Clinton, Dole Draw Political Battle Lines : Republicans: Senate leader complains that Democrats are standing in the way of reform.
Deriding President Clinton for waging “class warfare” at home while undermining U.S. prestige abroad, Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole (R-Kan.) on Saturday sought to rally Republicans for a “great contest” to determine which party and what principles will dominate the nation’s political future.
The competition took on a sharp edge because Dole addressed a breakfast session of the Republican National Committee just a few hours before Clinton spoke to the Democratic National Committee, which was also meeting in the capital.
Dole taunted his opponents, referring to the Democratic session as “a wake” and reminding his audience that when Clinton was nominated for President, Democrats made the song “Don’t Stop (Thinking About Tomorrow)” the theme for their convention.
“Well, now it’s tomorrow,” he said, “and they don’t know what to think about it. . . .”
Dole was invited to speak to the RNC because he is the leader of the Senate. But he is also an almost-certain candidate for the presidency, and his speech--blending condemnation of Clinton and the Democrats with a reaffirmation of Republican principles--could well serve as a rough draft for the Republican battle plan to retake the White House in 1996.
The partisan bite of Dole’s remarks, coming one day after House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) used the same forum to loudly denounce his Democratic critics, belied the talk of bipartisan harmony heard from leaders of both parties only a few weeks ago.
The Republican rhetoric also appeared to reflect some anxiety that the Democrats will hinder them from making the sweeping changes the GOP promised after winning majorities in the House and Senate in the fall elections.
“We find ourselves now in the House and the Senate, as Newt said yesterday, trying to move the issues, trying to deliver on the message the American people sent us just a few weeks ago,” Dole said. He complained that the Democrats are standing in the way, opposing even measures he contended many of them actually favor.
“Now, I know a little bit about delaying tactics,” Dole said, referring to the filibusters and other maneuvers Senate Republicans used to stall Democratic legislation when the GOP was the minority party. “But we never delayed anything we were for.”
Dole also emphasized the significance of the disagreements. Rejecting the idea that the clashes on Capitol Hill reflect merely “a squabble among special interests,” he said: “We have profoundly different ideas, Democrats and Republicans, about government. We disagree about some fundamental social values. We have a different understanding about America’s place in the world.”
Dole complained that in opposing Republican plans to cut taxes, Clinton had raised the specter of class warfare by arguing that the GOP proposals would provide the greatest benefits to the rich at the expense of other income groups.
“My view is (that) we don’t create factions of Americans competing against one another for favors of the government,” Dole said. “Instead we should lead by instilling hope and restoring freedom and opportunity for all of our people. Let’s not have any more class warfare. It doesn’t sell.”
Dole was harsher in his criticism of Clinton’s approach to foreign policy, which he contrasted unfavorably with that of Republican predecessors. “Ronald Reagan and George Bush had us elevated almost to the top in world public opinion. We were standing tall around the world because we understood what leadership was all about.”