Vice President Gore, determined to steal the health care spotlight from Bill Bradley, today launched a television ad touting his plan to extend health insurance to all American children.
The 30-second spot, airing in Iowa and New Hampshire, offers no details of the Gore plan and does not mention the more ambitious proposal made by Bradley, his rival for the Democratic presidential nomination.
"I think it's just unconscionable at a time when we have the strongest economy in history, we're the wealthiest nation on earth, to have millions and millions of children who have no health care coverage at all. We ought to change that," says Gore, in shirt sleeves, surrounded by images of children.
There are 44 million Americans without health insurance, 11 million of them are children.
In calling for a "commitment" to change that "before the end of the next president's term," Gore attempts to rise above the recent dispute over the cost and scope of each candidate's blueprint. The ad suggests that the vice president's plan, while incremental, is fiscally responsible: "And we can do that within a balanced budget. Then we can go down the road toward coverage for every single American."
Gore says his children's health plan will cost $312 billion over the next decade to cover an additional 15 million people. Bradley says he would spend up to $650 billion during that period to insure as many as 39 million people. Bradley disputes the vice president's charge that his plan will be far more costly and absorb the entire federal budget surplus.
The Clinton-Gore administration has not made a major push on health insurance since 1994, when the president's sweeping health legislation went down in defeat.
Asked why the ad contains no criticism of Bradley's proposal, Gore spokesman Chris Lehane said: "We welcome and encourage a comparison with Senator Bradley's plan. We have not been reticent about that. But this ad is about Al Gore's plan."