NHPrimary.com: Bradley gets compassionate in televised forum
By Kevin Landrigan/The Telegraph of Nashua, N.H.
November 30, 1999
Web posted at: 9:58 a.m. EST (1458 GMT)
DERRY, N.H. (The Telegraph of Nashua) -- Bill Bradley said as president he would bring congressional leaders from both parties together to forge a consensus of changes to save Social Security for the next 75 years.
Bradley offered a menu of options but no definitive answers other than his opposition to raising the retirement age during a one-hour televised forum on WNDS-TV (Channel 50) Monday night.
"There is no doubt in my mind that could happen, and if I were president, I would work hard to try and make that happen," Bradley said.
But the Democratic hopeful and ex-New Jersey senator went out of his way to comfort concerned voters who asked about the solvency of Medicare insurance and Social Security benefits for senior citizens.
Tom Ralph of Nashua said he's nearing retirement age and worries that Medicare won't be there for him and his wife.
"I'm getting nervous. I'd love to live to age 100. Help me," Ralph said.
Bradley answered, "Let me assure you, you are going to be all right."
On Social Security, Bradley said there needs to be the same bipartisan work done to save the program past 2030 as there was when Congress approved changes including raising the retirement age back in 1983.
"You should rest assured. You are going to get Social Security benefits as long as you are alive," Bradley told Edward Tuskevich of Manchester.
Preserving Social Security through the next century will require either raising payroll taxes, cutting benefits, setting aside some budget surplus or getting more investment profits from Social Security investments.
"We have to take Social Security out of being a political football," Bradley said.
But Bradley said he would oppose raising the retirement age even though as a senator he supported an increase.
"I have not posed it. I don't think it would be necessary," Bradley said.
On foreign affairs, Bradley came down hard on Russia for their violent occupation of Chechnya, a runaway province that Russian leaders are trying to force back into the fold.
Bradley alluded to atrocities a month ago outside Grozny where Russians killed a doctor and injured others by firing on a psychiatric hospital that had a Red Cross emblem.
"We are not going to turn our eyes away from what is happening in Grozny tonight," Bradley said.
He urged the Clinton administration to convince the Export-Import Bank to deny tax credits that Russia's ailing economy badly needs as long as this conflict is going on.
"I condemn it. I think it's morally repugnant. I think we have to be very clear about this," Bradley said.
Most of the questions at the forum from undecided Democratic and independent voters were on health care and not confrontational for Bradley, who has withstood attacks for several weeks from Vice President and primary rival Al Gore.
Gore and other critics claim Bradley's plan to let low- and moderate-income adults and children join a federal health-care program or get vouchers to buy other private insurance will be too expensive. Just as important, they argue, it will not dramatically reduce the 44 million Americans who now lack health coverage.
Bradley disagreed and insisted his plan could be paid for with budget surplus money and expected savings from technology that will reduce paper costs in the health care billing system.
"If you are going to be president of the United States, try to do something big rather than something small," Bradley said.
On foreign trade, Bradley told Denise Tremblay of Nashua that he supports having China join the World Trade Organization and earlier said at a Tufts University forum on foreign policy that Most Favored Nation status should be granted to China on a permanent basis to avoid an annual battle on Capitol Hill.
"We each (China and the United States) believe we are the center of the universe, so naturally we are going to bump up against each other," Bradley said.
And Bradley said that within a few years there could be world-wide privacy protections built into the Internet and predicted this effort will determine whether the use of the World Wide Web will dramatically increase in the next century.
"I will fight to make sure that (privacy protection) occurs," Bradley added.
The candidate's appearance was the second in a continuing series of forums on WNDS. News Director Jack Heath said Gore has agreed to join voters for one on Dec. 14.
"I think these are always informative because we seek out at random a good cross-section of people from throughout the area," Heath added.