Democratic presidential nominee Bill Clinton, responding to President Bush's most recent attacks, on Friday accused the incumbent of misrepresenting his record as governor of Arkansas and falsely casting him as an old-style, tax-and-spend Democrat.
Clinton insisted that if he were elected President he would create a new role for government that would adhere neither to the big-spending tradition of his own party, nor to the "trickle down" philosophy of the Republicans.
In a speech to University of Connecticut students that sought to lay out a new philosophy of government for the Democratic Party, Clinton also appeared to be responding to Bush's most recent effort to portray him as a tax-happy governor of Arkansas. Bush leveled these charges in a new television ad as well as during a campaign swing earlier this week through the states bordering Arkansas.
Clinton said the portrait of him drawn by Bush was not only inaccurate, but inconsistent.
"To hear him tell it, one day I'm the hayseed governor of a small Southern state, the next day I'm an Oxford man who has a enormous advantage in a debate," Clinton said. "One day I'm a big spender; the next day I should be attacked for not spending enough money on the problems at home. One day I'm an environmental extremist, the next day I'm a big polluter. One day I'm reckless about Bosnia, the next day, they are agreeing with my position."
Clinton acknowledged that Democrats have a tradition of tax and spend, but he insisted that he is committed to a different philosophy and that his record demonstrates he is "a different kind of Democrat." Mocking Bush's efforts to portray him otherwise, he said:
"At the core of the argument that my opponent is making is that beneath our Southern accents and mainstream roots, Bill Clinton and Al Gore are yesterday's Democrats--old-style, tax-and-spend, big-government, anti-enterprise, people who have hidden those true impulses for 20 years in government, waiting for that moment that they could burst on the American scene and drag our country down."
Clinton vowed to reject old models in devising a role for his Administration to play in assisting the American economy. He said his vision for government is "not trickle down, not tax and spend, (but) invest, educate, innovate, a partnership between government and business."
Quoting from author David Osborne, who has written extensively on the role that government should play, Clinton said he wants to be the chief executive of "a government that steers more than it rows; a government that is a catalyst for action by others; a government that is market-oriented, less bureaucratic, one that favors empowerment over just handing out benefits, one that believes in opportunity and responsibility more than entitlement."
He said his adherence to Osborne's views is one of the reasons he has been able to corral more support from business leaders than had some of his predecessors. Earlier this week in Chicago, he trumpeted the endorsement of 400 top corporate officials from around the nation.
He said that business executives, like most Americans, are tired of hearing from the Bush Administration that nothing can be done to improve circumstances in the United States.
While insisting that he had abandoned the traditional approach of his own party to government, Clinton said that Bush is still a strong adherent to trickle-down, do-nothing government, even though it has failed to produce a strong economy.
"I believe my opponent is out of touch, out of ideas and out of time," he said.
And while trying to separate himself from other Democrats, he also suggested that his fellow Democrats were often just acting in league with the Ronald Reagan and Bush administrations when they embraced failed policies.
"I know that the Democratic Party in Washington has been in the past too identified with tax-and-spend, big government," he said. "I know that too often in the past 12 years members of my party have forcibly or willingly cooperated with Republican presidents on failures ranging from the budget deficit to the savings and loan mess to allowing special interests in our capital to have too much influence."
During his swing through the South earlier this week, Bush made a point of visiting every state bordering Arkansas and castigating Clinton for failing to do more for the state's economy during five terms as governor there. In his new television commercial, likewise, Bush emphasizes that Clinton has raised taxes and fees repeatedly in Arkansas.