Gore accuses GOP of harming research

February 13, 1996|By Michael Dresser | Michael Dresser,SUN STAFF

Vice President Al Gore came to Baltimore yesterday to open a new front in the election year political debate, accusing the Republican Congress of harboring a disdain for science that threatens to create a "know nothing society."

Speaking to the annual gathering of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Mr. Gore denounced GOP budget proposals that he said would slash civilian research and development spending by one-third.

"Everything that ought to be up with this Congress is down, and everything that ought to be open is closed," the vice president said. He promised AAAS members that the Clinton administration will protect research spending.

The vice president was animated in his defense of what he called a "virtuous cycle" of research leading to prosperity that funds even more research. He warned that because of congressional cuts, Japan is likely to surpass the United States in civilian research and development by 2000.

Mr. Gore charged that Congress has turned its back on every field of scientific inquiry except defense-related projects and medical research.

"In almost every other realm, they are approaching science with the wisdom of a potted plant," he said, citing supercomputing, solar energy, global warming and environmental satellites as research fields that Congress would cut.

The vice president aimed particularly barbed remarks at Texas Rep. Tom DeLay, the House Republican whip.

To an audience that included two chemists who won a Nobel Prize for their work demonstrating a link between chlorofluorocarbons and ozone depletion, he cited Mr. DeLay's statement that the ozone debate was a "media scare" founded on "debatable science." He also noted that Mr. DeLay had been quoted as saying DDT was "not harmful."

"These comments ought to send chills up our spines," Mr. Gore said, accusing the Republicans of "a taste for junk science."

John Feehery, communications director for Mr. DeLay, said the congressman's insistence on "sound science" has disturbed some of the people who generate media scares. "Just because he disagrees with those people doesn't mean he's wrong."

Rita Colewell, president of both the AAAS and the University of Maryland Biotechnology Institute, said the speech was "the first clear statement since the president released his budget" that the administration would fight for federal funding of research and development.

Mr. Gore's speech was the first of three he plans to deliver on science and technology issues this week. He will speak today at a convention in Virginia and tomorrow in Philadelphia, at the 50th anniversary celebration of the first electronic computer.

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