A Dec. 1 and a Dec. 2 Politics column item about Vice President Gore's involvement in the Love Canal hazardous waste case quoted Gore as saying "I was the one that started it all." In fact, Gore said, "That was the one that started it all," referring to the congressional hearings on the subject that he called. (Published 12/07/1999)

In his ongoing effort to present himself as a regular guy, Vice President Gore today told business leaders he was once a developer, confessed to high school students he is a big fan of the satirical cartoon "The Simpsons," and reminisced with veterans about his days in the military.

"I was an enlisted man in the Army, not an officer. You had to go in for three years to be an officer; I went for two years," he said. "My first home, when my wife and I were married when I was in the Army, was in a trailer park in Daleville, Alabama. They were great times, but I saw some other families with a lot of kids who were really stretched very thin."

The official message of the day was touting the economic successes of the Clinton-Gore administration and warning voters that they would risk that progress by electing one of his opponents. But Gore infused today's speeches with some of the lesser-known items on his resume to craft a self-portrait of a man far from the Beltway.

"For a brief time, I was a home builder after I came back from Vietnam," he told members of the New England Business Council. "Tipper and I borrowed some money and bought 20 acres on the edge of the town where we lived and made it into a subdivision."

With a partner, Gore said, he built several homes and sold the remaining lots. "I know a good bit about how to make money that way--that was our nest egg," he said. "To build this country is a great thing."

In the summer of 1971, Gore signed on to a project called the Tanglewood Home Builders Co., but it did not occupy much of his time. That fall, he began work as a reporter at the Nashville Tennessean--a job he often speaks about in campaign appearances--and later that year also enrolled in divinity school.

After much grumbling back at the White House that he has put too much distance between himself and President Clinton, Gore used today's meeting with business people to wrap his arms around the administration's economic successes.

"I am determined to continue the prosperity and continue the policies that worked to build that prosperity," he said at the group's "Politics and Eggs" breakfast.

"I will pledge to you, if you elect me president, I will balance the budget and better," he said. "In fact, I make you this pledge this morning: If you elect me president, I will further reduce the national debt every single year of my presidency."

Although aides distributed a document indicating he would eliminate the national debt by 2015, Gore did not utter that promise.

The vice president also rapped rivals George W. Bush and Bill Bradley, saying the tax cuts supported by the Texas Republican and the health care overhaul proposed by the New Jersey Democrat "would put our prosperity at risk." As he has done before, he accused both of depleting the federal surplus with their ambitious plans.

He also made an indirect reference to the World Trade Organization, which is meeting in Seattle. "We have to pay more attention to how we can shape the effect of trade agreements in the future," he said, attempting to appease trade proponents and activists worried about environmental protections and workers' rights.

Speaking later at Concord High School, Gore boasted about his efforts in Congress 20 years ago to publicize the dangers of toxic waste.

"I found a little place in upstate New York called Love Canal," he said, referring to the Niagara homes evacuated in August 1978 because of chemical contamination. "I had the first hearing on that issue."

Gore said he first became aware of the problem when a young girl in Tennessee wrote to him about a mysterious illness that had befallen her father and grandfather. Although few remember his hearings on that site in Toone, Tenn., Gore said his efforts made a lasting impact. "I was the one that started it all," he said.

Gore's shorthand description of Love Canal--and his failure to note that the hearings he chaired came a few months after President Jimmy Carter declared the neighborhood a disaster area--were reminiscent of earlier attempts to embellish his role in major events.

He has been ridiculed for claiming to have been the inspiration for the movie "Love Story," and today even he poked fun at his earlier assertion that he invented the Internet.

When asked about the problems of overdevelopment in many communities, he joked: "I am not the inventor of urban sprawl."

CAPTION: Vice President Gore speaks to business leaders in Bedford, N.H., where he promised to "keep the prosperity going" if he is elected president.