Without naming George W. Bush, his leading Republican rival for the White House in 2000, Vice President Al Gore assailed the Texas governor Monday at the National Urban League's annual conference.
"If we are going to close the opportunity gap in this nation, we're going to need a lot more than crumbs of compassion," Gore said, referring to Bush's "compassionate conservatism" agenda. "We need leadership that will stand up and be counted."
Speaking on the same podium as Bush did the previous night, the Democratic presidential hopeful called for a "common American agenda" ranging from a $1 increase in the minimum wage to tightened gun laws to a continuation of affirmative action programs.
Gore painted a dim picture of Bush's Texas, citing high dropout rates by black students, a tax system biased against the working poor and the nation's second-highest percentage of uninsured children.
"Here in Texas, can we be satisfied when African-Americans can be twice as likely to drop out of school?" Gore said, referring to Bush's education policies.
Gore called for a 2000 Census that corrects the omission of millions of blacks and Hispanics in past head counts, urged passage of the Democratic-sponsored patients' bill of rights and suggested photo IDs for gun buyers.
Gore and Bush have been stumping for minority votes across the nation. Although minorities have traditionally supported Democrats, Bush has been able to generate support from Hispanics in Texas and do better than his GOP predecessors in attracting black voters.
Gore's criticism is in direct contrast to Bush's standard stump speech in which he paints Texas not only as an economic dynamo but also as a state where conservative policies have improved reading scores, particularly for minority children, and where diversity is embraced.
_ Information from the New York Times was used in this report.