President Clinton and Vice President Al Gore, teaming up for the first time after debates with their GOP rivals, bolstered plans Thursday for bringing the Internet to the nation’s schools and libraries.
“Last night, Jack Kemp and I debated the future. This morning, Bill Clinton and I are building the future,” said Gore.
Combining politics and policy, the Democratic team touted their efforts to wire classrooms for computers and make the information superhighway widely available.
And in a pointed warning to “those on the other side,” including Republican challenger Bob Dole, who wants to abolish the Energy Department, Gore said he and the president were committed to maintaining the nearby Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
“Don’t give us the mumbo jumbo about ‘this will all magically work out somehow,”’ Gore said. “We want a commitment to Oak Ridge National Laboratory.”
In Washington, Dole spokeswoman Christina Martin said Dole’s support of Republican proposals to abolish the Energy Department did not mean “doing away with the Oak Ridge laboratory.”
Gore greeted Clinton at the Knoxville airport after flying in from St. Petersburg, Fla., where he debated his Republican rival Wednesday night.
Clinton and Dole had squared off Sunday night in Hartford, Conn. They will meet again Wednesday for their final debate in San Diego.
“Kemp found out something that I found out a long time ago: It’s just as well not to be on the other side of an argument with Al Gore,” said Clinton at the Knoxville Civic Coliseum.
For his part, Gore was more reserved. Appearing relaxed, he engaged reporters in small talk on the Air Force Two flight from Florida but offered little in the way of a assessment of his encounter with Kemp.
“I felt good about it,” he said, adding that he preferred to leave the debate scoring to others.
By the time they spoke in Knoxville, both Democrats appeared buoyant - bantering and badgering each other about the upcoming University of Tennessee-University of Arkansas football game.
Before heading for Ohio and Kentucky, Clinton announced a $100 million proposal that would improve and expand the Internet, which he said already is aging and straining from rapid growth.
The “Next Generation Internet” would link 100 universities, labs and other sites to an Internet with speeds 100 to 1,000 times faster than what is available now, according to administration officials.
He urged federal and state regulators to recommend free basic access to the Internet in schools and libraries and to provide discounts for more advanced features, such as video conferencing and high-speed access.
He also said that Sumner Redstone, the chief executive of Viacom, will head a blue-ribbon commission of a half-dozen other CEOs to round up additional private resources to put more computers in the schools and libraries.
“I want to see the day when computers are as much a part of a classroom as blackboards and we put the future at the fingertips of every American child,” said Clinton.