USAT's Dave Moniz tries to settle it, wading into the defense debate and poking Bush a little, through surrogates of course, for exaggerating the military "crisis" under Clinton. Good one to read. WSJ leads section with a Campaign Journal on whether Gore can push the Texas thing too far. (Yes, he can.)
Wednesday's score: Bush 2, Gore 2. Winner: everybody. Politics fronts all fronts. The fall guys are back for a day, and their dukes are up.
NYT switches to military Kevin Sack doing Gore's VFW run, and Steven Lee Myers on bipartisan Bill Cohen's tricky situation as defender of Clinton (and himself) against a fellow Republican.
WP's Mike Allen scores the round for Gore: "After five months in firm command of the presidential race, Texas Gov. George W. Bush suddenly finds himself on the defensive, behind in polls and struggling to fend off attacks on his policies." Boing!
USAT loves military angle, with sidebars aplenty, but gives equal time to taxes; Judy Keen's with Bush on explaining himself. Like WP, she finds it an "unusual admission to reporters." Or spin.
WSJ getting the markets in a froth already with a John D. McKinnon on the "powerful" in Gore's sights: "In casting himself as a fighter for working families, Al Gore is throwing haymakers at big business. But are they real or just a Hollywood stunt?" Hey, this is better than the Fed watch!
Notable: Reno takes another pass. NYT, breaking it: "Rejecting the recommendation of a top Justice Department investigator..." WP: "Planning to announce today that she has rejected the advice of a senior Justice Department official..." USAT, and WSJ, incredibly, pass. In other non-starter news, Lazio is spared the SEC's probe. What, no scandals this year?
The fight over the military (USAT)
"In broad terms, Bush's effort to portray the military as hollow is basically wrong." Michael O'Hanlon, a senior research fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C.
"Who is out there that is more ready than we are? What military in the world are we not ready to take on? I think it's dangerous to convey to the rest of the world who looks to us to provide leadership that we have more problems than we are letting on." Lawrence Korb. oft-quoted assistant secretary of defense for readiness during the Reagan administration.
"One wishes that he would say the problem is not simply a budgetary one. The problem is a structural one. The Republicans can properly fault the Clinton administration for giving so little attention to the restructuring of the post-Cold War force." Andrew Bacevich, national security expert at Boston University.
"I have never stopped fighting for an unshakable commitment to our veterans... It's that year-after-year commitment to a strong American defense that makes me so concerned when others try to run down America's military for political advantage in an election year." Al Gore, apparently touting his record on keeping WWII vets fit to bomb Kosovo.
"Gore knows what's going on." Charles Mattox of Milan, Ind., VFW delegate and, it is noted, an independent voter.
Quoth the Times
"Sooner or later, it happens to just about every candidate, especially after long hours out on the campaign trail. And Monday night, during a campaign stop in Des Moines, it happened to George W. Bush. Just about every other sentence he uttered in a 15-minute speech at a fund-raiser seemed to have a blooper in it. His first slip of the lip came when he told his audience, "When we carry Iowa in November, it'll mean the end of four years of Clinton-Gore." (He meant eight years, of course.) Next, outlining his trade policy, he promised, "I will work to end terrors," only to catch himself and hastily make it "tariffs and barriers." His policy on national security: "We cannot let terrorists and rogue nations hold this nation hostile or hold our allies hostile." His audience seemed not to mind the bloopers. He was cheered repeatedly."
Wednesday on the Trail (NYT)
Bush: Austin, Tex. Cheney: Bakersfield and Santa Barbara, Calif. Gore and Lieberman: Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Nader: Santa Barbara, Salinas, Santa Cruz, Calif.
Most Insightful Analysis of New Gore Ad (Which Includes the Line "Then Al Gore Decided That to Change What Was Wrong in America, He Had to Fight for What Was Right.")
"This is essentially a promotional biography. It casts Mr. Gore's life decisions to enlist in the Army, for example in the most positive light." Katharine Q. Seelye, NYT
Matters of Opinion
NYT's Maureen Dowd finds Gore preening: "Alpha Al, you the man. You got your mojo." Not actual Gore quotes.
WP's Michael Kelly on the Amazing Posable Lieberman, or as he calls him, Flex-O-Joe.
And NYT's always excellent Paul Krugman on the phantom surplus. Memorize it.
Puns of Choice for Gore and Bush's Military Melee
NYT's Myers: Cohen "launched what amounted to a pre-emptive strike."
WP's Connolly: Bush "issued a stinging critique," Gore "swung back." Evident restraint for Ms. Connolly.
USAT's Moniz: Gore and Bush "have engaged in fierce combat..."
WSJ's AP: Gore "swatted back."
Hoo boy. As Apollo Creed said at the end of Rocky II: "Ding, ding." Let's get it on.