Bush blasts Gore on military

Gore gets green thumbs up as Ventura threatens to jump in the presidential ring. Lazio, New York's Republican golden boy, stumbles but gets the party nod.

Published May 30, 2000 8:00PM (EDT)

George W. Bush wouldn't hold his fire when it came to criticizing Bill Clinton's record as commander in chief. The Associated Press reports that Bush ridiculed Gore's "claims that [he] qualifies for a promotion," and blamed the president and Al Gore for low morale and lack of readiness among American troops. "The Clinton-Gore record cries out for a new sign on the Pentagon that says 'Under new management,'" Bush said. Gore's campaign, however,

said Bush's military views should have a sign that reads 'Out to lunch'.
"Governor Bush can talk about military readiness all he wants, but he clearly isn't ready to lead the U.S. military," said Gore spokesman Doug
Hattaway. "Experts say his irresponsible position on missile defense could lead to a new arms race. With all the complex international issues we face,
the next leader of the free
world should not be going through on-the-job training."

Green group goes for Gore

According to some environmentalist, the vice president has had all the

training he needs to protect the Earth as president. The League of

Conservation Voters gave Gore a big green thumbs up while slinging a healthy amount

of mud at Bush. Calling the Texas governor "a polluter's closest

ally," the group lavished praised on the vice president and his dedication

to the enviornment. "When Al Gore wins, the planet wins," proclaimed
league president Deb Callahan in a press release announcing the group's
endorsement. "If we want a president committed to the people, not
polluters, Al Gore is the only choice."

Though the Democratic presidential candidate gleefully tooted his own horn

in an appearance before the group, he left insulting his opponent to

someone else. Reuters reports that the latest Gore incarnation will be far

more sweet talking and less willing berate Bush, thanks to the bad poll

numbers the Gore got in attack mode. "This is a happier or more moderate

electorate than we had in either the '92 or '96 election," explained

Andrew Kohut, director of the Pew Center. "They want to hear what the
candidates have to say
about themselves and what they plan to do, not what they have to say about
their opponent." However, Kohut cautions Gore on letting surrogates do the
dirty work on his campaign instead because voters will likely see through
the tactic. "That doesn't represent real change," he said.

Wrestling with Jesse's ego

He may have left the Reform Party, but Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura

seems prone to stepping in Ross Perot's tiny shoes as chief meddler in the presidential

race. According to Newsweek, Ventura feels that he's the only man who can

energize the disaffected voters. "I still believe strongly that I could

walk in and steal this election at the eleventh hour," says Ventura. "It was

sort of scary, how many people were begging me to run." Though he won't
give Bush or Gore the endorsement they've been panting over, the former pro
wrestler offers simple advice to the two top candidates: Ditch the party
script. "They're too rehearsed. They're too spun," Ventura says of Bush
and Gore. "They're who their parties think they should be to win. And now
their parties are gonna try to spin them to be me."

Lazio trips, falls, and rises in GOP
Rick Lazio, the Republicans' surprisingly strong replacement for scandal-addled Rudy Giuliani in the New York Senate race, has taken an embarrassing tumble -- not in the polls, but on the street. The New York Times reports that the Long Island congressman slipped and fell flat on his face during a Memorial Day parade in his home district, causing a cut to his lip that required eight stitches to close. Lazio quickly recovered, moved on to another parade and joked about the mishap. "I was so happy to be home that I had to kiss the ground," Lazio said with a fat-lipped smile. "I didn't know that it would kiss back."

Strong and sweet wins the race

Lazio's slash-and-smile campaign style has taken him a long way, according to the Washington Post. Apparently, the new darling of the New York GOP and the national community of Clinton haters has a remarkably Clintonian boyish charm that has made him a fast-rising political star. Like President Clinton, Lazio is a hardworking, photogenic ideological centrist whose willingness to be "all things to all people" has earned him suspicion as well as friends. Sondra Bachety, a Democrat and former Lazio fan, says that the baby-faced candidate is a smooth operator who's tougher than he looks. "He's going to smile and be the nice little kid from Long Island," Bachety said. "And he's going to run a very tough campaign." New York Republicans are counting on it, and the Associated Press reports that Lazio's nomination sailed through the Republican State Convention.

Presidential bout stuffed with substance

Style may trump issues in the New York Senate race, but a Los Angeles Times analysis finds more steak and less sizzle in George W. Bush's race against Al Gore. With policy papers emanating from both sides, the presidential battle may finally feed the interest of substance-starved voters. "It's a wonkfest," said Marshall Wittman of the Heritage Foundation, a conservative Washington think tank. "There's a lot of information out there," agreed Brad Rourke, director of the Project on Campaign Conduct, an election watchdog group. As a consequence, the American public will have a real ideological choice come Election Day. "It's not like choosing Coke over Pepsi."

Mark Mellman, a Democratic pollster, thinks that a more savvy American public should be credited for the new show-me spirit of national politics. "We are in an era when specificity is a sign of credibility," he said. That means voters will be asking tougher questions instead of swallowing sound bites. "Do the numbers add up? Do the proposals work? There have to be enough details to satisfy [critics] that it's real and it's sensible."

Poll positions

Presidential race:

  • Bush 46 to Gore 41 (Zogby May 10-13).

  • Bush 47 to Gore 39 (CBS News/New York Times May 10-13).

  • Bush 49 to Gore 44 (ABC News/Washington Post May 7-10).

  • Bush 51 to Gore 43 (Los Angeles Times May 4-7).

  • Bush 46 to Gore 45 (Pew Center May 2-6).

  • Bush 48 to Gore 42 (Voter.com May 1-3).

  • Bush 46 to Gore 41 (NBC/Wall Street Journal April 29-May 1).

  • Bush 49 to Gore 44 (Gallup/CNN/USA Today April 28-30).

    Vice presidential preferences:

    Preferences for Republican vice presidential candidate among Republican voters (NBC/Wall Street Journal April 29-May 1):

  • Colin Powell, 39 percent
  • Elizabeth Dole, 19 percent
  • John McCain, 18 percent
  • Christine Todd Whitman, 5 percent
  • Fred Thompson, 6 percent
  • John Kaisch, 4 percent
  • Tom Ridge, 3 percent
  • Other, 1 percent
  • Not sure, 5 percent

    Preferences for Democratic vice presidential candidate among all voters (Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll March 22-23):

  • Bill Bradley, 27 percent
  • Dianne Feinstein, 10 percent
  • Bob Kerrey, 6 percent
  • Bob Graham, 5 percent
  • John Kerry, 4 percent
  • Bill Richardson, 4 percent
  • Evan Bayh, 3 percent
  • Other, 6 percent
  • Not sure, 35 percent

    Sound off

    E-mail Trail Mix with your comments, suggestions and tips at alicia@salon.com.

  • By Alicia Montgomery

    Alicia Montgomery is an associate editor in Salon's Washington bureau.

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