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web posted September 18, 2000

Gore appears on 'Oprah'

Vice President Al Gore's campaign week opened September 11 as he embraced one wildly popular sector of the entertainment world -- appearing on the nationally syndicated talk show "Oprah" -- while sharply criticizing the film, music and video game industries.

Al Gore with Oprah WinfreyInvited to appear on Oprah Winfrey's Chicago-based daily talk show, Gore leapt at the chance. The television program is phenomenally popular with women -- a voting constituency with which Gore and his running mate, Connecticut Sen. Joseph Lieberman, are already showing significantly high approval ratings.

During the show, which is taped before a live studio audience, Gore chatted about issues ranging from the personal to the professional -- including his reputation for being "stiff" when he speaks in public and the much-discussed, passionate kiss with his wife Tipper at the Democratic National Convention.

Winfrey asked the vice president how he balanced his political role with his family life when his wife was struggling with depression, a medical condition she speaks about publicly. He said he was fortunate enough to have "flexibility" in his position, and that all families should be able to have the same balance in their lives.

"We have to change our society and our culture to honor families, to give moms and dads and daughters and sons the chance, the flexibility, the respect and the time to live out their lives in the context of their families," Gore said.

Gore said he would give a tax cut to a working parent who wishes to stay home longer with a child.

"I would hope to do that right off the bat. I mean, this is the most important thing, to help families live their lives and impart their values the way they want to," he said.

When asked about the now famous on-stage kiss he shared with his wife, Gore said one reporter asked him if he had been "trying to send a message." Gore quipped that he was "trying to send Tipper a message."

And responding to the widespread public perception that he is "stiff," Gore said he has relaxed in recent years -- but "I know myself well enough to know there is actually some truth to it."

In addition to the television appearance, Gore planned to focus on his Republican opponent's pet issue -- education -- this week as he traverses the country with Lieberman. The two will also seek to raise a little money along the way, in a concerted attempt to close the funding gap with their Republican rivals.

The purpose of the Gore interview, Winfrey's production company said, was to provide the program's estimated 22 million viewers a chance to consider why they should vote for either candidate. Republican nominee George W. Bush is set to appear on Winfrey's show September 18.

The idea, Winfrey said earlier, is "to break the political wall and see who each (candidate) is as a person." At the conclusion of the interview, Winfrey described Gore as a "fun, funny guy."

The vice president appeared downstate in Belleville, Illinois, later that day where he convened a town-hall style meeting that melded his positions on improving the public education system with his newer insistence to call the entertainment industry to account for its marketing strategies.

Gore's education plank calls for the reduction of class sizes nationwide, the renovation of crumbling schools and construction of new buildings, and the closure of schools that cannot meet minimum teaching standards. Those schools, Gore has maintained, should be reopened under new management, with new teachers in place.

"Every student needs one-on-one time once in a while," he said. "If you have 35 kids in a classroom, the teacher is going to be overwhelmed."

If teachers cannot pass standard performance evaluations, he continued, they should "be sent back to school" themselves.

"No child should spend more than one day in a failing school," he said. "If they can't teach children, then shut them down."

Gore's recent emphasis on education was meant to help him put a lock on what is his strongest advantage among women in months -- and the "Oprah" appearance factors into that strategy. In recent polls, the vice president leads Bush by between 14 and 20 points among women, whose support has typically determined where his overall ratings fall.

Pollster John Zogby credited the gains to Gore's focus in the past three weeks on education and health care, which helped him pick up support among politically independent women.

"He now leads among independents, and that's because of the lead that he holds among independent women," Zogby said September 10 on CBS' "Face the Nation."

Earlier in the day in Chicago, Gore said the entertainment industry should agree to an "immediate cease-fire" in the marketing of material meant for adults -- such as violent films and video games -- to children and teens.

Gore also warned that he and Lieberman would support "tough measures to hold the industry accountable" if it "does not clean up its act."

Lieberman has been a vocal critic of explicitly violent entertainment through his years in the Senate.

The vice president was reacting to a Federal Trade Commission study out that same day, which concluded the entertainment industry routinely and deliberately targets young children in the marketing of movies, music and video games that the industry's own standards recommend for those ages 17 and older.

Gore said the entertainment industry should adopt FTC recommendations and set a six-month deadline for voluntary industry standards.

"It's hard enough to raise children today without the entertainment industry making it more difficult. We believe in giving parents better information and more tools to help them protect their children from inappropriate material," Gore said in a statement.

"We have a problem in this country," Gore said later in Belleville. "Kids now see more than 20,000 murders on television by the time they graduate ... This is a problem that has to be addressed. We will have solutions for the problem. Parents need help."

Asked on Winfrey's program about how he would actively fulfill his stated goal of giving "parents more help in protecting their kids from entertainment they think is inappropriate," Gore credited his wife for tuning him in to the difficulties parents faced in this area 20 years ago.

"She was successful in convincing the recording industry to give warnings to parents when material is inappropriate. Now Joe Lieberman and I are following up on that to try to persuade all the companies in that industry to abide by what they said they would do," Gore said.

Tipper Gore led the crusade of Parents' Music Resource Center -- more commonly referred to as the PMRC -- in the early 1980s. Her aim was to give parents ample warning about the lyrical content of the popular music to which their children were being exposed. Artists and members of the music industry accused Gore of engaging in a transparent exercise in censorship.

Legal bid to opt out of Canadian income tax dismissed with costs: not 'voluntary'

This may not seem like news, but Canadians must pay income taxes.

An Ontario Superior Court judge has disallowed an argument by a retired Ottawa school teacher that he is exempt from the Income Tax Act.

Mr. Justice G. Gordon Sedgwick dismissed the case and ordered Thomas Kennedy to pay $500 in legal costs to the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency, the agency formerly known as Revenue Canada said September 11.

Kennedy argued unsuccessfully that the Income Tax Act applies only to corporations, not to individuals, and that paying income tax is voluntary.

His arguments paralleled those put forward by anti-tax campaigners who claim to know of lawful ways for individuals to exempt themselves from income tax. The techniques are typically disclosed in weekend seminars costing several hundred dollars.

Ruling on Kennedy's argument that the tax law's definition of "person" does not include individuals, the judge said: "I find that a 'person' as defined in ... the Income Tax Act includes both a natural person and an artificial person. It follows that the applicant is a 'person' and a 'taxpayer.'"

On the argument that taxes are voluntary and the government cannot enforce tax laws, the judge found: "In my view, there is no support in the common law, also known as the rule of law, for the extremely broad proposition that all taxes are voluntary."

A B.C.-based organization calling itself the Canadian De-Tax Group, which has run seminars, claims that paying taxes is voluntary because the system relies on the principle of "voluntary compliance." The Customs and Revenue Agency has said this phrase merely means that all Canadians are responsible for calculating and remitting their own taxes.

And responding to the De-Tax Group's claim to have "a document so powerful, when shown to Revenue Canada agents, they are stopped in their tracks!" a spokeswoman for the agency said mildly last year: "Employees of this department are not so easily stopped in their tracks."

Bush says 'RATS' ad not meant as subliminal message

Republican presidential nominee George W. Bush said September 12 he was "convinced" an ad placed by the Republican National Committee that flashes the word "RATS" over a Gore prescription drug proposal was not intended to send a subliminal message.

"We don't need to play cute politics. We're going to win this election based upon issues," Bush told reporters in Orlando.

Democratic presidential nominee Al Gore's campaign contacted news organizations about an RNC ad in which the word "RATS" appears briefly on screen in a spot that criticizes Gore's prescription drug plan. A spokesman for the Texas governor brushed aside suggestions of subliminal advertising as "bizarre and weird," while the RNC had no immediate comment.

CNN slowed down a copy of the ad, and the word "RATS" clearly appeared on the screen in large, white letters superimposed over the words "The Gore Prescription Plan." In a fraction of a second, the word disappeared, and the words "BUREAUCRATS DECIDE" showed up in smaller letters. To viewers aware of the presence of the word, it is noticeable when the ad is played at normal speed.

Campaigning in Middletown, Ohio, Gore told reporters he viewed the ad as "disappointing development" in the presidential race.

It's the second controversy involving an RNC ad. Late last month, Bush halted GOP plans to air an ad he rejected as deceptive because it used a Gore quote out of context. The "RATS" ad is likely to exacerbate tensions between the party's national committee and the Bush campaign over advertising strategy.

Bush said that he believes the ad's creator, Alex Castellanos, who said it was not his intention to create a subliminal ad. Castellanos said he flashed the word -- part of "bureaucrats" -- so it would look more visually interesting, and that it was just a coincidence that the letters appearing first spelled out "rats."

"It's a visual drumbeat," he said. "People get bored watching TV. You're trying to get them interested and involved."

The "RATS" ad had run more than 4,400 times in 33 markets nationwide in the last two weeks, costing the RNC more than $2,576,600. When asked by reporters if the ad would be pulled, Bush said it was already coming out of rotation.

The ad touts Bush's plan for adding prescription drugs to Medicare, arguing that seniors will have more control over their health care under Bush's proposal. Under his opponent Al Gore's plan, the ad says, the program will be run by bureaucrats.

"I don't think there is a plot to try to put subliminal messages in the people's minds. The most important thing is to point out the differences between what I believe and what the vice president believes when it comes to important issues like prescription drugs," Bush insisted.

FEC awards Reform Party funds to Buchanan

The Federal Election Commission awarded the Reform Party's $12.6 million in federal matching funds to commentator Pat Buchanan's presidential campaign on September 12, effectively recognizing him as the nominee of the fractured third party.

Pat BuchananBuchanan, the longtime conservative pundit, former Republican White House aide and sometime CNN commentator, and Iowa physicist John Hagelin each claim to be the rightful Reform presidential nominee. The FEC sided with Buchanan in a 5-1 preliminary ruling after a public hearing.

Hagelin's supporters vowed to appeal the decision, but Buchanan told CNN he already has big plans to use the money to support a wide-ranging presidential effort.

"We're going to have to spend a million-and-a-half dollars a week," he said. "We're going to spend it on radio ads, which I'm going to do myself. We're going to spend it on television ads. We're going to go into states that Bush has written off ... We're going to go into swing states where I do well."

Buchanan currently posts less than two percent of the vote in most polls. He said he can mount a credible challenge to the major parties, "But I need time, and we need to deal with issues that others aren't dealing with."

He is also seeking a court order allowing him to participate in the presidential debates with Democratic nominee Al Gore and Republican nominee George W. Bush.

Buchanan called the two major parties "Xerox copies of one another, both of them funded by the same big, fat lobbyists and corporations who are buying and selling trade policy and foreign policy in this capital city ... This is a vapid, boring campaign."

The Reform Party split into rival factions behind each candidate at a raucous convention in Long Beach, California, last month, and each side asked the FEC to award it the matching funds.

The party qualified for federal matching funds after founder Ross Perot's 8 percent showing in the 1996 presidential race. Perot submitted an affidavit in favor of the funds being dispersed to Hagelin, marking the Texas billionaire's first public statement on the controversy that has so far plagued the organization.

Perot went for months without making any public comment on the disputes that wracked his party, but Buchanan said he believed Perot was backing his opponents financially, and said Perot allies would rather "rule or ruin" the party than see anyone else succeed.

The only dissenting vote on the FEC came from Commissioner Karl Sandstrom, who said a federal court was a better venue to settle the matter.

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