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Bradley Angered by Gore’s Health Care Plan Attacks

By Matea Gold

and Richard T. Cooper

A visibly angry Bill Bradley lashed out at Al Gore on Monday, blasting the vice president for distorting his health care plan and committing the “worst use of scare tactics I have seen in many years.”

Bradley’s wrath was triggered by an interview with Gore published in the San Francisco Chronicle on Monday in which the vice president said Bradley’s health care plan would “devastate tens of thousands of people with long-term debilitating diseases such as AIDS.”

Bradley said the interview “made my blood boil” and, after months of criticism on the topic from Gore, he decided to respond in a news conference where he was joined by San Francisco city officials and gay leaders.

“You can only take it so long,” said Bradley, pausing several times to gather himself as he angrily defended his plan. “This is just another example of the kind of meanness in politics that is fundamentally destructive of an open dialogue about issues, about the direction of the country. Frankly, today’s episode he should ashamed of.”

The former New Jersey senator, a longshot in national polls leading up to the next voting in the Democratic presidential primary on March 7, defended his health plan as one that would preserve existing services for those living with HIV and provide even more money for community health clinics.

“Making sure that AIDS and HIV patients have access to health care is a prime part of what I’m trying to do,” he said.

Gore, campaigning on education issues in New York City Monday, issued a statement defending his comments in the interview. It repeated that Bradley’s health plan “will not begin to cover the many services required by people with HIV/AIDs.”

“Instead of addressing the legitimate concerns about his health plan, Sen. Bradley today launched another negative personal attack on Al Gore,” the statement said. Later Monday, in an interview with a New York television station, Gore declared “I have never attacked Sen. Bradley personally.”

Bradley’s angry reply came after he delivered a speech at the Sierra Club where he launched an aggressive attack on the environmental record of Gore and the White House for being “long on promises and short on actions.”

Speaking before about 100 people, Bradley promised to make protecting the natural environment his “first principle” if elected president.

“It’s impossible to look around this magnificent state -- with its sweeping coastlines, its majestic mountain ranges and stark deserts -- and not want that beauty to remain for our children’s children,” he said.

Gore flew from Washington to northern New York Monday to pitch an educational message he hopes will appeal to hard-core Democrats and independents alike.

Gore, for whom a victory in the March 7 New York primary is critical, stepped back from the sharp-edged exchanges with Bradley that had marked the New Hampshire primary.

“My opponent, Sen. Bradley, is a good man. But I believe he is a good man with plans that leave out” college tuition aid, support for expanded preschools and increased federal aid for public elementary and secondary schools, the vice president said.