Gore Playing Race Card to Woo Seniors?

By Susan Jones | July 7, 2008 | 8:26 PM EDT

(CNSNews.com) - Vice President Al Gore, appearing on ABC's Good Morning America Tuesday for a second consecutive day, seized the opportunity to "sell" his Medicare plan, while warning that his opponent is "proposing a plan that would cause sharp increases in Medicare premiums for seniors and push them into HMOs when they don't want to go into HMOs."

Gore also repeated his claim that George W. Bush's plan would send seniors to state welfare offices to get a prescription drug benefit - an idea that assaults the pride and dignity of many older people who want help with prescription drug costs, but don't see themselves as "welfare" cases.

According to wire services, independent analysts question whether Gore, by using the word "welfare," is engaging in race- and class-warfare to get the votes of seniors.

Speaking from Florida, where he campaigned Monday, Gore told the Good Morning America audience that Bush "has refused to put Medicare in a lock box" - to take it "off-budget" and "insulate" it from being spent in other ways.

"That's what I've proposed," said Gore, adding that his "sound Medicare plan" will extend the system's financial solvency until 2030 and add a prescription drug for all seniors.

"The Bush-Cheney plan, by contrast, will would send some seniors through state welfare offices to get a state-run prescription drug benefit that would only go to a tiny fraction of the seniors who need it. We would give it to all seniors," Gore said.

Wire services quote David Bositis, an expert on racial politics with the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies in Washington, who said Gore appears to be aiming his message at Americans "who would find it insulting to go to a welfare office."

The Bush campaign has started issuing daily press releases to set the record straight about Gore's "misrepresentations" - including the one about seniors going through welfare offices to get their prescription drug benefits.

"Gov. Bush's prescription drug plan does not require seniors to go to welfare offices," said a Bush campaign statement released Monday. "Instead, seniors will receive their drugs through pharmacies," modeled after programs such as the one in Pennsylvania.

Moreover, the Bush campaign says its proposal would give immediate assistance to low-income seniors who need help paying for their prescription drugs, while Gore's plan would take eight years to implement.

As for Gore's claim that the Republican plan would force seniors into HMOs, the Bush campaign said wrong again: "Gov. Bush's plan gives senior choices, and no one will be forced to join private plans or HMOs. Every senior will have the option to stay in the traditional Medicare program if they so choose," the campaign statement said.

On Monday and again in the Tuesday morning interview, Gore linked Bush to what he calls "the Newt Gingrich assault on Medicare."

In 1995, Gore noted, Bush endorsed a Republican measure in Congress that would have slashed Medicare spending by $270 billion over seven years. (President Clinton signed a bill cutting Medicare spending by $225 billion in 1997, the Bush campaign notes.)

In his presidential campaign, however, Bush has proposed a $198 billion increase in Medicare spending.

As part of a live TV hookup with Wayne State University in the battleground state of Michigan, two students had the opportunity to ask Gore a question before Tuesday's Good Morning America audience.

Amanda Ward, a black student, asked Gore a question about education: "I recognize that you are against the voucher program, but also realizing that Michigan has several failing school districts, what do you propose we do to eliminate this problem in Michigan and the United States altogether?"

Gore said there are too many failing schools in America, and under his plan, failing schools would be shut down and reopened under a new principal, with a "turnaround team" coming in to put the school on the right track.

Gore said, "Under my opponent's plan, the money to that school would actually be cut, and then given out in tiny bits to parents, not nearly enough to pay tuition at a private school - not even a good down payment."

Gore said his plan is based on a successful effort in North Carolina. He said education is his number one priority, and that's why he's proposing "a huge increase in federal spending on education while keeping local control and having new accountability."

A second student, Denise Novak, said she's from a working class family, headed by a disillusioned dad who's lost his job and says neither presidential candidate will look out for his interests. "What would you say to my father to convince him that you are the right choice in November?" Novak asked Gore.

"Tell your father I'll fight for him," Gore said. "Ask him to watch the debates. I'll lay out a plan not only to create more jobs but to keep our prosperity growing and extend it to all of us."

Gore plans to campaign in Michigan later today, while George W. Bush continues addressing what he calls the Clinton-Gore "education recession" out West.

Bush is spending Tuesday in California, visiting a Redwood City elementary school and later, he'll appear on Larry King Live.