Durham, NH (CNSNews.com) - Homosexuals will serve openly in the nation's military if former New Jersey Senator Bill Bradley becomes President while current Vice President Al Gore would impose a litmus test on the homosexual solider issue on his nominees to the Joint Chiefs of Staff if he were Commander-in-Chief.
Those were some of the revelations made by the two candidates during Wednesday night's Democratic debate at the University of New Hampshire in Durham.
Bradley said his administration would do away with the Clinton Administration's "don't ask, don't tell" policy in favor of allowing homosexuals to serve openly in the military.
Bradley said he would expect members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to follow his lead because "soldiers follow your orders...military personnel are loyal to the Commander-in-Chief," even if they disagree with certain policies.
Asked if he would impose a litmus test on those he nominated to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, even though he would not impose such a test on nominees to the Supreme Court, Gore said he would have such a test.
Both men agreed the "don't ask, don't tell" policy has not worked and needs to be changed.
Addressing health care, Bradley accused Gore of proposing less in his plan than the Clinton Administration proposed in its 1993 plan.
According to Bradley, Gore's 10-year health plan has no money for universal coverage, which prompted the former New Jersey Senator to accuse Gore of being in "a Washington bunker."
Bradley even took a swipe at the Clinton-Gore White House. "The major objective of this White House is political survival, and the Democratic Party should not be in the Washington bunker with you." The comment seemed to startle the Vice President.
When Gore accused Bradley of leaving the Senate rather than staying around to fight Newt Gingrich and the Republican's Contract With America, a testy Bradley responded, "American's think a lot of people in Washington stay too long and fight too much."
Bradley accused Gore of being easy on gun control by failing to support registration and licensing of all handguns, to which Gore responded that such a plan "doesn't stand a chance of becoming law."
Gore's response drew a tart retort from Bradley, during which he lectured the Vice President on the meaning and function of leadership. "The essence of leadership is taking the difficult and making it possible. I'm disappointed he (Gore) doesn't support the licensing and registration of all guns."
Gore faulted Bradley for supporting the Reagan budget cuts, which he insisted "hurt New Hampshire", and failing to support welfare reform. To the later accusation, Bradley insisted the welfare reform legislation, signed into law by President Clinton, has only hurt the poor. "Deep poverty is up, not down."
When asked by Gore why he voted in favor of sanctions against Saddam Hussein and against military intervention, Bradley responded, "I did as most in my party...I was prepared to use force at a later time."
While Gore insisted those actions were mistakes, to which Bradley should admit and learn from, the former senator insisted his actions were not mistakes and if he were called upon to vote again, he would do as he did earlier.
When Bradley was asked if he should be considered a liberal, given his positions on homosexual in the military, gun control and universal health care, he responded, "I'll accept whatever label you want. That's who I am."
Gore also agreed he would wear the liberal label.
The two men continued to tangle over health care, with Bradley insisting Gore has taken his positions out of context and distorted them, including his positions on Medicaid.
On funding-raising abuses during the 1996 election, Gore said the Democratic National Committee "pressed the limits...although there were no legal violations, it was wrong and the phone calls I made were a mistake."
Both candidates called for public financing of elections.
Bradley denied he was beholden to the pharmaceutical industry for past and current campaign contributions, insisting less than one percent of the monies collected for his various Senate campaigns came from that industry and less than one half of one percent of his presidential campaign contributions were from that source.
When Gore presented himself as an underdog in the New Hampshire contest, Bradley responded, "You know Al, you're underdog pitch brings tears to me eyes."
"I hope my upset victory here brings tears to your eyes," Gore shot back.
For many in the audience, this debate was far more personal than previous meetings between the two candidates.
"It's clear they really don't like one another," said one Democrat.
"It could be a long day in hell before Bradley would accept the second spot on a Gore ticket, if it we're offered," said another. "These guys don't like one another."