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Tsongas Calls Clinton ‘Pander Bear’

March 7, 1992

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) _ Democratic presidential candidate Paul Tsongas called rival Bill Clinton ″pander bear″ on Friday and accused him of using ethnic code words in a critique of Tsongas’ economic policies.

″We’re going to take the gloves off,″ Tsongas told reporters Friday evening as he arrived in Florida from Arizona. ″You have a candidate who will say anything to get elected.″

Those lines mirrored the theme of a new Tsongas attack ad that accuses Clinton of distorting Tsongas’ views on Social Security. Clinton earlier in the week, at a senior center, quoted a passage from Tsongas’ economic book in which Tsongas suggests limiting cost of living increases for federal entitlements to 1 percent below inflation.

Tsongas’ openness to capping COLAs is considered harmful politically with Florida’s large elderly population.

Tsongas accused Clinton of insulting his Greek heritage on Thursday. The Clinton campaign said the attack was off base.

Clinton, in a criticism of Tsongas’ economic policies, said the former Massachusetts senator wanted to help corporate America before offering any help to the middle class. ″We lost our economic leadership as we became unfair. We can’t put off fairness under the guise of promoting growth. It won’t work; it’s not American,″ was how Clinton, the governor of Arkansas, ended his criticism. Clinton made no reference to Tsongas’ Greek heritage.

Standing on the West Palm Beach airport tarmac, Tsongas said, ″That’s code ... code words have no place in American politics. Those are not accidental words, these are code words.″

Tsongas dubbed Clinton ″pander bear″ for saying in a nationally televised debate Thursday night that he supported a scaled-down continuation of the Seawolf Nuclear Submarine Program. Tsongas said Clinton ″knows full well it will never be built″ but accused him of trying to win votes in Connecticut, where the submarines are manufactured.

″It was a cynical attempt to get votes from Connecticut. The American people are just hearing how cynical and unprincipled Bill Clinton is.″

Asked for reaction to Tsongas’ attack, Clinton said, ″I can’t even dignify it ... I just think he’s kind of frustrated.″

On pandering to voters, he said Tsongas was the one who flipped on Social Security increases and nuclear power.

Tsongas kept up the ″pander bear″ attack Friday night. At a rally at a Greek church in Fort Lauderdale, he held up a stuffed teddy bear and said: ″This is my opponent - pander bear.″

He repeated his charge that Clinton was playing for votes with his support for the Seawolf program, saying: ″Anybody who would play with people’s passions in that kind of cynical way has no right to be running for president.″

Clinton’s deputy campaign manager, George Stephanopoulos, said: ″Sen. Tsongas ought to lighten up. It’s so crazy. It’s nuts. He and Gov. Clinton are engaged in a substantive debate - two very different visions of the economy.

″For him to talk about code words, when he’s been running a vicious personal attack against Gov. Clinton and the African American community, is quite a stretch.″ He referred to a Tsongas ad that criticizes Clinton for making derogatory comments about Jesse Jackson.

Another Democratic rival, Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin, also took aim at Clinton on Friday.

During a stop in Florence, S.C., Harkin held up a flier showing a picture of Clinton standing in front of black prisoners in a prison-like boot camp.

″You’ll never see a picture of me standing in front of a bunch of black prisoners like some sort of colonial overlord,″ Harkin told approximately 50 supporters at the rally. ″What kind of signal does this send?″

Referring to Clinton, Harkin said, ″the man has no shame at all.″

Former California Gov. Jerry Brown had chided Clinton about the same picture during a Democratic debate a day earlier, saying Clinton looked like a ″colonial master.″ Clinton defended his civil rights record and said the boot camp offered the men an alternative to prison.

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