Tags: Bush | Campaign | Condemns | Gore's | Racial | Comments

Bush Campaign Condemns Gore's Racial Comments

Sunday, 05 November 2000 12:00 AM

"It's reprehensible," said Karl Rove, Bush's chief political strategist who traveled with the Texas governor as he campaigned through Florida. "It shows how the two campaigns are ending, with the Gore campaign desperate and making these outrageous charges, pitting race against race."

Trailing slightly in national polls in the closing days of the election, Gore, speaking to a black audience at the Wesley Center African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church in Pittsburgh Saturday night, questioned Bush's stance on racial matters with a historical allusion that resonates strongly with African-Americans.

"When my opponent, Governor Bush, says he will appoint strict constructionists to the Supreme Court," Gore said, "I often think of the strictly constructionist meaning that was applied when the Constitution was written and how some people were considered three-fifths of a human being."

The comments amounted to labeling Bush's promise to appoint conservative judges to three potential Supreme Court seats opening during the next four years as an act of racism. The stepped-up rhetoric also marked a turning point in the campaign's final hours, as the Texas governor boldly predicted victory and prepared to campaign in Gore's home state of Tennessee Monday before Tuesday's balloting.

The remarks brought strong reaction from the Bush camp, which had been struggling to shrug lingering questions about revelations of Bush's drunk driving arrest in 1976. Rove said Gore's comments opened questions about the vice president's campaign tactics and leadership abilities.

"You cannot hope to govern America if you're trying to win by basically this kind of ugliness and dividedness," Rove said.

The Rev. Glen Grayson, pastor of the Wesley Center Church, said while it is true that African-Americans were not considered full citizens at the time the Constitution was drafted, it is "not necessarily" appropriate to attribute those views to Bush.

Speaking at the church, Gore went on to say that he was impressed as a child with how far the United States had come in addressing racial divides.

"We were on a trajectory to a better nation and we are still on that trajectory," Gore said. "But we have to decide that's where we want to go."

He added, "I believe my opponent wants to go in that direction, but I'm not sure that he sees the same road map that I see."

As an example of the differences between them, Gore took note of the controversy over flying the Confederate flag over the State Capitol in South Carolina. Gore said that when Bush was in South Carolina during the state's primary, he looked up at the capitol building and clearly saw the American flag flying there, but "inexplicably, he could not see a symbol of injustice."

Bush has said that it should be up to the state's residents to decide whether to fly the flag, but Gore said Saturday it should not be flown over a government building.

Meanwhile, Bush spent the afternoon crisscrossing Florida in the prelude to his final campaign push, which will begin with a rally in Chattanooga, Tenn., and end in Austin.

One Bush strategist called the Tennessee stop an "in your face" gesture to Gore.

Other events on Bush's final leg include rallies in Wisconsin, Iowa and Arkansas, where the governor will stump before returning to Austin to cast his own ballot and await the results in what is shaping up to be the tightest White House race in decades.

Bush and his inner circle of aides are already predicting victory, based on their own calculations of the states needed to shore up the 270 Electoral College votes necessary to win election from the total of 538 Electoral College votes.

"We have a much bigger base to begin with," said Rove.

Rove said he calculated 100 electoral votes in the West, between 98 and 123 in the South and roughly 30 in the Midwest, with Ohio and Indiana.

But independent analysts are less optimistic about Bush's electoral support, showing the governor with roughly 209 votes solidly behind him while 125 remain in play, against Gore's base of some 168.

Florida's 25 Electoral College votes could be the linchpin state for either candidate. Bush insists he's leading Gore in the state by up to five percentage points in the polls, but the governor's presence in Florida so close to Election day suggests some concern about his standing, despite the strong backing of Florida's governor, Bush's brother, Jeb.

Rove said Bush could win the election without Florida, though he insisted the governor would take the state nonetheless.

Asked why Bush focused on Florida with so little time left for other toss-up states, Rove said, "Florida is a state where you got to campaign and where they want to know that you're asking for the vote."

(C) 2000 UPI. All Rights Reserved.

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It's reprehensible, said Karl Rove, Bush's chief political strategist who traveled with the Texas governor as he campaigned through Florida. It shows how the two campaigns are ending, with the Gore campaign desperate and making these outrageous charges, pitting race...
Sunday, 05 November 2000 12:00 AM
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