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DISSENT

Gore a Better Choice; No to GOP

By Eric J. Plosky

Opinion Editor

Neither Bill Bradley nor John McCain would be acceptable in the White House; I endorse neither’s presidential candidacy.

Bradley is a mild-mannered visionary -- a person of fine character and good ideas, but someone not in step with times that demand centrist incrementalism, not sweeping expostulation. As a recent columnist noted, he would make a fine university head, but lacks the temperament to be president. Bradley could never get Congress to go along with his grand health-care or gun-control proposals; he is refreshingly ambitious, but no amount of leadership, unfortunately, can today enact ambition on grand scale.

Al Gore should instead receive the Democratic nomination for president. Gore isn’t perfect, and his missteps since 1992 have been often recounted. But his proposals -- for health care, gun control, spending the budget surplus -- stand a chance in Congress. Gore is a pragmatic centrist, and has learned both from his own mistakes and from the many blunders of the Clinton administration. His incremental approach would make him a far more effective president than Bill Bradley.

John McCain does not deserve serious consideration as a presidential candidate. To be sure, it is easy to understand the media’s fascination with McCain -- his zeal for campaign finance reform, relatively down-to-earth debt-reduction plan, and condemnation of extremist Christian zealot-leaders are all to be applauded.

But McCain is nonetheless a reactionary whose views are far from center. No less a fringe figure than Gary Bauer, the religious conservative slash failed presidential nominee, outlined the issues on which McCain “has stood firm.” In his Feb. 29 New York Times column, Bauer unwittingly fingered McCain’s faults -- he is anti-choice, anti-gay rights, big on defense spending, and averse to appointing liberal or even moderate judges. Yes, McCain survived more than five years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam -- but in 2000, he still calls his captors “gooks.” He is an anti-environmentalist, a “proud Reagan conservative.” Surely we deserve better.

The trouble is, McCain’s GOP rivals, George W. Bush and Alan Keyes (if Keyes, the single-digit poller, even counts) are even worse. Bush, whose reckless tax-cut plan means to outdo even Reagan’s, makes no bones about courting extreme right-wingers and bigots. He is uninterested in expanding health care or gun control; his “compassionate conservatism” includes the barbaric death penalty and a harsh “crackdown” approach to crime. Keyes, simply, is a shrill hatemonger.

I cannot, therefore, recommend any candidate to receive the Republican nomination for president.