- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 12, 2000

Vice President Al Gore, painfully aware that viewers of the second presidential debate were listening carefully for him to exaggerate again, went so far as to point out that his first answer last night was not an exaggeration.

Responding to moderator Jim Lehrer's first question about what guiding principles he would use to exercise presidential power, Mr. Gore said: "It is a great tribute to our founders that, 224 years later, this nation is now looked to by the peoples on every other continent and the peoples from every part of this Earth as a kind of model for what their future could be. And I don't think that's just the kind of an exaggeration that we take pride in as Americans; it's really true."

But the second debate was only about 15 minutes old when the Republican National Committee (RNC) said it had caught Mr. Gore in another stretch of the truth.

Speaking about the Persian Gulf War in 1991, Mr. Gore said he was "one of the few members of my political party to support former President Bush in the Persian Gulf War Resolution."

At 9:16 p.m., the RNC e-mailed reporters to remind them that, according to two prominent former Republican senators, Mr. Gore shopped around his vote on the Gulf War resolution to see which party would give him more time on the Senate floor in front of television cameras.

Former Republican Sen. Alan Simpson of Wyoming wrote in a recent newspaper article of the delicate dance Mr. Gore, then a senator from Tennessee, played between Republicans who favored the resolution and Democrats who opposed it. Mr. Simpson wrote that Majority Leader Bob Dole finally agreed on the morning of the vote to give Mr. Gore a good speaking slot.

"I believe only then, after Gore realized we were asking for more time to make room for him on our side, that he finally decided to support the resolution authorizing the use of force to drive [Saddam] Hussein out of Kuwait," Mr. Simpson wrote.

Mr. Gore also failed to mention that in 1992, while campaigning to oust President Bush from office, he declared that the Gulf War "never should have taken place."

Even before the debate began last night, Mr. Gore knew his every word would be scrutinized because he had casually tossed out a few whoppers in the first debate.

In the first presidential debate, held Oct. 3 in Boston, Mr. Gore embellished a story about traveling to Texas in 1996 to inspect wildfire damage with James Lee Witt, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Mr. Gore was wrong; he was in Texas for a fund-raiser that year and never toured any fire damage.

He was in Texas in 1998 during more wildfires, about which he received a briefing from FEMA officials, but not from Mr. Witt. Mr. Gore later said he got his disaster trips confused.

For his part, Mr. Bush also got some facts wrong last night. He said the three Texas men who killed James Byrd by dragging him from a pickup truck had received death sentences. In fact, two defendants were sentenced to death, but the third received life imprisonment.

The vice president, who lost ground in public opinion polls after the first debate, apologized at the end of last night's contest for getting facts wrong last week.

"I'm sorry, I regret it," he said.

Although Mr. Gore professes to be the candidate with more foreign policy expertise, he misspoke last night when talking about the new president of Serbia. He referred to attempts by supporters of ousted Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to "ignore the orders of the new president of Serbia."

He meant Vojislav Kostunica, the Yugoslav president. Serbia is the largest republic of Yugoslavia.

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