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Archive: Chris Lehane

Gore Campaign Press Secretary Chris Lehane has the answers to your questions. As one of Al Gore’s closest aides Lehane has a unique perspective of this year’s presidential campaign. Veteran CBS News White House Correspondent Bill Plante brings a top political expert into the Smoke-Filled Room each week to answer your questions.

Plante: “What is V.P. Gore's opinion of the planned U.N. endeavor to achieve a Global Democracy at it's September 2000 Millennium Assembly? Is Gore in favor of it or opposed to it?” asks our first viewer Jim Kelly.

Lehane: Al Gore believes that the UN not only can serve broad global interests in peace and prosperity, it also can contribute in varied and cost effective ways to our security, prosperity, and safety. Therefore, it is very important that America retain its leadership role in the United Nations. Through the UN, the U.S. can build international support for issues and policies important to our foreign policy goals, and also share the financial and resource burden with other countries.

Plante: A.E.C. would like to know “Do you think the “Clinton factor” will help or hurt Vice President Gore in his quest for the Presidency?”

Lehane: This election is about important issues that matter to American families and will present voters with a stark choice between Al Gore, who is fighting on behalf of working families and George W. Bush, who is working on behalf of powerful interests like the oil and drug companies. After considering the important issues at stake in this election - expanding our economic prosperity, saving Social Security and Medicare, ensuring quality affordable health care, revolutionizing public education, and protecting the environment ﷓﷓ the voters will conclude that Al Gore will fight for the interests of families and George W. Bush will fight for the special interests.

Plante: If elected, would Al Gore lift sanctions to Cuba? D. Fierstein is curious.

Lehane: As President, Al Gore will maintain pressure on the Cuban Government while supporting the Cuban people to forge a multinational effort to press for democratic change in Cuba. Al Gore supports the people of Cuba and their desire to be free of the oppressive Castro dictatorship.

Plante: Everett Champion writes “Is it true that President Clinton and Vice President Gore passed an executive order that allows the President to dip into Social Security funds for something other than expenditures for Social Security. Can they do this without a Congressional vote of approval? How is this designed to save Social Security and how can they say that they are concerned with Social Security for the future if this is true?”

Lehane: Al Gore supports a Social Security "lock box" that prevnts Social Security surpluses from being used for massive tax cuts or pork barrel spending. He would use interest saved from paying down the national debt to shore up the Social Security Trust Fund until at lest 2054. He would also create tax﷓free savings accounts, called Retirement Savings Plus, to help couples build a retirement nest egg.

We must maintain Social Security as a bedrock guarantee of retirement security. Al Gore opposes privatizing Social Security as George W. Bush has proposed because that would end the guaranteed benefit provided by Social Security and bankrupt the Social Security system. Al Gore wants Social Security plus while George W. Bush is offering Social Security minus.

Plante: ”What is the Vice President doing to blunt the impact of Ralph Nader and the Green party on his campaign? I understand that in California and some other states, they are running neck and neck.” Heath T. wants to know.

Lehane: Al Gore is focusing on his message of building on our current prosperity and making new progress on issues of concern to working families like education, health care, and the environment. When the American people focus on the issues in this campaign, they will understand that a vote for Al Gore is the smart vote to continue our economic prosperity and clean up the environment. Either Al Gore or George W. Bush will be our next president. If you are concerned about progressive issues - the environment, health care, education - then not voting for Al Gore is tantamount to a vote for Bush and a vote against progressive growth.

Plante: ”What is Al Gore going to about the cost of gas?” asks Craig C. “After all, we helped these oil producing countries and now is seems they repay us with outrageously high prices.”

Lehane: Gore has fought against big oil price gouging, while George W. Bush has been driving the tanker for big oil special interests. Gore first called for an FTC investigation on Tuesday, May 30. Two weeks ago, he unveiled a new energy policy that is designed to stimulate economic growth, create new jobs and clean up the nation's air and water - with no new taxes, no new bureaucracies and no onerous regulations. His investments would help reduce dependence on foreign oil, curtail brownouts and clean up aging power plants. Gore plans to give families tax credits up to $6000 to purchase more fuel﷓efficient cars and Sport Utility Vehicles and will invest in communities to build more light﷓rail systems and high﷓speed trains.

George W. Bush, a former big oil executive, time and time again has sided with the oil companies at the expense of the people. Bush allowed big oil to literally draft tax relief legislation, he has allowed big oil to pollute, and he has taken $1.5 million in campaign contributions from big oil.

Plante: J. Williams wants to know “Wat would “President” Gore’s first priority be once elected?”

Lehane: Al Gore wants to continue our prosperity and build on it. America is experiencing record growth, and Al Gore would seek to expand our nation's current prosperity, building on what we know works, while making progress in areas of education and health care for all Americans. He would maintain fiscal discipline, paying down the national debt each year and making the nation debt﷓free by 2012. Gore would use money saved from paying down the debt to save Social Security and Medicare.

Where there's smoke, is there fire? Sound off on the Campaign 2000 bulletin board!

Plante: ”Vice President keeps talking about education,” notes Annette H. “Does he really believe that the federal government is the answer to the problem of failing schools?”

Lehane: Al Gore believes parents along with federal, state, and local government should work together to improve public schools. Parents have a responsibility to make sure their children study and learn, but government needs to meet its responsibility as well. Gore would make important investments to reduce class sizes, rebuild old schools, connect every classroom to the Internet, and place a qualified teacher in every classroom. Local and state governments have a responsibility to turn around failing schools, but Gore would not allow children to be forced to learn in schools with inadequate facilities or unqualified teachers. In today's information economy, brainpower is replacing brawn power as the way to a person's success. Therefore, education - the ability to learn - is more important than ever before. As a result, education is more important to our success - as a nation and for individuals - than ever before.

Plante: ”Do you think the fallout from the fund-raising problems will hurt Vice President Gore” writes K. Juhring.

Lehane: Every election is about the future - not the past. This election will be about the experience and ideas of Al Gore and George W. Bush. The relentless partisan attacks from Republicans will not make a difference in this election, because the voters will focus on what Al Gore will focus on: expanding our nation's prosperity and making progress on education and health care. The American people want a president who will fight for their families and offer an agenda to help them and their families.

Al Gore has proposed far﷓reaching campaign finance reform that would create fairer and more open elections, break the link between special interests and political influence, and give democracy back to the American people. In particular, he is proposing a Democracy Endowment funded through tax﷓deductible contributions, which would be used to finance the campaigns of general election candidates who agree not to accept any other sources of funding.

George W. Bush, by contrast, has ignored spending limits and raised more money than any other candidate.

Plante: Frank notes that “Al Gore keeps re-inventing himself. As Senator we knew what he stood for. As Vice President, and now as Presidential candidate we don’t know what he stands for or believes in. Who is he really?”

Lehane: Throughout his career as a Senator and as Vice President, Al Gore has stood on the side of the American people. If elected President, Al Gore will continue his fight on behalf of working families by working to continue the nation's economic prosperity, to saving Social Security and bringing about revolutionary change in education. It's very clear that Al Gore stands squarely on the side of working people while George W. Bush sides with special interests.

About Bill Plante
Bill Plante is a three-time Emmy Award winner who joined the CBS News Washington Bureau in 1976. He has been covering national elections since 1968. In 1984, he was part of a CBS News team that captured an Emmy for coverage of Ronald Reagan's 1984 re-election campaign. Plante is one of the most knowledgeable and respected political correspondents in Washington. (He'll do just about anything, including bungee jumping, to get a good story.)

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