The Hawkeye (Burlington, Iowa)   Saturday, January 15, 2000

Bradley's promise
Presidential caucus: Iowans should give him the nod for his sincerity and focus.

Vice President Al Gore successfully badgered his opponent for the Democratic presidential nomination, Bill Bradley, to debate regularly before the first campaign tests of the election year in Iowa and New Hampshire.

Experts believe the strategy paid off for Gore, whom Bradley had matched in campaign dollars and poll results heading into the crucial primary season.

But the frequent debates also gave Americans the chance to measure Bradley's sincerity, which may be unmatched among the crop of presidential candidates from both major political parties.

Bradley is believable, coherent and committed.  Those strengths and his deeply thoughtful approach to politics and governance give Bradley the nod over Gore in the Iowa caucuses.

Iowans will choose their favorites on Jan. 24.  Two-party selections won't be made in this space, because frankly none of the Republicans, other than John McCain, musters much interest here.

The Gore-Bradley choice is a difficult one.  The early tendency was to back Gore to carry on the positive  efforts of an administration that has been soiled but successful in fostering an economy nearly unmatched in American history.

The irony of the Clinton-Gore years is that while respect for the presidency has waned, confidence has grown in the White House's ability to stimulate progress.

Gore could be expected to enable further economic growth.  He would offer continuity but a different and more stable personality that BillClinton.

But Bradley offers more substance, even though he may be every bit the enigma that Clinton remains after a life of politics.

In contrast, Bradley has drawn a curtain on his personal life by refusing to answer probing questions about his reading habits, health history and religious beliefs.

It's easy to differ with Bradley's reluctance to share his medical records.  Voters have to know if presidential candidates are sound of body.

But it's also somewhat refreshing, after an embarrassing probe of a president's unsavory personal escapades, to have a politician declare part of his life off limits.

Bradley's strength as a candidate comes from what he says rather than what he chooses to shelter from public view.

He is the one candidate in either party promising to make the country's current good fortune work for all Americans.

Bradley's premise -- "I think we should fix the roof when the sun is shining." --reflects the true moral issue in this campaign, more so than fidelity or faith or fallibility.

Bradley means it, too.

The Republican candidates for president all want to restore "respect" in the Oval Office.  Bradley could make a difference as president, which would be far more important.

Reprinted by Permission of The Hawkeye.  All Rights Reserved.