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Jewish World Review Jan. 10, 2000 /3 Shevat, 5760

Chris Matthews

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A choice, not an echo -- MANCHESTER, N.H. -- The charges between Al Gore and Bill Bradley ricocheted last week like pingpong balls in a tile bathroom.

Gore said Bradley's health-care plan was a recession-inducing "blunder." Bradley shot back that Gore's own spending plans would blow the budget by $350 billion!

Bradley said Gore would merely "tinker around the edges" of the country's health-care challenge. Gore accused Bradley of "nibbling around the edges" of the country's education challenge.

With the Iowa caucuses on Jan. 24 and the first-in-the-nation primary here Feb. 1, the vice president has the look and sound of a fighter intent on an early knockout. Bradley, who hoped to defeat Gore without engaging him, is now going toe-to-toe with him.

But the echo of the two men's fighting words misses the central reality of their differences.

This January contest offers a real choice in personality and politics: Gore, the careerist, against Bradley, the outsider; Gore, the down-and-dirty partisan, against Bradley, the Olympian thinker.

Bill Bradley promises "affordable, quality health care for all Americans." Al Gore calls the Bradley plan an "ill-conceived and faulty spending proposal."

Gore warns of the "great risk" of the Bradley plan. Bradley says America needs "leadership that is prepared to take risks."

"It's only when we do not have the courage to try that we guarantee failure," Bradley said in a major address Sunday. "I say now is not the time to be timid."

Gore argues that Bradley's majestic proposal on health care masks an unreadiness to engage in the nitty-gritty of day-to-day government and politics.

"The presidency is not an academic exercise. It's not a seminar where you get to entertain a single grand theory," the vice president said in a major policy speech Monday. "Great achievements don't just happen, not without a president who is willing to fight for them, who is willing to fight for you."

Gore says Bradley walked away from the good Democratic fight when he quit the U.S. Senate after an 18-year career. Bradley says Gore is such a Washington insider, such a prisoner of partisan "meanness and pettiness," that he is blind to the world outside.

"Only those who have never left Washington have missed the lessons of the last decade. Only those who have been mired in the battles of partisanship have failed to realize that Americans are tired of partisanship."

Despite the sound and fury, the two offer voters here and in the rest of the country a significant choice of Democratic presidencies.

JWR contributor Chris Matthews is the author of Hardball. and hosts a CNBC show of the same name. Send your comments to him by clicking here.


01/06/00: The role of a lifetime
01/03/00: Dangers in Gore's dirty war
12/30/99: Churchill's fighting words saved the century
12/28/99: Candidate Gore's separation anxiety
12/17/99: Catch 22: Leading candidates don't lead
12/17/99: New Democratic leader on the horizon
12/15/99: Is Hillary clueless?
12/08/99: Taking Buchananism to the streets
12/03/99: Why are we so obsessed with 'spin'?
12/01/99: Donald Trump, 'Sinatra of Steel'
11/29/99: Why AlGore will be our next president
11/23/99: After the fall
11/17/99: Our conveniently forgetful president
11/15/99: Next president: Male, WASP, self-selected
11/10/99: Backroom Bill
11/08/99: Please don't feed the 'pander bears'
11/03/99: Battle of the Bubba clones
11/01/99: Pat Buchanan, kamikaze candidate
10/27/99: The year of the woman... voter
10/25/99: The Curse of the Bubba
10/21/99: GOP gives Clinton his finest hour
10/18/99: Clinton's last hurrah
10/13/99: Rough seas for Capt. Ventura
10/11/99: Gore targets Bradley's strength
10/06/99: Bradley's got the right Rx
10/04/99: Buchanan, Churchill and Hitler
09/30/99: Who'll spin political gold in Golden State Gore or Bradley?
09/27/99: Here's a millennial checklist for candidates
09/22/99: The biography battle
09/20/99: Buchanan's new book is a must-read
09/15/99: Don't rule out Beatty
09/13/99: The man with the sun on his face
09/08/99: W. vs. Jr. on dope and the draft
The FALN: Hillary's Willie Horton
08/26/99: Bill's guilt fuels Hill's race
08/25/99: The seemingly inexhaustible strength of America's free enterprise
08/23/99: GOP candidates are weak also-rans
08/16/99: Bubba on Bubba
08/11/99: Hillary's agonizing attempts to understand
08/09/99: With warm regards, Richard Nixon
08/04/99: Weicker: real third party is on the Left
08/02/99: Dubyah's last hangover
07/27/99: Ho, Ho, Ho Chi Minh; capitalism is gonna win

© 2000, NEA