GOP, Bush hit Gore with ads, 'reinvention' criticism

PHILADELPHIA - Coming after Al Gore on two fronts, George W. Bush criticized his presidential rival's efforts to ''reinvent'' government while the Republican National Committee bought TV ad time to counter Democratic commercials.

Bush said Friday that Gore and the rest of the Clinton administration have ''simply reshuffled'' government. His own plans, the Texas governor said, would eliminate thousands of middle-management positions.

Meanwhile, advisers said a 60-second commercial touting Bush's plan to let workers invest some of their Social Security taxes in personal accounts - an idea that polls suggest is popular with likely voters - will begin running next week.

''The Bush plan guarantees everyone at or near retirement every dollar of their benefits,'' an announcer says. ''The Bush plan gives younger workers a choice to invest a small part of their Social Security in sound investments they control for higher returns.''

Gore has criticized the plan as risky, saying such investments in the stock market will inevitably produce retirement losers.

The Republican ad will be on the air in the same 15 states where the Democratic National Committee is airing commercials featuring the vice president on prescription drug costs, another popular issue. The Republican ad will also include two states not covered by Gore's, Arkansas and Maine, officials said.

During a speech within view of Philadelphia's Independence Hall, Bush described ideas for overhauling government that he said would save $88 billion over five years.

In particular, the Republican presidential contender pledged to flatten the federal bureaucracy by not replacing 40,000 senior and middle managers scheduled to retire over the next eight years.

He also proposed creating a chief information officer, naming a ''sunset review board'' to recommend elimination of duplicative jobs and moving all significant government procurement to the Internet.

''Today when Americans look to Washington, they see a government which is slow to respond, slow to reform, ignoring changes that are taking place in the private sector and in some local and state governments,'' Bush told invited guests at Carpenter's Hall, where the First Continental Congress was held in 1774.

''At a time when private businesses are turning to leaner management teams, Washington keeps adding new managers,'' Bush said. ''They haven't reinvented the government bureaucracy; they have simply reshuffled it.''

The Gore campaign disagreed, contending that efforts led by the vice president have saved over $100 billion since the administration took office while also making the federal government the smallest it has been in 40 years and balancing the budget.

''While we have made government smaller, we're still doing more to help people with the largest investment in education in 30 years, beginning to put 100,000 new cops on the street and doubling Head Start funding for children,'' said Gore spokesman Doug Hattaway.

The Republican advertising buy is part of an air war financed by the two major parties to help their presumptive nominees save campaign money.

A CNN-USA Today-Gallup poll out this week indicates 65 percent of likely voters favor Bush's plan of letting people put a portion of their Social Security taxes into investment accounts, while 30 percent oppose that plan. Almost half say Social Security would get worse if Gore were elected, while just under four in 10 say that of Bush. The poll of 528 likely voters was taken Tuesday and Wednesday and had an error margin of plus or minus 5 percentage points.

Both the Democratic National Committee and the Republican National Committee plan to air more ads leading up to the presidential conventions; the Democrats plan to spend $25 million or more, a figure the Republicans could match.

Bush and Gore each appear in their parties' first ads. Court rulings and a lack of strict federal regulation have blurred Watergate-era rules against presidential campaigns coordinating ads with their parties.

At 60 seconds, the Republican spot is twice as long as the Democrats', and it will be shown fewer times.

The Democrats already have bought time for a second week of ads, according to industry sources.

In Philadelphia, Bush also met with Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge, who said they talked political strategy for 90 minutes. Philadelphia will be the site of the Republican National Convention beginning July 31, and Ridge is considered a possible vice presidential running mate.

From Pennsylvania, Bush headed to Stamford, Conn., to tour a company that makes equipment for manufacturing semiconductor chips. He also was attending three fund-raising events expected to gross $1.85 million.

He was spending the weekend at his family's home in Kennebunkport, Maine, celebrating the 75th birthday of former first lady Barbara Bush.


EDITOR'S NOTE - Associated Press Political Writer Ron Fournier contributed to this report.


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