Gore Praises Cops for Crime Decline
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Al Gore today praised the service of the country’s law enforcement officers, crediting them for helping to produce what he described as the longest sustained decline in crime ever recorded in the country.
The vice president also promoted his proposals to hire 50,000 more police officers nationwide, hire 10,000 state and local prosecutors, pass a constitutional amendment protecting the rights of victims, and increase gun safety measures that would include mandatory child safety locks.
``Some say the age of heroes has passed. I say look around this room. Heroism is a part of your job description,″ said Gore, speaking to a convention of the National Association of Police Organizations in Washington. ``America is safer than it has been in a generation.″
Earlier in the day, Gore’s campaign announced he would embark on a ``Going the Distance Tour″ heavy with highlights of his life story.
The tour will sweep Gore, the vice president and former senator from Tennessee, from his hometown of Carthage through southern and Midwest battleground states, to a ``handing of the baton″ from President Clinton in Michigan, and finally, to the Democratic National Convention on Aug. 16 to accept the presidential nomination, spokesman Chris Lehane said Saturday.
The seven-day trip, also thick with planned talk about issues from the environment to welfare reform, ``will give people the opportunity to discover the real Al Gore _ not just a loyal vice president, but a principled fighter in his own right _ from doing his duty in Vietnam to taking on powerful special interests on behalf of working families throughout his career,″ said Lehane.
Gore and his yet-to-be-named running mate are to open the swing with a sort of ``This is your life″ town hall forum in Carthage that will feature members of Gore’s family, neighbors he’s known in Tennessee and constituents he represented during his 16 years in the House and Senate.
As Gore put it in the new stump speech he debuted for union firefighters Friday in Chicago, ``I also want the American people to know me for who I am.″
He has already begun to emphasize his enlistment in the Army and service in Vietnam as a military journalist. Republican rival George W. Bush and his running mate Dick Cheney did not serve in Vietnam.
From Carthage, Gore will rally Thursday in Atlanta with southern governors and address welfare reform, then with working women on Friday in Philadelphia, where the topics will be tax relief, health care and retirement security.
Next Saturday, an environmental rally in Springdale, Pa., outside Pittsburgh, with ``Silent Spring″ author Rachel Carson, is meant to recall the story of Gore being spurred to environmentalism when, as a young man, his mother read to him from Carson’s landmark expose on pesticides.
Next Sunday, he visits with child patients and their parents at University Hospital in Cleveland, Ohio. On Aug. 14, the 65th anniversary of Social Security, Gore appears in Independence, Mo., to talk about ``real independence for seniors,″ Lehane said.
His Aug. 15 rally with Clinton in Michigan, a battleground state where the pair campaigned heavily in 1992, is meant to ``focus on how successful the last eight years have been for working families,″ Lehane said. ``This is the handing of the baton.″
The vice president also spoke Friday about what he’s looking for in a running mate as he continued to dangle the possibility of a ``wild card″ running mate, whose selection he will announce Tuesday in Nashville, Tenn. He is trying to create some drama and deflate any bounce in the polls that Bush might gain from his just-finished Republican National Convention.
Flying to Chicago after a weeklong vacation on the North Carolina shore, Gore told reporters that his list of contenders to share the ticket is ``six, plus an out-of-the-box possibility.″
Of those six, a knowledgeable Democrat said the leading prospects are Sens. Evan Bayh of Indiana, John Edwards of North Carolina, John Kerry of Massachusetts and Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut.
In an interview with ABC News, which was posted on its Web site late Friday, Gore was asked if Lieberman, an Orthodox Jew, would face as much or even more prejudice from some voters than a member of another minority group.
``I don’t think those old distinctions and categories matter these days, the way they did in the past,″ Gore replied. ``I think that the day is coming when that’ll be completely irrelevant in all of our politics.″
And as for Edwards, who was first elected two years ago, Gore told ABC, ``I don’t think Washington experience is the only experience that’s relevant to leadership and to this country.″
Gore has often said his No. 1 requirement of a running mate is that he or she be ready ``to become president at a moment’s notice.″
House Democratic leader Dick Gephardt and New Hampshire Gov. Jeanne Shaheen are also on Gore’s short list. Gore told ABC that America is ``of course″ ready for a female vice president.
On Saturday, Gore was bidding for the coveted endorsement of the National Association of Police Organizations, which was convening in Washington.
In prepared remarks to the police group, Gore reiterated his call for a victims’ rights constitutional amendment (which Bush also supports) and for tightened gun controls (which Bush opposes.) He also underscored his proposal for increased federal spending to hire 50,000 additional police and 10,000 prosecutors in communities nationwide.
``There is no more fundamental responsibility of government than to keep people safe and secure _ in their own homes and in their communities,″ said Gore.
From the police convention, Gore was flying to the fashionable Hamptons on New York’s Long Island for a trio of Democratic National Committee fund-raisers and the celebration of daughter Karenna’s birthday Sunday before settling in Tennessee for a couple of days.