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OnPolitics Live: Vice President Gore

Vice President Gore
Vice President Gore at the keyboard last year. (AP file photo)

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Official Campaign site: algore2000.com

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Full Post coverage: Al Gore
Post Series: The Life of Al Gore
Campaign 2000

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Live: "Free Media"
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Monday, July 10, 2000

Vice President Gore is set to accept the Democratic Party's presidential nomination at the convention in Los Angeles in mid-August. As the campaign focuses more on the issues, Gore must continue to search for a way to project his own image while capitalizing on the successes of the Clinton administration.

How does Gore formulate his policies? What should voters know about him? What do you want to know?

Vice President Gore joined "Free Media" for a live discussion from the trail in Connecticut on Monday, July 10, to talk about the campaign, the polls, the issues and his vision for the country. The transcript follows:

Editor's Note: Washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.

Free Media: Good afternoon, Vice President Gore, and welcome. Given the failed test this weekend of the missile defense system, many of our readers have written in to ask you about it. This first question is from....

Bloomington, Ind.: What effect have the results of the recent test of the proposed National Missile Defense system had on your opinion of the short-term necessity of its deployment? Your opponent, Gov. Bush, seems to favor a very robust system, despite technological and diplomatic odds, which leads me to hope your position will remain more open, and based on the true need and viability, not domestic political sentiment.

Vice President Gore: OK. Here we go. I favor an effort to develop a limited missile defense system -- and not a massive "star wars" system (for reasons I'll briefly describe) -- because our country will probably face a new threat later in this decade from a small arsenal of relatively unsophisticated ICBMs in the hands of a so-called rogue state. The failure of the test last Friday night doesn't mean that such a system is impossible to build, although the specific lessons from the failure will have to await a more thorough analysis. The much larger, space-based star wars approach that Gov. Bush is committed to is far more difficult to design and build, far more expensive to purchase, less likely to work, and is calculated to destroy existing arms control arrangements with the Russians which have calmed down the old arms race for the last 28 years, ever since the ABM Treaty was signed.

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia: What is your stand and what is your presidency wont to do with regard to war, famine and AIDS in Africa? What priority is given to this issue in your agenda?

Vice President Gore: AIDS in Africa is a developing pandemic which requires a much more powerful response from the entire world. There is a major conference underway right now in South Africa to zero in on the best ways to help. We need more research to find a cure and a vaccine; we need more funding for treatment; and we need more funding for prevention. I began this year with a speech to the UN Security Council announcing a doubling of the U.S. commitment -- which was already by far the largest in the world -- but we need to do much more still.

Fort Bragg, N.C.: I am a soldier in the 82nd Airborne Division and I am curious as to how you would react to the situation in the Middle East if the peace talks fail. It seems that they are already faltering and I am worried that I might be deployed to participate in a war that does not directly concern this country in any way.

Vice President Gore: My hope and prayer is that these talks will succeed. Bear in mind that Israel has never asked for help from American soldiers. Israel is our closest ally in the region and the only true democracy, and we will always support her.

Oakton, Va.: Vice President Gore: In your debates with Bill Bradley, you criticised him for being soft on gun control and advocated additional gun control measures in an effort to stem gun violence (such as trigger locks, licensing, and so forth).

Can you tell us how ANY of your proposed measures would have prevented the Columbine attack?

I note that the acquisition and use of the weapons in that attack were already illegal, yet did not prevent the attack. How are your proposals going to have an EFFECTIVE impact on already-illegal gun use -- particularly when many current gun laws are going largely unenforced (such as the Clinton/Gore administration's failure to prosecute ANY illegal gun purchases under the Brady Law).

Vice President Gore: I admire the way Bill Bradley spoke eloquently about this issue and others. I always said - even during the heat of the primaries - that it was an honor to be in the same race with him. He and I actually agreed on most, though not all, of the proposed solutions to the gun issue. And the woman who played a key role in purchasing the guns used in Columbine said recently that if the changes in the law which I and others have proposed had been in effect, she probably would not have ahead with the purchase.

Los Angeles, Calif.: Hello...
What's your take on the fact that the next elected president may appoint two, three or maybe up to four Supreme Court justices (and how that could affect the composition of the Supreme Court for a generation). And, what differences could you point to between what could be your choices as opposed to George Bush's?

Vice President Gore: I support a woman's right to choose and Gov. Bush has promised to do everything he can to restrict it. Roe v. Wade was recently upheld by a 5-4 vote. The justices appointed by the next president will clearly determine whether it is overturned or not. In meetings with Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell, Gov. Bush apparently said something that they interpreted as a commitment to appoint justices that will overturn Roe, because afterwards they said they had heard everything they needed to hear and were very pleased with his position on the Supreme Court and Roe. I will protect and defend a woman's right to choose.

Alexandria, Va.: Have you given serious thought to choosing a woman as your vice presidential candidate? If so, who are you considering?

Free Media: There are many such questions today about possible running mates. Where do you stand in your selection process?

Vice President Gore: Thanks for all the advice people are offering about a running mate. I'm trying to keep the whole process private and dignified, out of respect for the men and women I am considering. As a result, I have declined to mention - or either confirm or deny -- specific names.

Boulder, Colo.: Al Gore, you control between $500,000 and $1 million worth of stock in Occidental Petroleum. You are in a unique position of using your influence to stop Occidental from drilling on land in Colombia that belongs to the U'wa people. You could prevent 5,000 indigenous people from committing mass suicide. If you were to speak out against the drilling, the American people would applaud this decision. You have told many concerned activists that you are, "working on it." What steps have you taken to ensure that this tragedy will not occur? What can we expect from you and your commitment to environmental causes if you were to be elected? Can we trust you to keep the big oil companies from having their way?

Vice President Gore: Actually, I don't own any stock in Occidental. Nor do I "control" any stock. When my father died 18 months ago, I was named "executor" of his estate -- a position which has one and only one duty: to see that the terms of the will are abided by. In discharging that responsibility I saw to it that the stock he left for the benefit of my mother was transferred to a trust that is supposed to provide for her and her care. The trustee has the responsibility of managing the assets of the trust (which is about $500,000). I do not.

Philadelphia, Pa.: Will you continue President Clinton's policy of opposing any bill which would restrict "partial birth abortions"?

Vice President Gore: I have said (as President Clinton has also) that I would sign a measure prohibiting that procedure -- so long as it contained an exception allowing a doctor to protect the life or health of the mother. Proponents of the legislation have thus far been unwilling to include such a provision. I hope they will change their minds. If they do not, then yes, I would veto it.

Columbus, Ohio: In light of the recent reminder of our economic dependence on foreign oil, what long-term actions will you develop to reduce the US dependency on foreign energy sources?

Vice President Gore: Two weeks ago I spent the entire week outlining a comprehensive plan to make our nation less dependent of foreign oil and the big oil companies. We should use tax credits to encourage the speedy adoption of new technologies that use far less energy and generate far less pollution.

New York, N.Y.: If Fidel Castro were to live another 25 years, which is possible, can you conceive of the possibility of your opening up to Cuba since he no longer has the threat of the cold war Soviet Union backing him up?

Vice President Gore: I favor only openings to the Cuban people -- not to the Castro government. Incidentally, you can find more detail on virtually all of these exchanges on my campaign Web site algore2000.com webster. Also, you can register to vote online at http://www.algore2000.com/briefingroom/releases/pr_0710_nat_1.html

Swarthmore, Pa.: Excuse me if this seems like a softball question. But we have the lowest unemployment rate in 40 years, the lowest inflation rate in something like 50 years, wages are growing at the fastest pace since the 1960s, the stock market has risen more than 20% in each of the past FIVE years. Given these kind of numbers, it seems amazing that you have consistently trailed George W. Bush in the polls for the past 12 months. What's wrong with your campaign, and what do you plan to do about it?

Vice President Gore: I'm really enjoying the campaign and I think it's going great. I have always felt that the polls are virtually meaningless at this stage. But eight months ago I was 15-20 points behind and now most of the recent ones show the race tied or within the so-called margin of error. I really think the people are convinced that there is way too much emphasis on polls; they want this election to be about the big choices we face: How do we keep our prosperity and progress? How do improve our schools, expand access to affordable, high-quality health care, clean up the environment in ways that create a lot more good, high-paying jobs, pass meaningful campaign finance reform, etc.

Manhattan, Kan.: With current scientific knowledge of the Yucca Mountain Permananent Waste Repository, will you recommend that the site be built if elected as president?

Vice President Gore: We don't have the results of the full scientific analysis yet. The decision should be based strictly on the science and not on politics.

Portland, Ore.: Why do you support capital punishment?

Vice President Gore: I support it for particularly heinous crimes because I believe there are some offenses for which it is just. I know that many feel it does not really have a deterrent effect, but I think it probably does. I want to add, though, that I strongly support the use of the new DNA techniques that can make our criminal justice system fairer and more accurate. I have been surprised at the large number of errors found in the Illinois system and in some other places. I am also concerned about the allegations that race has played a role in some verdicts -- and I support the ongoing efforts in the Justice Department to ascertain whether or not that is true. I deeply respect those who are opposed to the death penalty on moral grounds, but I do support it.

Free Media: That is our last question for Vice President Gore today. Many thanks to him for his time, and thanks to you for your many excellent questions.

Vice President Gore: Thank you all. Let's do it again sometime soon.

Free Media: How did Vice President Gore do? What questions do you wish he had answered? What's Your Opinion?

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