Powell Joins Dole and Kemp in Trumpeting GOP Defense Policy
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) _ Lending his luster, retired Gen. Colin Powell joined Bob Dole and Jack Kemp on the campaign trail Tuesday in promoting the GOP ticket to military families and veterans. Dole pledged to ``restore our commitment to our men and women in uniform.″
Campaigning with Dole for the first time, Powell said he’ll continue to work for the GOP ticket and did not discourage talk about him taking the job of secretary of state in a Dole administration.
``Anything’s open,″ he said. However, Powell added that he and Dole had not had any specific discussion about his role.
Powell, a surprise addition to the program at the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention, won thunderous applause from the delighted audience of about 6,000.
``You know, after Desert Storm, something magical happened here in the United States. The American people fell in love again with those wonderful young men and women in uniform who served them so proudly,″ Powell said. ``We are bound together with the American people. ... We’re not going to let that bond be broken.″
For his part, Dole accused the Clinton administration of undermining morale among military families and failing to take steps to modernize the armed forces. He said that military pay last year was 13 percent below comparable civilian levels.
``And it was estimated that close to 17,000 _ believe it or not _ junior enlisted personnel were relying on food stamps. That should not happen if you wear the American uniform. You should not be on food stamps.″
``We must restore our commitment to our men and women in uniform,″ he added.
Dole’s criticism of Clinton on defense is a time-honored Republican presidential strategy and one that subtly brings out their different military backgrounds. But Dole and Clinton differ only slightly on long-term defense spending levels.
For the six years from 1997 through 2002, Clinton has proposed spending $1.614 trillion on defense, according to the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, a Washington-based think tank. Dole in June voted for a budget resolution that recommends $1.633 billion, a difference of $19 billion, or little more than 1 percent.
The Clinton campaign seized on a pledge by Dole in his speech not to reduce health-care programs for veterans. That means ``other key areas will have to be cut even more deeply,″ said Clinton campaign spokesman Joe Lockhart. ``Bob Dole added more ornaments on his Christmas-in-August campaign,″ he said.
Dole seemed energized by sharing the stage with Kemp and Powell, joking several times about their relative ranks.
``I was just thinking, only in America could a second lieutenant ride with a general,″ he told the VFW audience, referring to his motorcade ride with Powell. Left unspoken was Clinton’s avoidance of the draft during the Vietnam War.
Speculation that Dole might designate Powell as his prospective secretary of state before the election swirled around the GOP convention last week and was revived Monday by House Speaker Newt Gingrich at a rally in Georgia.
``Colin has already indicated he’d accept it,″ Gingrich said to cheers from about 150 campaign volunteers.
But Dole spokesman Nelson Warfield sought to discourage such reports.
And Gingrich later said he did not have any inside information. ``That’s a decision Senator Dole’s going to have to make on his own,″ he said.
Powell, asked directly, said, ``We haven’t had any such discussions.″
``Anything’s open,″ he said. ``But right now, the more important thing is to get the team elected.″
Dole, wearing his VFW cap from Russell, Kan., told the veterans ``we stood together″ during the Vietnam War and later in demanding a full accounting of prisoners of war and those missing in action _ ``a full accounting that has still has not been delivered.″
Kemp, who was in the Army Reserves, was excused from active military duty in the early 1960s for a shoulder problem, although he continued to play football as a quarterback for the San Diego Chargers.
Kemp’s left shoulder was injured. He is right-handed.
Vice President Al Gore was scheduled to address the veterans’ organization on Wednesday; Ross Perot on Thursday.
As Dole and Kemp campaigned in Kentucky, the GOP campaign launched its first post-convention television ad, focusing on Dole’s proposal for a 15 percent across-the-board tax cut and a $500-per-child tax credit for low and middle-income families.
``Today, taxes are the highest in American history,″ the announcer says. ``Bill Clinton says we have the healthiest economy in three decades. Believe that? ... America can do better.″
The spot, which features convention footage of Dole and Kemp, began airing Tuesday in 16 states, at a cost of about $3.5 million. The money is being drawn from the $12 million the Republican National Committee is allowed to give Dole for the general election.