Texas Gov. George W. Bush on Wednesday scolded Vice President Gore for "changing his tune" and softening his criticism of the entertainment industry at a Hollywood fund-raiser.
Bush said Gore appeared to be "auditioning for a Broadway play" by shifting his tone on how to respond to a recent government report accusing the entertainment industry of marketing sexual and violent material to children.
"At the beginning of the week, he sounded awfully tough on Hollywood," Bush told a town hall meeting in Pittsburgh Wednesday morning. "After a couple of fund-raisers, he changes his tune."
Meanwhile, former Education Secretary William Bennett, one of Joseph I. Lieberman's closest Republican allies, accused the Democratic vice presidential candidate Wednesday of also going soft on the entertainment industry.
Bennett and Lieberman have teamed up for three years to issue annual "Silver Sewer" awards to media outlets that they deem "cultural polluters," and Lieberman has promoted the V-chip device to help parents control what their children see on TV. But Bennett accused his friend Wednesday of compromising his beliefs about the entertainment industry for political reasons.
After threatening Hollywood with sanctions for marketing violence to children, Gore and Lieberman seemed to soften their tone at a star-studded Beverly Hills fund-raiser earlier this week. Lieberman told leaders of the entertainment industry, "We will nudge you, but we will never become censors."
Bennett said Wednesday: "Joe Lieberman and I were not engaged in nudging the industry. We were engaged in shaming the industry."
Bennett also contended that Lieberman should have "walked out" of the fund-raiser when Larry David, producer of the now-ended "Seinfeld" TV series, made a joke about Jesus. David said, "Like Bush, I, too, found Christ in my 40s. He came into my room one night. And I said: 'What, no call? You just pop in?' "
Bennett said the remark was inappropriate and offensive to Christians. After the fund-raiser, Lieberman had said he thought David was "very funny."
Lieberman said Wednesday that he, too, was offended by the joke: "I thought that part, particularly, was in bad taste. I winced when I heard it. But on the other hand, that's freedom of expression."
The event raised $4.2 million for the Democratic National Committee. Guests paid $10,000 each to mingle with actors Dustin Hoffman and Tom Hanks, among others.
The attack on Gore's credibility came as the Republican nominee redoubled efforts to sell his big tax-cut plan to the voters during a week in which he has made middle-class voters the target of his message.
Bush cast Gore as someone who trusts the Washington bureaucracy to decide what's right for people, rather than giving citizens the tools and resources to make decisions for themselves.
"This is a campaign which trusts people," Bush said, "as opposed to a campaign that trusts bureaucrats, planners, thinkers -- people in Washington, D.C., who want to plan our life for us. It's a fundamental philosophical difference."
On the issue of prescription drugs, Bush accused Gore of embracing big-government solutions to providing prescription drugs to seniors. "They like that vision that Mrs. (Hillary Rodham) Clinton had for health care," he said. "They want all decisions made in Washington, D.C."
Gore, meanwhile, vowing to stand up to the pharmaceutical industry, staged a rally in Silicon Valley to promise he would ensure that all of the nearly 40 million Americans on Medicare have access to affordable prescription drugs, whether they are enrolled in traditional Medicare or managed care.
"I'm not satisfied when drug companies run up profits so high that many seniors just can't pay for the medicines they need," the Democratic presidential nominee said Wednesday. "I believe we have to give all seniors real coverage and real choice. You should be able to choose your own doctor, and your doctor should be able to choose which medicines to prescribe."
At a campaign appearance today in Maryland, Gore urged President Clinton to tap the government's emergency petroleum reserve and force down oil prices before winter arrives.
He also called on Congress to provide $400 million in additional energy assistance for low-income families and tax credits to oil distributors to help build up dwindling heating oil stocks.
He attacked Big Oil, which he said has "profiteered" at the expense of the consumer, taking in huge profits this year.
Gore urged the president to approve a series of "swaps" in which oil -- about 5 million barrels initially -- would be made available to the market through bids. A company would agree to return the oil to the government at a future date, presumably when the price has declined, lowering its value. No actual money would be exchanged.
If these releases produced lower prices and eased tight supplies, the Energy Department should make additional releases "to further stabilize prices," Gore said.
Reacting to Gore's proposal, Bush spokeswoman Karen Hughes said, "That reserve is intended for strategic and national security purposes, not for election-year political purposes."
Bush said the United States should prod foreign suppliers to make more oil available. "We need to use our strong hand in the diplomatic circles to make it clear to our friends overseas that we don't want them holding our nation and our consumers hostage," he said on the TV show "Live With Regis."
Bush also said there should be more energy exploration at home, adding, "We need to help low-income seniors with their heating bills."