The Millenium bug is becoming an increasingly political issue in Washington DC as the Republicans line up to attack potential presidential candidate and Democrat vice president Al Gore over his record on tackling the Year 2000 issue.
Gore has long put himself forward as the US?s most IT-literate politician, a situation that has prompted rivals to begin trying to pin responsibility for any potential Millenium disaster on him. Gore is widely considered the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination, but the Year 2000 problem is likely to kick in just as the campaign starts, which makes the timing politically perfect for a Republican broadside.
According to US reports, Steve Forbes, the Republican candidate, is already using the Year 2000 issue as a standard part of his speeches, but says his party is likely to air radio advertisements attacking Gore and President Clinton for their lack of leadership on the problem in future.
In a speech last week at the World Congress on Information Technology, Forbes said: "Mr Vice President, you?re the Administration?s technology point man. What have you been doing for the past five years?"
A conservative think-tank, the Center for Security Policy, has also already published eight documents on the situation since January, bearing headlines such as "Where?s Al?" and "Al?s Mess", while earlier this month, Newt Gingrich, speaker of the house, said Clinton and Gore needed to do more to tackle the problem.
He also warned: "I can?t imagine anything more destructive for Gore?s political future than to talk about the Information Superhighway and then to have the largest wreck in history on the first of January 2000."
White House officials expect Clinton to take the lead on the issue as he is not running for president again and say he will deliver his first full speech on the subject within the next couple of weeks.
But critics attest that both men should do more to raise national awareness of the issue, ensure that federal agencies are fixing their systems and help state governments and small businesses cope with it.
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