- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 19, 2000

KANSAS CITY, Mo. Republican presidential nominee George W. Bush sharpened his attacks on his Democratic opponent yesterday, saying Vice President Al Gore is using "fine print" to hide the deficiencies of his proposals.
"The tax code is too complicated as it is," he told voters at a small rally in Little Rock, Ark. "My opponent's plan makes it more complicated with a lot of fine print. You get tax relief if you behave a certain way or only if you meet certain small categories. It's so targeted, it misses the target."
Mr. Gore has long criticized Mr. Bush's $1.3 trillion tax-cut plan since it cuts taxes for persons of all income levels, a move the vice president says is intended to help the rich. Mr. Gore has called for smaller, targeted tax cuts, worth about $500 billion, which would affect poorer families without lowering taxes for wealthy families.
"I believe that everybody who pays taxes ought to get tax relief," Mr. Bush said. "I don't believe in the rhetoric he used at his own convention, when he said that only the 'right' people will get tax relief."
Mr. Bush and his staff yesterday tried to turn Mr. Gore's proposals against him, saying his populist rhetoric masks the fact that about half of taxpaying households would not be eligible for a tax cut under Mr. Gore's plans. The campaign sought to show that Mr. Gore's detailed, 191 pages of proposals are a sign of a "big government" mentality.
"I trust the folks up here more than I trust Al Gore and his planners and thinkers… . I trust the people, he trusts the planners, thinkers and deciders in Washington, D.C.," Mr. Bush told a friendly audience in Kansas City.
Mr. Bush, who is lagging in the polls, is starting to be more strident in his attacks on the vice president, but he is trying to avoid overt negative comments because of his pledge to "change the tone" of the political debate.
He has decided, therefore, to wrap the attacks in a larger debate over specific issues. On Sunday, Mr. Bush released a 16-page summary of his proposals that takes pointed shots at Mr. Gore throughout, saying, for example, that the vice president's Social Security plan "will result in drastic tax increases or benefit cuts in the future."
The summary, titled "A Blueprint for the Middle Class," offers Mr. Bush an opening to take subtle digs at the vice president while still discussing the specifics of his own plans.
The tax plan "is straightforward it says every family with a child gets a $1,000 credit, no ands, ifs or buts," Mr. Bush said yesterday after touring a maternity ward in Little Rock.
Under the Bush proposal, "you get a $1,000 credit because we trust you with your own money," he said. "We want you to make decisions you think are necessary for your children."
Mr. Bush plans to appear today on "The Oprah Winfrey Show," on which Mr. Gore appeared a week ago. Mr. Bush's staff said the candidate will try to appeal to female voters a key audience for Miss Winfrey. Later in the week, he will appear on the morning talk show hosted by Regis Philbin.
Mr. Bush is also continuing to soften his image with more informal events, rather than the formal speeches that have marked most of his campaign. Yesterday's event in Kansas City was town-hall style, with Mr. Bush avoiding the podium and prowling the stage with a microphone. He took a few questions from the audience, which clearly was filled with Bush supporters.
He was introduced by his wife, Laura Bush, who usually has little speaking role in the campaign.
"One of the things we like best is events like these, where we can catch our breath and meet with real people," Mrs. Bush told the audience.
Mr. Bush also appeared unusually relaxed, making fun of himself several times. In Kansas City, he made light of the frequent jokes by late-night comedians that he is an intellectual lightweight. After misidentifying a family on stage saying the family has two sons, rather than a son and daughter he laughed and said: "That was so stupid."
Earlier, in the maternity ward in Little Rock, he gazed at cribs full of newborns and joked, "This is heaven all kinds of babies to kiss."
Mr. Bush will campaign today in Illinois, Kentucky and Pennsylvania, talking mainly about school expenses and school safety. He will campaign later in the week in New York and Philadelphia.

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