Vice President Gore yesterday waded into a controversy over the Confederate flag, accusing George W. Bush of "too much tolerance of intolerance."

Criticizing the GOP presidential front-runner for not opposing the flying of the flag over the South Carolina state house, Gore said Bush "has avoided taking a position, or has ducked the issue because he is playing to some of his supporters that, I think, have some pretty obsolete and even hateful attitudes."

In a taped CNN interview with Jesse L. Jackson, Gore said the flag offends many Americans because it sends "a hurtful message that recalls the pain of slavery. . . . The citizens of goodwill everywhere must take a position on it and see that in fact the American flag heals us and the Confederate flag divides us."

Bush and other Republicans have refused entreaties to condemn flying of the flag, viewed by many as a symbol of the slave-holding South during the Civil War. "It's troublesome to me that so many of the Republican candidates have spoken out against affirmative action and have been silent about the flying of the Confederate flag over the South Carolina state house, which is obviously hurtful to so many Americans," Gore said at a New Hampshire breakfast commemorating Martin Luther King Jr.

In the interview, Gore also defended campaign manager Donna Brazile's charge that Republicans care more about posing with African Americans than promoting policies that assist the black community. "I think what Donna Brazile said was factually true . . . that the Republican Party does not have an agenda that is supported by and helpful to African Americans," Gore said.

McCain and the Ballot

John McCain is understandably upset that he has not been able to get on the Republican presidential primary ballot in all 31 of New York's congressional districts. He called the effort to keep him off the ballot "Stalinist politics."

But it turns out the Arizona senator has made similar efforts to keep potential rivals off the ballot in his home state.

In 1998, he challenged the petition signatures of a little-known opponent in the GOP primary for his Senate seat, forcing Bert Tollefson to withdraw from the race, the Associated Press reported.

McCain spokesman Howard Opinsky insisted that the two situations are different. The challenges to McCain in New York include alleged violations of "highly technical things including the color of the paper on which the petitions were signed," Opinsky told the AP. McCain's 1998 lawsuit accused Tollefson of collecting hundreds of signatures that were not from registered Republican voters. In 1992, McCain mounted a similar challenge to petitions filed by another GOP Senate opponent, former governor Evan Mecham.

"We followed rules that are very open in Arizona," Opinsky said. "The rules in New York are written to keep people off the ballot, legitimate candidates, so that the establishment can control the process."

Trump's First-Class Effort

Donald Trump appears to have come up with a can't-miss strategy for winning over the remaining Ross Perot loyalists in the Reform Party: put them on his private jet and fly them to his $100,000-per-member club in Palm Beach, Fla., for a cozy meet-and-greet.

Trump told his guests he would become a "very serious candidate" for the presidency if they would have him on their ticket. Roughly two-thirds of the 170 party members who were gathered in the Gold and White Ballroom of Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort raised their hands when he asked who among them would support his White House bid, the Associated Press reported.

"We've come really from being a very successful businessman to being a very serious candidate," Trump said. He told reporters earlier that he would make an announcement in mid-February, probably at New York City's Trump Tower.