Gore promotes health care, education

by Erin Ghere

DES MOINES, Iowa — Vice President Al Gore strode onto stage Tuesday at Simpson College in Indianola, Iowa, and took off his coat, ready to have a chat with 250 so-called good friends in the school’s old basketball arena.
This intimate, relaxed Gore showed his stripes all week in Iowa as the presidential hopeful tried persistently to shed his stiff image. It seems Iowans liked what they saw.
In the race for the Democratic nomination, Gore is ahead of his competition in Iowa. He leads former Sen. Bill Bradley, D-N.J., 54 percent to 33 percent in this rural farm state, according to recent polls. But national polls still show Gore lagging behind Republican front-runner and Texas Gov. George W. Bush.
Gore, 51, has been a household name since 1992 when elected vice president under the Clinton administration. Prior to that, he served for 16 years as congressman and senator for Tennessee.
As his platform, Gore is advocating universal health care and preschool; rehabilitation of crippled schools; expansion of Medicare programs and a balanced budget each year he is president.
In his quest to promote lifelong learning, Gore said he would make higher education more accessible by increasing Pell Grants, federal student loans and tax credits for students. He has also proposed creating a National Tuition Savings Program that would allow parents to save for college tax-free.
“I believe we must give every family the ability to save money and pay for their children’s college education and continue their own education throughout their lifetimes,” Gore said recently.
Getting students prepared for college is part of Gore’s platform, as well, including subsidizing access to advanced-placement courses, SAT exams and achievement-test preparation courses, according to his Web site.
Gore guarantees health insurance for all children by 2005, as the extension of coverage to as many as one-third of the 43 million Americans who are now uninsured, according to the Web site.
He also plans to revitalize the Medicare program and add a prescription-drug benefit for seniors.
Gore reached out to his older audience during the stop at Simpson College, speaking of his first grandchild and the joy he took in spoiling him.
Southern roots
Gore told the audience how his priorities stem from his upbringing. Gore’s father was a Tennessee senator for most of Gore’s youth, and his mother was a lawyer, among the first women to graduate from Vanderbilt School of Law, he said.
Born March 31, 1948, Gore spent his childhood in a hotel apartment atop the Fairfax Hotel on Embassy Row in Washington, D.C. He attended Harvard, becoming class president and fighting for better food in the cafeteria before deciding politics wasn’t for him.
He was known for clowning around with his friends, including actor Tommy Lee Jones, and has admitted using marijuana while in college, according to The New York Times.
During his junior year, Gore’s desire for public service was rekindled, but put on hold, as Gore joined the U.S. Army after graduation in 1969. He became a military journalist during the Vietnam War, and on a several-day leave from the Army in 1970, married his college sweetheart, Tipper Aitcheson. They now have four children and one grandson, born last July.
After his discharge, Gore worked at the Nashville Tennesseean for seven years and followed in his mother’s footsteps at Vanderbilt University School of Law. He graduated in 1976 and was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives later that year, with 94 percent of the vote.
In 1985, Gore was elected to the Senate. He later joined then-Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton in a race for the presidency against incumbent President Bush in 1992.
A devout Baptist who wears his religion on his sleeve, Gore criticized Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky early in his campaign, putting some distance between him and the outgoing president.
Gore has played both sides of the Clinton coattails. He distanced himself from Clinton and the White House by moving his campaign headquarters to Nashville and chiding Clinton for his moral behavior. But Gore is also desperately trying to retain the rapport Clinton has with African-American voters.

Erin Ghere welcomes comments at [email protected]