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Trio of ‘Outsiders’ Gang Up on Dole In Absentia

March 9, 1996

DALLAS (AP) _ A trio of self-described GOP ``outsiders″ debated taxes, abortion and family values in an amicable presidential forum Friday night, aiming their collective fire on Bob Dole in absentia. Dole suggested from afar it was time for his rivals clear his path to the White House.

Seated comfortably in armchairs, Pat Buchanan, Steve Forbes and Alan Keyes hammered away at their pet issues, making clear they were staying in the race against long odds in order to influence the Republican platform.

Heading into the ``Super Tuesday″ primaries in Texas and six other states next week, Buchanan was making no presumption of Dole’s nomination. He called Dole a ``political question mark″ with an obligation to let voters know where he stands.

``You shouldn’t vote for a question mark. We should keep this debate and battle going,″ Buchanan exhorted.

He suggested he already was succeeded in influencing the debate, saying, ``Pat Buchanan’s views aren’t extreme, because Bob Dole and Bill Clinton are beginning to echo them.″

Forbes said his aim in continuing the race was to gather an ``unmistakable mandate from the voters″ for passing a flat tax next year without having Congress ``cut it to pieces.″

In a case of agreement with Forbes, Buchanan called the flat tax ``an idea whose time has come,″ but said Forbes’ proposal must be amended to tax ``the idle rich″ the same way it taxes workers. The Forbes plan would exempt investment income and capital gains from its 17-percent tax.

In another moment of collegiality in an otherwise contentious campaign, Forbes cast Friday’s debate as a showcase for three outsiders.

``The three of us here tonight, the reason we are attacked is because we are outsiders,″ he said. ``We’re not part of the political establishment in Washington. They have to use derogatory terms. They can’t discuss the issues on their merits.″

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