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Gore Questions Bush’s Claims In GOP’s New Prescription Drug Ad

By Michael Finnegan
LOS ANGELES TIMES -- Republican presidential nominee George W. Bush on Friday released a new ad saying that he will make prescription drugs available to “every senior who needs them,” a promise branded by the Gore campaign as false.

The sparring over one of the most potent issues in the presidential race stemmed from Bush’s latest commercial in the major ad campaign he launched Monday in 21 states. The commercial will air in only some of the states covered in the ad campaign, reportedly costing $5 million, but Bush aides declined to say which ones.

The ad shows images of elderly Americans and Bush speaking at the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia.

“We will make prescription drugs available and affordable for every senior who needs them,” Bush says in the ad. “You earned your benefits. You made your plans.”

He pledges to “strengthen Social Security and Medicare for the greatest generation and for generations to come.”

Chris Lehane, the press secretary for Democratic presidential nominee Al Gore, dismissed the assertion about prescription drugs as “100 percent false.”

“The only way Bush could accomplish that goal would be by voting for Al Gore,” Lehane said.

Gore has proposed a new prescription drug benefit for all Medicare beneficiaries. Bush supports such a benefit only for low-income seniors. For the millions of others on Medicare, Bush has proposed the option of buying insurance that covers prescription drugs.

Bush spokesman Ray Sullivan accused the Gore campaign of distorting the Republican candidate’s plan.

“The Gore campaign has a habit of attacking every announcement, everywhere, on every issue,” Sullivan said. “The fact is that George Bush’s plan for bipartisan Medicare reform includes expanding options for health plans and making a prescription drug plan available to Medicare recipients.”

“It’s important for people to remember that over the last eight years, the Clinton-Gore administration has failed to enact any serious reforms in Social Security or Medicare,” Sullivan said.

The debate over prescription drugs is an especially powerful issue in battleground states such as Florida and Pennsylvania where the elderly population is relatively large.

On Monday, the Republican National Commitee plans to run another TV commercial saying that Bush would provide access to prescription drug benefits for “every senior.” The ad, to run in nine states, says that Gore’s proposal would let “Washington bureaucrats interfere with what your doctors prescribe,” while Bush would allow seniors to choose their own drug plan.

The new ads were released two days after the Republican Party yanked an attack ad against Gore after Bush stepped in to block it. The commercial showed a video clip of Gore appearing to comment on President Clinton’s affair with Monica S. Lewinsky, but actually was taped years before the scandal broke. Bush said Thursday that the ad was not appropriate.