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New Dole Campaign Tone: Clinton White House Has ‘Moral Crisis’

October 9, 1996

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Taking pains to avoid reviving images of ``the mean Bob Dole,″ the Republican presidential nominee is focusing on the issues of character and ethical controversy in Bill Clinton’s White House.

A new radio ad being aired by the campaign contends Dole has a ``strong moral center″ and takes the Clinton administration to task for opposing a ban on certain kinds of late-term abortions, proposing condom distribution in school-based clinics and supporting gays in the military.

``America suffers from a moral crisis,″ the announcer in the Dole ad says. ``But the problem isn’t in your house. It’s in the White House. Bill Clinton’s White House.″

The ad, which began airing Tuesday on Christian radio stations, was one of several indications that Dole is stepping up criticism of Clinton over the character issue.

In an interview with ABC News, Dole said he was reluctant during Sunday’s debate to go further on issues such as the FBI files gathered by White House aides on prominent Republicans or the Whitewater affair _ particularly any part played by first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton.

``It seemed to me that particularly in the first debate when there’s this myth out here about the mean Bob Dole, had I done anything that might have even appeared to be stepping over that line, that would have been the story,″ Dole said.

``I think it would be unseemly if I get up there and start talking about personal things or anything that involves Mrs. Clinton,″ he said.

But later, asked if he admired the president, Dole added: ``I don’t admire Bill Clinton, no.″

As running mate Jack Kemp prepared to debate Vice President Gore tonight in St. Petersburg, Fla., Dole was heading to Illinois for a pair of appearances. He embarks Thursday on a two-day bus tour of Ohio, a must-win state, beginning in Cincinnati with a rally set to include Kemp and retired Gen. Colin Powell.

Dole has met with Powell about possible spot in his Cabinet, and his appearance could signal a greater role in the final four weeks of the campaign.

During a visit to New Jersey that was cut short by heavy rains Tuesday, Dole’s refusal to assail Clinton on the character question at Sunday’s debate remained an issue.

In an interview with CBS News, Dole said he had ``no comment″ when asked if Clinton was ``ethically and morally deserving″ to be president.

But then he added: ``I think you’d be right to say I’m troubled by it.″

Earlier, on the Don Imus radio show, Dole said he felt the Sunday debate was not the proper venue for ``the mean Bob Dole, that old Bob Dole out there,″ and that he wanted to show people his human, humorous side while focusing on issues.

``We have some more opportunities in San Diego,″ Dole said, naming the site of the second debate with Clinton on Oct. 16.

When one man in a crowd in Lyndhurst, N.J., shouted to Dole as he shook hands, ``Please get Bozo out of the White House,″ the candidate called back, ``Bozo’s on his way out.″ Aides insisted it was not a reflection of Dole’s true opinion of Clinton, and Dole later said he was just kidding.

But Clinton deputy campaign manager Ann Lewis said the remark was similar to former President Bush’s 1992 comment calling Clinton and Gore ``these two bozos″ when it came to knowledge of foreign affairs.

``That’s really too bad. These two candidates had a civil debate on Sunday night,″ she said. ``I guess this means the era of civility lasted a day and a half.″

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