"Dee-Dubya-Eye" has a serious character problem

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He is unable to accept responsibility for his own failings. Still in denial, he is now trying to blame Democrats for the consequences of his own very serious addiction problem...

Friday November 3 9:24 PM ET

Bush Cries Foul, Gore Campaign Denies Involvement

By Alan Elsner, Political Correspondent

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Republican George W. Bush (news - web sites), narrowly ahead in the polls, on Friday denounced the revelation of his 1976 drunk driving arrest as a dirty political trick by a Democrat, as the 2000 presidential race reached new heights of vitriol in its final four days.

Bush, the governor of Texas, entered the final weekend of the campaign with a slim lead in national polls. But Vice President Gore continued to lead in several key states, making the election too close to call ahead of Tuesday's vote.

Thursday's disclosure that Bush was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol in Maine 24 years ago, and a reporter's suggestion that he subsequently did not admit it, threw another unpredictable element into the volatile mix.

Interviewed by Fox New Channel, Bush did not directly link the Gore campaign to the disclosure but said it was clear a Democratic Party (news - web sites) stalwart was behind it.

``I believe that most Americans are going to come to the conclusion that this is dirty politics, last-minute politics,'' he said in an interview to be aired Friday evening.

``I don't know if my opponent's campaign was involved, but I do know that the person who admitted doing it at the last minute was a Democrat and partisan in Maine,'' Bush said.

Tom Connolly, the 1998 Democratic nominee for governor in Maine, admitted releasing the 1976 arrest information as an ''act of democracy'' and said he had no links with the Gore campaign.

In the latest Reuters/MSNBC tracking poll, Bush led Gore by 46-42 percent, a one-point increase for Bush over the past 24 hours. Other surveys were roughly in line with that finding. Green Party candidate Ralph Nader (news - web sites) had 5 percent and was hurting Gore in several states.

But the vice president was ahead in Florida, Michigan and Illinois, giving him hope of reaching the 270 electoral votes needed to be elected president.

The race was extremely tight in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Tennessee and Missouri, meaning either man could still win.

In California, crucial to Gore's election strategy, Bush has pulled within two points, according to another Zogby poll released later Friday night.

The latest Reuters Electoral College count had Bush with 212 firm votes, Gore with 211 and 115 too close to call. However previous tight presidential elections have often swung decisively in the final weekend and the drunk driving incident could provide just the kind of lever to alter the picture.

On Counterattack

Sensing the danger, Bush aides went on the counterattack.

``I think the American people are tired of this kind of 'gotcha politics,''' said Bush campaign spokeswoman Karen Hughes. She denied a recollection by Dallas Morning News reporter Wayne Slater that Bush told him in September 1998 that he had no other arrests except for a 1968 fraternity prank involving a stolen Christmas wreath.

The Morning News ran Slater's story in its Friday online edition.

``The governor refutes'' Slater's recollection, said Hughes.

The paper also reported that Bush did not mention the conviction on a 1996 jury duty questionnaire. A Bush spokesman said a staff member who did not know about the conviction filled out the form.

Gore campaign manager William Daley categorically denied any involvement.

``This charge is wrong. It is made without proof or evidence ...It is time for Governor Bush's campaign to stop hurling charges, and start accepting responsibility,'' he said.

Republicans and Democrats continued to battle for control of Congress, with Democrats moving ahead in some key Senate races. The Democrats need to pick up five seats to regain control and most analysts still rated that a long shot, though not impossible. The Democrats need a net gain of seven seats to take control of the House of Representatives.

The Bush arrest dominated talk radio and TV chat shows, though most newspapers gave it restrained coverage. The danger for Bush was that it could drown out his message for a day or two.

Made Mistakes

The Texas governor appeared before reporters at the Wisconsin State Fair grounds on Thursday night to try to confront the issue quickly. He admitted the incident happened and questioned the timing of the disclosure.

On Friday he was campaigning in Michigan, where a Reuters/MSNBC tracking poll showed Gore gaining momentum. In Grand Rapids, Bush made no mention of the incident as he addressed students at Cornerstone University, a Christian fundamentalist school.

But at a rally in Grand Rapids, Bush did say, ``It's become clear to America in the course of this campaign that I have made mistakes in my life, but I'm proud to tell you that I've learned from those mistakes.''

Gore was campaigning in the swing state of Missouri on Friday before heading back to his home state of Tennessee, where polls show Bush with a narrow and shrinking lead.

Gore compared his campaign to that of President Harry Truman, who was predicted to lose the 1948 presidential race to Republican Thomas Dewey. Gore even referred to the famous premature Chicago newspaper headline: ``Dewey Defeats Truman'' and urged supporters to keep the faith.

Gore ridiculed Bush for mistakenly suggesting Social Security is not a federal program.

Democratic vice presidential nominee Sen. Joseph Lieberman (news - web sites) was in Pennsylvania where he questioned the Republican's fitness to lead on foreign policy, citing what he said were the Texas governor's ``fundamental misperceptions of America's best interests in the world.''

One big worry for Gore came from private polls in California suggesting his once-secure lead was eroding rapidly there. Gore cannot win the election if he loses California's 54 electoral votes but he has spent nothing on TV ads in the state while Bush poured in $5 million in the past two weeks.

President Clinton (news - web sites) campaigned in the state on Thursday and Friday, urging voters to support Gore and trying his best to swing some crucial congressional races toward the Democrats.

-- (spineless@=no.backbone), November 03, 2000

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