(CNSNews.com) - Republican presidential nominee George W Bush challenged Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore Friday to denounce conduct by President Clinton that "embarrassed the nation." Bush questioned why his Democratic rival had not been more outspoken in disavowing ethical transgressions by the out-going president.
"If Al Gore has differences with the president, he ought to say loud and clear what they are," Bush said.
Bush stated that wasn't implying Gore condoned such behavior. However, he said, "He ought to let us know where he differed from the president on policy matters as well as everything else."
Bush's comments came after Clinton's remarks Thursday to religious leaders that he had made a "terrible mistake" having an affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky and that voters shouldn't hold Gore accountable for his transgressions.
Bush, speaking to reporters aboard his plane as he and Senator John McCain campaigned in the Pacific Northwest, said he wasn't implying that Gore sanctioned Clinton's personal misconduct.
However, Bush said, "If he's got a problem with what went on in the past, he ought to explain what it is."
McCain added, "If you ask a lot of young Americans, they'd like to have a White House they can have more respect for."
Wire service reports say that Gore Friday welcomed Clinton's remarks before an evangelical ministers' conference in South Barrington, IL.
"I appreciate what the president said. He's said it before," Gore stated in a media interview. "I think that he also went on to say that this election, as all elections, is about the future and not the past, and I very much agree with that.
"... I think the American people see it the same way," Gore said. "I don't think they want the election to be about me or about George W Bush. They want it to be about them."
Meanwhile, Bush seemed to stop just short of accusing Gore of guilt by association.
"I don't think President Clinton is an issue as we go forward," Bush said. "There's no question the president embarrassed the nation," he added. "Everybody knows that ... Americans want to be assured that the next administration will bring honor and dignity to the White House."
Americans "have felt left down," Bush said.
Asked if he thought Gore could uphold the honor and dignity of the Oval Office, Bush said: "I think he can. He ought to say so."
As to Clinton's suggestion that voters should not hold Gore responsible for his mistakes, Bush asked: "Are they going to hold Al Gore responsible for missed opportunities? I mean, either you're part of an administration or you're not part of an administration is how I view it. I think he (Gore) needs to stand up and say if he thought the president was wrong on policy and issues; he ought to say where," Bush said.
The Republican Party standard-bearer poked fun at Gore's suggestion, in an interview with USA Today, that a Gore administration would be a "fresh start," noting that the phrase had been an early slogan of his own.
Aides passed around a copy of Bush's 1999 collection of speeches entitled, "A Fresh Start for America."
"Unbelievable, isn't it?" Bush asked.
Bush and McCain (R-AZ), his former primary election challenger, spent the second of three days together campaigning up and down the west coast.