(CNSNews.com) - Compared with earlier, acrimonious encounters, Wednesday night's 90-minute debate between Vice President Al Gore and former New Jersey Senator Bill Bradley did more to highlight their substantial similarities, than it did to point out the differences between them.
During the nationally televised event sponsored by The Los Angeles Times and CNN, the two Democrats agreed on more than they disagreed. Except for the last 12 minutes of the debate, when Bradley accused former Congressman Gore of casting "conservative votes" on issues such as abortion and gun control, Bradley failed to go after the man who could put him out of the race next week, on Super Tuesday.
Rather than attack Bradley, Gore spent more of his energy attacking Texas Gov. George W. Bush, a clear sign that he regards Bush - and not Arizona Sen. John McCain - as the likely GOP nominee. In fact, on half-a-dozen occasions, Gore seemed to go out of his way to praise McCain on such issues as campaign finance reform and the senator's recent attack against Rev. Pat Robertson and the leadership of the Christian right.
Gore and Bradley agreed on the abortion issue; the need for the federal government to play a role in prohibiting racial profiling, even in localities; campaign finance reform and what criteria each would use in nominating members to the U.S. Supreme Court. And with the Rev. Jesse Jackson in the audience, both men praised the Rev. Al Sharpton, even though they criticized conservative ministers who engage in politics.
Gore, who recently held a private meeting with Sharpton, insisted he disagrees with some of the New Yorker's rhetoric, but added, "we believe in redemption." Gore refused to discuss the specifics of his meeting with Sharpton, insisting it would not be right to divulge the private nature of the session. "I wouldn't be so quick to publicly dismiss what he has to say on some issues," said Gore.
Bradley echoed Gore, saying of Sharpton, "he has grown," and added, "in many cases he has kept the lid on" difficult situations. Bradley insisted Sharpton is a way "for the voiceless to get a voice."
Asked if the federal government should play a role in communities where police may be engaging in "malfeasance," both agreed Uncle Sam has a role to play. "We (the Department of Justice) are justified in collecting information to see if racial profiling is common...I think it is," said Gore.
Bradley said the Amadou Diallo case, in which four New York City police officers were acquitted in the death of an African immigrant, "shows how deeply racial profiling has seeped into the minds of the police department...we have to challenge ourselves to not deny the indignity African-Americans and Latinos experience every day."
Bradley said if he's elected, he would issue an executive order outlawing racial profiling by federal law enforcement agencies and ask Congress to pass a law requiring local police to keep records, by race, of who they arrest.
On what criteria they would use in making appointments to the U.S. Supreme Court and lower federal courts, Gore insisted his nominees would be those who see the Constitution as "a living and breathing document" that must respond to today's issues.
Bradley said his nominees would be people who "are not locked into the original interpretation" of the constitution, but would be "people who will adapt to the times."
Both men said they favor laws that provide benefits to homosexual couples, but they both oppose gay marriage. "Gays and lesbians are no different...we have to respect them and accord them the dignity every person deserves," said Bradley.