POLITICAL NOTEBOOK: Did Congress Take Public for a (Subway) Ride?
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Republican presidential contender Steve Forbes says he’s hitting Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole about congressional spending below ground. But Dole’s campaign says it’s more like hitting below the belt.
Forbes began airing a TV commercial in Iowa on Wednesday criticizing Dole for voting for an $18 million renovation on the subway which shuttles senators from their office buildings to the Capitol.
``A choice for Republicans on wasteful spending,″ the ad says. ``Should Congress have spent $18 million for a new subway to run three blocks from senators’ offices to the Capitol? Steve Forbes says no, it was wasteful spending. Bob Dole says yes.″
Dole’s campaign called the ad ``another example of Steve Forbes using selective memory to distort Dole’s record.
``Bob Dole demonstrated real commitment to cutting congressional spending this year when he shepherded through a $200 million cut for next fiscal year,″ said spokesman Nelson Warfield. ``That’s the context Mr. Forbes’ accusations should be viewed in.″
The Senate subway, built in 1908 and expanded in 1958, carries senators _ and anyone else _ from Senate office buildings to the Capitol, a few blocks away.
An upgrade of aging cars, track and switching equipment was completed in August 1994 at a cost of $18 million.
Senators said they needed the faster subway, in part, because of a new 15-minute limit on roll-call votes but critics called the new subway a wasteful perk.
Generally, senators do most of their work in offices and go to the Capitol only for votes _ up to 1,000 votes a year. Anyone can use the subway when senators are not rushing to a vote.
Iowa’s leadoff delegate caucuses are Feb. 12.
About 60 supporters met Lamar Alexander on the Statehouse steps in Concord, N.H. Wednesday as he became the last major candidate to officially add his name to the state’s primary ballot.
The former Tennessee governor trails far behind front-runner Dole in the polls despite television and radio ads that have run since summer and his much-publicized walks across parts of New Hampshire.
But Alexander says his campaign is in good shape to make a run at Dole.
``I like my position in the polls. Basically, Bob Dole is in first and dropping and the rest of us are arguing over second,″ Alexander said.
``There’s plenty of time for people to compare Bob Dole with me, and I think when they ask who can beat Bill Clinton and who can be the best first president of the next century, I believe I win,″ he said.
Alexander said the Feb. 20 Republican primary really is a three-way race between himself, Dole and Texas Sen. Phil Gramm.
And Alexander is counting on his status as a Washington outsider to set him apart from Dole and Gramm.
``In 1992, I think one of President Bush’s most difficult problems was it sounded like he was talking Washington and Perot and Clinton were talking about the country,″ he said. ``If we have a rerun of `92, with Perot and another Washington insider, we’ll have Bill Clinton for another four years.″
Alexander said he will spend more time in New Hampshire after the first of the year and he is ready with a media blitz that more sharply defines his campaign message of economic growth and personal responsibility.
A Washington AIDS activist is hoping to focus the New Hampshire primary spotlight on what he calls Clinton’s failure to deal with the deadly disease.
Steve Michael filed to run as a Democrat in New Hampshire’s primary Wednesday. He said entering the race is the best way to give the AIDS crisis a national voice.
``While the nation is focused on New Hampshire, this is a good time to focus voters on the AIDS crisis and on Bill Clinton’s failure to live up to his 1992 campaign promises on AIDS,″ Michael said. ``We want Clinton to live up to his promise to make AIDS a top priority.″
The 39-year-old member of the group ACT-UP says he’ll run a traditional campaign with a non-traditional message. Campaign signs, television and radio ads and gatherings will focus on how the president has handled the AIDS issue.
``It’s a one-issue campaign, but it’s one issue that everyone is ignoring and I think AIDS deserves a one-issue campaign,″ he said.