George Bush and Al Gore formed the main opponents in the 2000 United States presidential elections. Bush went on to win and become the president, although the election was bitterly disputed. It was the first time in 112 years whereby a presidential candidate lost the popular vote but went on to capture enough states to win the electoral vote. This essay contrasts these two political figures. It will mainly focus on the similarities and differences that characterize them using personal and political characteristics.
Bush was up against an opponent who had managed to deflect queries about his trustworthiness and character. This made him change tactics during the 2000 campaign period and start confronting Gore head on over these issues, an area that was long perceived to be Gores greatest strength. Bush decided to draw contrasts between his positions on the environment, Medicare, tax cuts, education and the positions of his rival. At the same time, Dick Cheney, who was Bushs running mate, started using blunt language while criticizing Gores positions on healthcare, education and the economy. This tack was seen as an alteration of emphasis the Bushs advisers claimed was as important as his decision to court voters in a setting that were more unscripted. While hammering at Gore character and personal credibility, Bushs election campaign had been centered on a pledge to return nobility and dignity to the White House following the Clinton years.
There was a time during the campaign when some opinion polls indicated that Gore had a slight edge, while others indicated a statistical dead heat. Bearing this in mind, Bushs advisors said that he could no longer count on queries of character and personality to win the presidency. The point was that he needed to attack Gore on issues that voters had highlighted on their list of concerns. The Bush campaign team felt that it could change the way Americans thought of certain issues. This was similar to the way Republicans and their allies diminished enthusiasm for plans by President Clinton to have universal health care coverage. They managed to do this by persuading the public that such a proposal was similar to intrusion by the government on private lives. The plan fizzled in 1994, with the Republicans going on to win control of congress.
The strategy that Bush was to adopt reflected on an elemental alteration in the dynamics of the presidential election. Throughout the summer and spring of that election year, opinion polls showed that Bush had built a comfortable lead largely due to his personality and the manner in which the public was dismayed by Clintons personal morality. According to polls, voters felt that Bush was more likeable and more of a leader than Gore. While Bush consistently discussed the real issues by holding several policy speeches, he mainly set out his own plans and did not draw sharp contrasts to Gores proposals. Prior to the Republican convention, Bushs aides had stated that the issue speeches were mainly meant to give the impression that he was a strong leader. The fact that Bush had stated that he would consider amending the nuclear doctrine or was bold enough to propose changes in Social Security made him appear as a bold leader who was keen on challenging the status quo.
George W. Bush and Al Gore also had differing military agendas. In the final weeks of the presidential race, Bushs campaign team announced that he would redeploy ground forces from a peacekeeping mission going on in the Balkans should he win the election. In the course of the campaign, Bush maintained that the United States military had been drained by protracted humanitarian work and peacekeeping missions. He was of the opinion that all military missions should have well laid-down objectives and exit strategies and be based on American strategic interests. On his part, Gore criticized Bushs proposal to withdraw forces from the Balkans, claiming that it would be a blow to NATO and likely to endanger other United States alliances. Gore suggested a forward engagement policy that called for early diplomatic intervention aimed at preventing the need for the military to be deployed in the future.
Bush had directed some criticism on the then state of the military as being overextended and not prepared for the future. He was of the opinion that the Clinton administrations way of handling the military had an incapacitating effect on the armed forces. This was due to an increased deployment of smaller forces, together with a reduced military spending as a GDP percentage. Bush stated that should he win the election, he would facilitate a comprehensive review aimed at addressing problems of personnel and morale. Any specific improvements would be based on this evaluation. Gore felt that the United States military was well equipped and trained, and was the worlds most capable fighting force. He was of the opinion that Clintons administration and its post-Cold War military build down had resulted in a powerful force capable of countering any threats.
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