Dole and Gramm Vie for GOP Support in Coast-to-Coast Sprint
LAS VEGAS (AP) _ Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole demanded that President Clinton ``put up or shut up″ on taxes on Saturday as he and chief GOP rival Sen. Phil Gramm engaged in a cross-country sprint for Republican support.
Gramm and Dole shared platforms and traded barbs at Republican events in Florida and Nevada, each portraying himself as the rightful heir to Ronald Reagan’s conservative legacy and the man most able to defeat President Clinton next November.
``I know who I am and I know what I believe in,″ Gramm said.
They joined with other GOP candidates at both events in a day bristling with Republican campaign activity.
``I won’t cut deals with Democrats in Washington D.C. when the future of America is on the line,″ Gramm told the Western States Republican Leadership Conference in a not-very veiled reference to Dole, who has sought compromise with Senate Democrats on a variety of issues.
Dole, in turn, made less-direct references to both Gramm and retired Army Gen. Colin Powell _ who is weighing either a GOP or a third-party bid. But he reserved most of his fire for Clinton.
Dole ridiculed Clinton for a remark at a Democratic fund-raiser in Houston last Tuesday in which he suggested he’d raised taxes too much in 1993.
``When president Clinton was in Houston last week, he got mixed up and told the truth,″ Dole said to laughter and applause.
Clinton later backed away from the statement and said the 1993 tax-raising legislation was ``the right thing to do.″
Dole said Congress would soon complete action on a landmark $245 billion GOP tax-cut that Clinton has threatened to veto.
The Kansas Republican said it was time to ``put it on his desk (and) tell him now is the time to put up or shut up.″
Dole also criticized Clinton on Bosnia a day after Clinton said he would seek the approval of lawmakers before sending any U.S. troops in enforce peace.
``I want the president to make the case to the American people about Bosnia,″ Dole told the GOP leaders from 14 western states. ``Is there any American interest there? How many American troops? And when do we get out. And he has not made that case.″
Dole told his audiences here and in Florida that Clinton was trying to frighten senior citizens on GOP Medicare overhaul plans.
``What is President Clinton’s recipe? To scare people,″ Dole told the Florida Federation of Republican Women in Orlando. ``Even before Halloween, he’s out all over America, scaring people.″
The federation holds a straw ballot on Sunday and will also participate in a crucial statewide GOP straw ballot on Nov. 18.
Dole, Gramm, former Tennessee Gov. Lamar Alexander and conservative commentator Pat Buchanan addressed the Florida forum. In Las Vegas, Dole and Gramm were joined by GOP contenders Alan Keyes, Morry Taylor, Steve Forbes and Rep. Robert Dornan.
Gramm, who must do well in the Nov. 18 Florida straw vote to maintain the momentum he gained in a straw vote in Iowa in August, boasted of his conservative credentials to his Orlando audience. ``Don’t just read my lips, read my record,″ he asserted.
For his part, Dole appeared to have Gramm in mind when he said in Las Vegas, ``I’m able to work with people. I’m not a polarizer. I bring people together.″
Then, in remarks aimed at Powell, Dole joked that while he wasn’t writing a book, ``I’ve got a good title: My American Journey.″
That’s Powell’s book.
``Maybe that will sell. Or maybe somebody already has that title,″ he joked. He told his GOP audience: ``You’re concerned. You believe in a two-party system, not a three-party system.″
Dornan, a conservative lawmaker from California, had more direct criticism of Powell, saying, ``He is physically, constitutionally unable to answer a follow-up question. He shouldn’t come in (to the GOP race) as far as I’m concerned.″
Among other lesser-known candidates, publisher Forbes told the Los Vegas forum that ``fundamentals are there″ for the United States to regain its preeminence. He proposed replacing the income tax code with a 17 percent flat tax and restoring some form of gold standard.
Taylor, an Illinois businessman, also advocated a flat tax and said if elected, he would help balance the budget by doing away with most of the federal bureaucracy.