Derry, NH (CNSNews.com) - With the New Hampshire presidential primary just two months away, Democratic hopeful Bill Bradley found himself deluged by healthcare questions Monday night, during a televised town meeting sponsored by independent station WNDS-TV.
The audience of 50 registered and likely voters, mostly self-declared "undecideds," was chosen by the station from a larger pool of interested questioners.
While the two-dozen-plus questions covered the gamut of issues, from campaign finance reform to gun control - healthcare, or the lack of it, dominated the discussion.
Bradley set the tone of the hour-long program by declaring, "I want to be president, in order to use the power of the office to do good." He called for "a world of new possibilities, guided by goodness." From there, the former New Jersey Senator tackled a host of domestic policy issues, with virtually no attention given to foreign policy.
While the audience may have been composed largely of those who have yet to make up their minds, one thing was clear: They were definitely looking for Bradley and his "big ideas-big solutions" approach to address whatever was on their minds.
Bradley repeatedly reassured the gathering that his recently announced $65-billion-per-year healthcare plan would cover everyone, including full services for all children from birth to age 18.
Bradley said children growing up in a family of four, which has an income of no more than $33,000, would receive full and free coverage. Adults with no insurance would be automatically enrolled in the existing Federal Employee Health Benefits System, while community health clinics, government run, would promote wellness and care for the elderly.
"It's government run ... it's government medicine," an unusually relaxed Bradley told the audience.
While he did offer specifics on who would be covered and for what, Bradley was fuzzy on how the bill would be funded. The candidate insisted money for the program would come from the elimination of tax loopholes, the use of the budget surplus and "technological innovations," which he insisted would cut costs and eliminate burdensome paperwork.
Asked about school vouchers, Bradley shied away from his own his record, which includes Senate votes for voucher experiments. "It's not the answer...I don't support them," he said last night.
Obviously uncomfortable with the subject, Bradley then launched into a discussion of what he would do. He said he would offer billions of dollars in scholarship and loan forgiveness programs for students, in exchange for a commitment from those students to teach in urban schools.
To combat youth violence, Bradley offered to spend more federal money to subsidize after-school programs. He also promised to "hold the media responsible for sex without meaning and violence without context that streams across out television screens."
Asked about Social Security and Medicare, Bradley urged the audience not to worry, since, in the end, he said, neither party would do anything to destroy the nation's commitment to their solvency.
After rattling off one federal proposal after another, Bradley seemed confused by one questioner, a self-identified small businessman. Asking the senator what he and Vice President Al Gore would do to restore personal freedom and avoid additional and often onerous federal regulations, Bradley answered by repeating some of his proposed federal projects, insisting government was key to continued national economic growth.
Bradley told the man he didn't think his approaches typified big government.