- The Washington Times - Friday, November 22, 2002

Former Vice President Al Gore has criticized the Bush administration's economic and diplomatic policies, saying the country has been on the wrong track since he lost the 2000 election.
"I think the country is headed in the wrong direction economically, environmentally, in our health care policy and in our foreign policy," Mr. Gore said in an interview with Reuters news agency. "By almost every objective measure, we've lost significant ground in the last two years."
Mr. Gore attacked President Bush's economic stewardship, calling for the repeal of the administration's tax cuts for the country's top earners and the firing of Mr. Bush's entire economic team.
Mr. Gore also said al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and his terror network pose a greater threat to the United States than Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. The former vice president criticized Mr. Bush for focusing excessively on a potential military campaign against Iraq at the expense of the unfinished war on terrorism.
"I think the destruction of the al Qaeda network is the definition of success or failure in the war on terrorism, and we have so far failed to do that," Mr. Gore said.
He said Mr. Bush's unilateralism in foreign affairs and emphasis on Iraq had "squandered the good will of the world that came after September 11 and replaced it with apprehension about what the United States is going to do."
In recent days, Mr. Gore has given numerous interviews to newspapers and wire services, along with making television appearances. Mr. Gore's re-emergence from the political wilderness suggests he is preparing for another run at the presidency in 2004.
Many Democrats have blamed Mr. Gore for his narrow loss to Mr. Bush in the 2000 election.
Should he run again, the former vice president said, he would wage a different campaign, stressing bold ideas over cautious political compromise.
He said an example of this new approach is his politically risky call for a single-payer, nationalized health care plan.
Rising health insurance premiums, increased numbers of uninsured, higher costs to small businesses and growing government deficits mean "the incremental approach on health care is dead," Mr. Gore said.
"This is in keeping with what I said I was going to do speak from the heart and let the chips fall."
Conservative strategists said Mr. Gore's decision to embrace liberal positions on health care, taxes and the war on terrorism would damage his chances of winning win the presidency in 2004.
"Gore moving to the left means the smart people in the Democratic Party believe that to get the party's presidential nomination, [the left] is where you need to be," said Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform.
"But he has put himself in a position that makes it very difficult for him to win in the general election."
Many Republicans agree with that assessment.
"He has lurched left. Whether he will be viable following a Democratic Party primary fight is up to the Democrats to decide," said Kevin Sheridan, spokesman for the Republican National Committee. "But the question the Democrats need to answer is, will they be a party of moderate centrists or will they return to the bad old days of the 1980s when they were run by liberal Democrats and lost presidential elections?"
If Mr. Gore runs again, he will become the party's leading spokesman, but polls have found many Democrats ambivalent about his candidacy.
The Los Angeles Times last Sunday published a poll that found nearly half of Democratic National Committee members thought Mr. Gore should forgo another run for the presidency.
Mr. Gore has said he will announce his decision on another White House bid during the first week of January.
This article is based in part on wire service reports.


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