He spoke about his campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination Thursday with Early Show Anchor Bryant Gumbel, who asked Bradley how he gets past his public image "of a guy who, smart as he may be, tends to bore people rather than inspire them."
Bradley quipped, "You think that's what is happening now? This would be the first week of the show, Bryant, you don't want that to happen."'
Then he went on to answer, "You have to be yourself, let people decide whether they want you to be the leader of the country. That's the only way to proceed: Lay out a clear idea where you want to go, tell them who you are and what you believe."
Bradley has been criticized by some members of his own party for leaving the U.S. Senate at a time when the Democrats said they needed him. Now that Bradley needs the party's support, Gumbel asked, why should the Democrats respond favorably?
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Bill Bradley created a network of supporters who are now helping to fund his challenge to Al Gore. Click here for a Salon.com feature.
"I think that the people will support you in a primary because they think that you're the person who can improve the quality of life for millions of Americans," Bradley replied.
"I was in the Senate 18 years. I was lucky to be there. I had a great experience. I served the people, worked hard. After 18 years, I came in as a citizen politician. I left to go back to private life and to also work to get to know the American people even more deeply and to restore myself," he said.
"That's what happened," he continued. "So I think that it's quite understandable. Only in Washington is the point of view that you can only serveÂ…in Washington."
There was a time that Bradley proclaimed that he was leaving the Senate because the U.S. political system was broken. So why is he returning to that system?
"I want to restore confidence in our collective will and trust in the political process," he said. "When I left, I said there's way too much money in politics. I said that I thought that the media was too superficial and not enough poliicians spoke from their core convictions."
Bradley identifies his own "core convictions" as centering around "the need to increase the people [who have] health insurance and reduce the number of children in America who are living in poverty."
He and his top opponent, Vice President Al Gore, do not disagree as much on what ought to be done as they do on how those goals should be accomplished.
For example, they agree that health care is the prime issue among the electorate, and both have laid out their programs.
But Gumbel said, "The programs have seemingly got lost amid the charges and countercharges of how these things get paid for, which, as you know, tends to make one's eyes glaze over. How do you talk health care and not get bogged down?"
Bradley said that because health care is a big problem, it calls for a big solution, and Gore's is too modest. While Bradley calls for coverage for children and drug benefits for elderly people, Gore says that to pay for such a plan, the government would have to exhaust the budget surplus for the next 10 years.
Whether the plan is workable or not depends on the set of numbers used and Bradley said of Gore: "I don't agree with his numbers at all."
On another issue, after Bradley told Gumbel that he firmly backs campaign finance reform, the anchor pointed out that Bradley has already raised $20 million for his own campaign:
Bradley replied, "That's true, because millions of people are responding to the fact that I'm strongly supportive of campaign finance reform."
Gumbel asked, "You're strongly in favor of campaign finance reform - that's why they are giving you money?"
Replied Bradley: "These are people who have never been part of the political process. They see I'm holding myself to a higher standard. I'm not setting up state PACs [or political action committees] where people give me $100,000 each."
"We are gettingÂ…every day, hundreds, thousands of people who are sending money into the campaign because they sense that I'm respecting themÂ….No matter what the special interests do, the people have the ultimate power," he added.
In answer to another question, Bradley said he cannot envision himself sharing a ticket with Vice President Gore.
"If you don't win, you're out of this?" queried Gumbel.
"That's right," Bradley replied quietly. "But I'll win."
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