Former Arizona Gov. Bruce Babbitt is turning up the heat on his Democratic presidential rivals with personal attacks that call into question their integrity and honesty on the budget and tax issues.
"Judging from my opponents, the ambition to be President makes it all but impossible to be President, because it strips you, before you know it, of all the boldness and all the courage you ever had," Babbitt told a mock political convention at a small college in Dubuque, Iowa, on Thursday.
He specifically charged that Missouri Rep. Richard A. Gephardt, Illinois Sen. Paul Simon, and Massachusetts Gov. Michael S. Dukakis were being dishonest by not admitting the need to raise taxes to reduce the deficit.
"I have a question for them: If they have no more courage than that as candidates, where will they find the courage they'll need in the Oval Office? If they can't stand up to a deficit, how will they stand up to a terrorist?"
Babbitt's campaign also plans to use the same tough rhetoric in a new commercial to be aired across Iowa over the next few days. "It's time to sharpen the distinctions" and name names, he said.
Babbitt has turned his deficit-reduction proposal for a 5% national sales tax into the main point of his campaign. He received a surprisingly warm response from voters at several campaign stops Thursday and Friday. When he asked his audiences to "stand up" with him in support for higher taxes, crowds stood up en masse and gave Babbitt loud applause.