be used to finance general-election campaigns for Congress. In addition to eviscerating the First Amendment rights of interest groups, Mr. Gore's "Democracy Endowment" scheme would also maintain the incumbency-protection racket by limiting the expenditures of lesser-known challengers. With more than 98 percent of re-election-seeking House incumbents winning in November 1998, real campaign reform would allow challengers to raise fully disclosed contributions in sufficient increments to permit them to overcome the advantages of incumbency. The first thing to do is raise the limits that individuals ($1,000) and political action committees ($5,000) may contribute to an election campaign. These nominal limits have been set in stone since 1974, and Mr. Gore intends to keep them there.

Regarding trade, Mr. Gore let the protectionist labor unions know that any trade agreement he would negotiate as president would include trade-busting environmental and labor restrictions. Developing nations in the Third World that have yet to exploit their comparative advantage in labor by pursuing the time-tested, export-driven development model would be consigned to everlasting misery. And any hope that those unfortunate nations would one day be able to afford the environmentally friendly policies that rich nations pursue would be dashed.

Across the policy board, Mr. Gore has demonstrated himself to be the status quo candidate incapable of adopting policies that would truly address the challenges facing America at the dawn of the new millennium.

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