MACON, Ga. -- Opening a planned three-day attack on his Republican opponent, Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton spent the day among the elderly yesterday, trying to put the fear of George Bush into them.
The Democratic presidential nominee's new attack comes after he has spent the better part of two weeks on the defensive, answering daily volleys from Mr. Bush and his surrogates.
Mr. Clinton's approach yesterday seemed designed to imitate and counter that of the Republicans by emphasizing the theme that the re-election of Mr. Bush would cause suffering through reduced levels of government aid. The Republicans have been asserting that electing Mr. Clinton would mean suffering through higher levels of taxes.
In Macon, several hundred elderly people gathered in a park to sit at gingham-checked picnic tables and listen to Mr. Clinton warn them that Mr. Bush's federal budget plan would cost them and their children dearly over the next five years: $2,000 in the average elderly person's medical bill; a $127 billion cut in the Medicare budget that would force the elderly to pay $65 billion more in out-of-pocket expenses for their medical care; sharp increases in private medical insurance premiums; and the loss of 1.8 million jobs.
Mr. Clinton painted a picture of a dismal future for them under a president who cared only for millionaires.
The Democratic candidate has never been shy about accusing Mr. Bush of being a pawn of the moneyed classes, but in speeches yesterday in Macon and in Greensboro, N.C., he went further than usual, accusing the president of being willing to sacrifice the ill elderly in pursuit of his desire "to put more money in the hands of the wealthy, even if it means less opportunity in the lives of the middle class."
Borrowing Mr. Bush's language, Mr. Clinton asked which president would serve which class of society better as "the fundamental difference" between himself and the incumbent.
"If you are a millionaire, his budget promises a capital gains tax that would generate $500,000 over the next five years, but if you're one of the 30 million Americans who depend on Medicare, his budget makes you $2,000 poorer over the next five years," he said. "Four more years of George Bush means more millionaires with vacation homes and more older Americans struggling to come up with paying their gas and electric bills in their own homes."
Torie Clarke, the Bush campaign's spokeswoman, accused Mr. Clinton of distorting the administration's proposals.
"Bill Clinton has stooped pretty low before, but never so low as to go around scaring senior citizens," she said. "He knows very well that the Bush administration has guaranteed Medicare funding for senior citizens and has guaranteed that this funding will rise with the cost of living plus 2 percent."