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Jewish World Review June 29, 2000 / 26 Sivan, 5760

Chris Matthews

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No echoes in this presidential choice -- NANTUCKET — This little Atlantic island offers a clear, off-shore prospect on this fall's election.

Cut through the fog of detail and petulance and you discover a stark difference between George W. Bush and Albert Gore.

One leader would steer 21st-century America in the direction of personal enterprise and self-reliance. The other would grow, to use a Clintonesque word, the economic role of government.

In both cases, the program the man pushes reflects the life he has led.

Bush has spent his life as a Texan taking chances. He tried first in the oil business; tried second and successfully in the baseball business, and tried third, also successfully, as a Texas politician. Except for the Air National Guard, he's never been on a federal government payroll.

Gore has lived his life mostly in Washington. After Vietnam he reported on politicians at the Nashville Tennessean, then quickly became one of them, scaling the constitutional ladder of House to Senate to vice presidency. It was the same ladder that Richard Nixon climbed during Gore's youth, the same that rival Jack Kennedy might have taken had he won his improbable try for VP in '56.

Now in middle age, Bush and Gore are offering Americans a future that celebrates their own separate careers. One proposes a country where individuals are freed from government control and taxation to make their marks and follow their dreams. The other promises a government that educates us in youth, guards us by day and night, comforts and guarantees our security in old age.

On Social Security, Bush wants to introduce a measure of private enterprise with a bit of risk. Workers could choose to invest a portion of their payroll tax in private investments.

Gore would keep the system basically as it is now. We get taxed while we work, receive benefits when we retire. Lower-income workers would be offered a second entitlement: three dollars of taxpayer money for every dollar they save toward retirement. As their income rose, workers would get a smaller government subsidy.

The two men's positions on Social Security reflect their life philosophies. Bush would free payroll dollars for private investment. Gore would go the other direction, creating a second government program that collects, transfers and redistributes more tax dollars from current workers to low-income retirees.

Connect the dots and we notice that Bush wants a big tax cut. Gore needs to keep taxes high to pay for such government benefits as free drugs for retirees and that extra three dollars for every dollar someone saves.

On education, Bush backs vouchers to allow parents the subsidized choice to enroll their children in parochial or other private schools. Gore would put all public backing behind public schools alone.

On crime, Bush comes from the state that fights crime with capital punishment and laws that let men and women carry concealed weapons. Gore may be the most zealous gun controller ever to run for president. Again, one candidate likes self-reliance and personal responsibility. The other pushes the power of government to protect us.

On the environment, the choice is also clear. Bush seems comfortable with big business. Gore agrees with Theodore Roosevelt: If anyone is going to protect this country's bounty, it's not going to be the boys in the boardroom.

So, in addition to being the year of Kathy's and my 20th wedding anniversary — we came back here where it all started to celebrate! — 2000 is also the year of a true, dramatic presidential choice for the country.

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.


06/26/00: Death joins the debate
06/21/00: Jerry Brown tells AlGore how to 'wage' campaign
06/19/00: Squishy logic for soft money
06/15/00: Citizen Kane, 113 years later
06/12/00: Kennedy-Nixon redux?
06/07/00: Bush says 'I do' to reality
06/05/00: Clinton's odd silence on his achievements
06/02/00: Pelosi, a voice for human rights
05/30/00: Bubba's escape hatches
05/23/00: Who typifies leadership?
05/19/00: Bubba's legacy involves AIDS
05/16/00: Dubyah's outlook for 'playoffs' remains perilous
05/11/00: Giuliani's travels
05/09/00: A Yale degree, a Bob Jones education
05/03/00: Show of force!
05/01/00: Abortion polls don't reflect reality
04/28/00: Bill Russell and American racism
04/24/00: Vietnam 25 -- The good, bad and ugly
04/19/00: Nader's threat to Gore in California
04/17/00: Berkeley politician visits with Elian's father
04/14/00: Clinton and the Castro curse
04/11/00: Men who saved Elián from the sea
04/06/00: Caine should coach politicians
04/03/00: No. 2 spots: Woman-to-woman?
03/29/00: Gray for veep and Gore might coast to victory
03/27/00: The secret life of a CIA wife
03/22/00: 'We're suckers for underdogs'
03/20/00: Bush's California dream vs. reality
03/06/00: Scary Gore vs. hopeful Bush
03/06/00: McCain's appeal to 'Reagan Democrats'
03/01/00: John McCain fits a hero's profile
02/28/00: Grading the American presidents
02/25/00: Clinton remains No. 1 issue
02/23/00: Will Ross Perot aid POW McCain?
02/18/00: McCain faces fury of GOP establishment
02/17/00: Citizen Springer
02/14/00: McCainia and the frisky independents
02/07/00: A prime-time primary for California
02/02/00: Clinton's final campaign: Take the blame
01/31/00: Which GOPer is willing to pay for his positions?
01/27/00: John McCain's gay radar
01/25/00: This time, candidates get 'authenticity' check
01/18/00: AIDS dooms 1 in 4 in tiny Swaziland
01/13/00: Complacency might be the campaign key
01/10/00: A choice, not an echo
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