LOYAL OPPOSITION: Airball

Bill Bradley, please stop. It's become painful to watch this man try to deny Al Gore his supposed birthright. After placing second in New Hampshire -- where Bradley pounded Gore for falsely declaring he'd always been pro-choice -- Bradley has continued to attack Gore for having changed his stance on abortion in the 1980s. Last week, Bradley aired ads blasting Gore for not boasting a lifelong commitment to choice. It's obvious Bradley's trying to demonstrate a larger notion: Gore is a soulless, finger-in-the-wind politician. Well, duh. But one of the few instances in which the Clinton-Gore administration has hung tough has been the tussle over abortion rights, including late-term abortions. (Sources in the abortion-rights field do say, however, that Clinton nearly caved on late-term abortions.) Moreover, Gore has won the backing of Gloria Steinem and the National Abortion Rights Action League; last fall Voters for Choice handed him an award. Is this the best strategy the former Knick can concoct, going after a sitting vice president on an issue where he commands (somewhat justifiably) such support from the Democratic faithful? Are there many Democratic voters who fear Gore cannot now be trusted on choice, who worry that he will flip back once he is top dog in the White House? In fact, Democrats are accustomed to senators and representatives shifting to pro-choice when they decide to run for national office; it's a venerable party tradition.This is no way for a supposed insurgent -- who promotes progressive themes to topple the entrenched Democratic establishment -- to act. Pick at Gore's positions from two decades ago? Bradley's wasting his money and ours. (Like Gore and McCain, he receives federal matching funds because he has agreed to abide by campaign spending limits. Bush the Reformer refuses to play by these rules.) If Bradley cares about the issue of reproductive rights, he'd be better off refunding to his contributors the bucks he's spending on these spots, asking them to instead pass those dollars to Planned Parenthood. Indeed, given his current chances of booting Gore, if Bradley is serious about battling campaign finance sleaze, racism and child poverty, he should consider suspending his presidential bid and sending the millions he has in his campaign account to Common Cause, the NAACP and the Children's Defense Fund. That would produce more progress on these matters than the continuation of a campaign managed by people foolish enough to believe they can win the Democratic primary by running against NARAL and the pro-choice community.

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