Gore wants his MTV

The veep talks about drugs, sex and rock 'n' roll with young voters. Bush's education swing misses some points, and Nader and Buchanan get another no on debates.

By Alicia Montgomery
September 27, 2000 4:23PM (UTC)
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Kissing has worked well for Al Gore in getting the women's vote, but telling seems to do better with youth. The vice president tried to strike the right chord with Gen X voters, covering topics ranging from censorship to medical marijuana in an MTV Town Hall Meeting taped Monday in Michigan. (The program aired Tuesday night.) During the 90-minute event, the vice president implored young Americans not to limit their political activism to areas outside the ballot box. "You need to get actively involved in registering to vote and voting," Gore said. "Don't let anyone tell you that it doesn't make a difference and that you cannot change the world." The Democratic presidential hopeful also reiterated his pro-choice stance on abortion, expressed support for sex education that goes beyond abstinence, emphasized his desire to end racial profiling and voiced concerns about the use of Napster.

While the MTV appearance was part of Gore's courtship of young voters, the Detroit Free Press reports that he wasn't above mixing it up with his audience. In response to one University of Michigan student's defense of violent and misogynist rap lyrics as a reflection of urban reality, Gore said that keeping it real was no excuse for being nasty. "If you personally believe that it's wrong for men to beat up on women, then I don't think it's good enough to say, 'Well, we're just reflecting a reality,'" Gore said. "When you have an artist who goes out to get an audience and promotes violence against women, I don't think it's good enough." George W. Bush has not yet accepted MTV's invitation to appear.

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Gore for the defense
While he may have success lighting a fire under young voters, the vice president has a shaky record on dealing with international hot spots, according to the Washington Post. The paper reports that Gore has been riding his foreign policy credentials ever since President Clinton selected him as veep in 1992. But his successes in that arena, like those of the administration, have been coupled with assorted failures. In Cuba, China and Israel, Gore has been accused of complicity in the Clinton administration's quest to subordinate good decision making to political expediency. And Gore's participation in U.S. policy toward Russia -- one of the areas in which he has been given the most authority -- has been derided as being blind to the creeping corruption that plagued former leader Boris Yeltsin.

Teaching teachers a lesson, late
Bush is devoting this week to reinforcing his education credentials, but California school officials haven't given him high marks for proofreading. According to the San Francisco Examiner, Bush blasted the state's emphasis on "whole language" reading instruction during a Golden State school stop. "The state of California has had an issue in reading because you have gotten mired in a curriculum that doesn't work," Bush said. He later declared that a new teaching method would require new teacher skills. "If the teachers are behind when it comes to instruction, we need to retrain our teachers." It turns out that Bush himself was a bit behind on the learning curve: California switched to a phonics-based reading program in 1997.

Ad numbers don't add up
Other parts of Bush's offensive against the "education recession" have also come under scrutiny, Reuters reports. A Bush campaign commercial that claimed that 58 percent of fourth-graders in low-income schools "can't read" has been labeled inaccurate. Peggy Carr, associate commissioner of education statistics for the Education Department, said that the 58 percent figure refers to poor fourth-grade children who have not achieved a "basic level" of reading proficiency. "Kids who score below basic are not scoring zero," Carr said. "It means that these children did not meet that level; it doesn't mean they can't read." The National Center for Education Statistics, which prepared the figures cited in the Bush commercial, said its numbers were not a measure of literacy.

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Despite the naysayers, the Texas governor's campaign has thus far stuck by the ad's claim. "Most experts will tell you that if a child is not reading at grade level they effectively can't read," said Bush spokeswoman Mindy Tucker.

Cheney gives vouchers the silent treatment
Considering the Bush team's troubles with getting the details right on education, perhaps running mate Dick Cheney has hit on a winning education strategy: keeping his mouth shut. The New York Times reports that Cheney never brought up the school voucher issue in a speech at a Michigan school this week, though the state is on the front lines of the voucher battle. When a woman asked Cheney to comment directly on vouchers, he replied only, "That's for the state to decide." At most of his previous campaign speeches that touched on education, Cheney mentioned Bush's plan to give students from failing schools government cash to go elsewhere. Both Bush and his running mate have tried to avoid using the politically loaded word "vouchers."

No means no
Two candidates who aren't above using a few loaded words on the campaign trail won't get a chance to say a thing during the upcoming debates. The Associated Press reports that the Commission on Presidential Debates refuses to invite Green Party candidate Ralph Nader and Reform Party candidate Pat Buchanan to its October events unless they meet the organization's stated requirements. The CPD's demand that candidates reach 15 percent support in national polls seems unattainable by Nader and Buchanan, who are currently polling at less than 5 percent. "The real loss here is for the American people," said Nader spokeswoman Laura Jones. Likewise, Buchanan's team said that shutting out their man was unfair. "We clearly believe, as the only [third] party that is receiving taxpayer funds, that we ought to be in those debates," said Buchanan spokesman Tim Haley.

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On the trail
Bush: California.
Buchanan: Missouri and Louisiana.
Gore: Iowa and Washington.
Nader: Ohio.

Poll positions
Presidential race:

  • Bush 46 to Gore 44 (USA Today/CNN/Gallup Sept. 23-25).
  • Gore 47 to Bush 45 (Newsweek Sept. 21-22).
  • Gore 46 to Bush 39 (Reuters/Zogby Sept. 10-12).
  • Gore 42 to Bush 39 (New York Times/CBS News Sept. 9-11).
  • Gore 45 to Bush 42 (NBC/Wall Street Journal Sept. 7-10).
  • Gore 47 to Bush 47 (Washington Post/ABC News Sept. 4-6).

    Third-party candidates:

  • Nader 2 to Buchanan 1 (USA Today/CNN/Gallup Sept. 23-25).
  • Nader 3 to Buchanan 1 (Newsweek Sept. 21-22).
  • Nader 4 to Buchanan 1 (Reuters/Zogby Sept. 10-12).
  • Nader 4 to Buchanan 2 (New York Times/CBS News Sept. 9-11).
  • Nader 4 to Buchanan 1 (NBC/Wall Street Journal Sept. 7-10).
  • Nader 3 to Buchanan 1 (Washington Post/ABC News Sept. 4-6).
  • Nader 3 to Buchanan 1 (Newsweek Aug. 30-31).

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  • Alicia Montgomery

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

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