Dole Shifts To Values, Attacks Clinton, Hollywood
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) _ Republican presidential hopeful Bob Dole courted the Christian right today with a call for voluntary school prayer and an attack on an entertainment industry he said ``poisons the minds of our young people″ by promoting sex and violence.
A day after delivering an anti-tax pledge to fiscal conservatives, Dole moved again to shore up his support on the right, this time targeting the GOP’s growing religious conservative wing.
He accused President Clinton of contributing to the country’s moral decline by abdicating leadership in the war on drugs and appointing a surgeon general, Joycelyn Elders, who supported drug legalization. And Dole took a tough public line on welfare reform, saying ``we must stop cash payments to children having children and find another way to care for their babies.″
Dole anchored his appeal with a call for restoring values in America’s schools _ including the right to pray voluntarily.
``If students can discuss sports and music, or drama at school, they should all be allowed to voluntarily _ voluntarily _ pray,″ Dole told an enthusiastic rally at the Ohio statehouse on the second day of his campaign announcement tour.
As the clear GOP front-runner, Dole is trying in his kickoff tour to shore up his conservative flank _ and make it more difficult for primary rivals to chip into his early lead in opinion polls.
The first part of that effort came Monday when Dole said Republicans could cut taxes even as they tried to balance the budget, and his campaign released a copy of a pledge in which Dole promised to ``oppose any and all efforts″ to raise income taxes to individuals or businesses.
In the pledge _ very similar to the one he refused to sign in 1988 _ Dole also promised not to close tax loopholes to raise revenues unless other taxes were cut by the same amount.
In 1988, Dole would not swear off tax increases, saying it was irresponsible to do so given the need to reduce the federal budget deficit. His stance led George Bush to label Dole ``senator straddle″ on taxes, always a hot issue in New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation presidential primary.
Dole lost to Bush there, and his campaign soon faltered. In interviews since, Dole has attributed his defeat in large part to the tax issue.
Since that 1988 campaign, the Christian Coalition and other religious conservative groups have become more active and powerful in GOP affairs. In reaching out to them today, Dole said, ``We must hold Hollywood accountable for putting profit ahead of common decency.″
Dole said censorship imposed by Washington was not the answer.
``We have more to fear than to gain by putting Washington in charge of culture. Instead the solution lies closer to home with the American people. Shame is a powerful tool; we should use it,″ Dole said.
Dole lashed out at an entertainment industry he said was destroying the country’s traditional values and ``poisoning the minds of our young people.″
``Our music movies and advertisements regularly push the limits of decency, bombarding our children with destructive messages of casual violence and even more casual sex,″ Dole said.
In taking the no-new-taxes pledge, Dole made clear he was determined not to be tripped up by the tax issue again.
``Let me make one fundamental belief crystal clear: We can cut taxes and balance the budget,″ Dole said at each of his Monday stops.
Looking to gain from the anti-tax pledge, Dole campaign manager Scott Reed arranged for Americans for Tax Reform president Grover Norquist to attend Dole’s New Hampshire event and fly with the campaign down to New York.
Norquist said Dole’s campaign initiated the discussions that led to Dole signing the pledge Friday in his Senate office. Dole, according to Norquist, said he was comfortable taking the pledge this time around because Republicans now control Congress and can guarantee the budget will be balanced with spending cuts even as they cut taxes.
In his speeches, Dole also pledged to cut capital gain taxes, which he said would help trigger economic growth and job creation. And he stopped just short of endorsing a flat tax to replace the current income tax system.
The first chance for Dole to prove his tax-cutting credentials will come in the next several weeks in the Senate, which is drafting a tax package along the lines of the $189 billion measure passed by the House. That package includes a $500-per-child tax credit for families making up to $200,000 a year and a capital gains tax cut.
This morning, Dole said the Senate package would be similar, but that the income cutoff for the child credit might be ``perhaps a bit lower″ than $200,000.