Ouch! Al and Bill Find Something to Fight About

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Call out the medics! The issue of health care is shaping up to be the bloody main battleground between Democratic presidential candidates Al Gore and Bill Bradley. On Monday Bradley, in a speech to the American Public Health Association, outlined his proposal to blanket 95 percent of the population with health care coverage. Bradley claims his plan will cost $500 to $650 billion over 10 years, and can be easily paid for out of the $1 trillion in expected budget surpluses in that period. At the same time, he dug into Gore as showing a lack of guts for not pursuing universal health coverage while in the White House — one of the cornerstones of the 1992 Clinton-Gore ticket. "Maybe something happens when you listen to Washington's voices instead of the people's," Bradley told the audience.

The remarks were the first time Bradley has fired back at Gore, who has criticized his health care proposal repeatedly over the past three weeks. And within hours, the salvos were continuing, with Gore touting a new analysis of Bradley's national health plan that concludes that it would cover only 1 percent more people than Gore's own plan but cost more than three times as much. "In short, [Bradley] offers a flawed, trillion-dollar plan that will cost the American people even more in the long run," Gore said in a statement.

TIME Washington correspondent John Dickerson cautions voters to take both candidates' figures with a grain of salt. "The surplus on which Bradley's plan relies is one of the fundamental lies in Washington, and Gore relies on the same lie in his plan," says Dickerson. But, he adds, Bradley has more to lose by campaigning on shaky budget projections, as Gore is part of the Clinton administration (which has trumpeted the surplus), "so you'd expect that charade from him. But Bradley has suggested his is a different type of campaign, that he's a politician of a higher moral order."