Dole Suggests He Wouldn’t Have Been Welcome at NAACP Meeting
NEW YORK (AP) _ Bob Dole suggested today that he might have received an unenthusiastic welcome had he accepted an invitation to this week’s NAACP convention. ``We’ll have other opportunities to speak to audiences I think I can relate to,″ the Republican presidential candidate said.
Dole made the comments in a phone interview from his hotel room with radio talk show host Don Imus.
Wrapping up a three-day campaign swing of the East, Dole also met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whom he praised as having ``a lot of American traits.″
Of his skipping the NAACP meeting, Dole said he was unaware of the invitation and that a scheduling conflict resulted it it being turned down.
But, he added: ``Let’s face it, the leader of the NAACP, Mr. (Kweisi) Mfume, is not known as a moderate Democrat or a nonpartisan Democrat. He’s one of the leading liberal Democrats.″
Dole’s rejection of the invitation to speak to the civil rights organization’s annual convention this week has been criticized by NAACP leaders.
Dole cited a scheduling conflict, but said he agreed with a suggestion by a key adviser _ Sen. John McCain of Arizona _ that had he gone, he would have been met with an unenthusiastic reception. ``That probably would have been the case,″ Dole said.
``We’ll have other opportunities to speak to audiences I think I can relate to,″ Dole said on the syndicated radio show, ``Imus in the Morning.″
``We’ll find a way to meet with the board of directors of the NAACP. I think some are my friends. I don’t think Mfume is one of them.″
On his meeting with Netanyahu, Dole told the radio program, which occurred before the meeting, ``In my view, we’re a lot closer together than he and President Clinton.″
Dole cited Clinton’s ``fairly active support″ of former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres, whom Netanyahu defeated.
Of Netanyahu, Dole agreed with a contention by Imus that the Israeli leader had a lot in common with American polticians. ``He’s got a lot of American traits _ raised in Philadelphia, he knows a lot of people. ... He obviously has hundreds of very close contacts in the United States.″
After the meeting, Dole and Netanyahu told reporters that relations between Israel and the United States remain strong. But, Dole added:
``I think it would be stronger under a Dole administration, frankly, if it came to a missile defense, putting pressure on Syria, trying to isolate Iran.″
In other coments on the Imus show, Dole:
_Said he has no problems with Clinton’s vow to veto legislation to repeal the 1994 ban on assault weapons. ``I don’t see anything wrong with that,″ Dole said. But, he said, he doubted such a measure would ever even reach his desk in a Dole presidency. ``Events have overtaken the assault weapons ban. We ought to move on to something that has meaning.″
_Said he hopes Ross Perot does not become a candidate. ``I would hope it would hope that we could have a Clinton-Dole race,″ he said. And, while most analysts suggest a Perot candidacy would hurt Dole more than Clinton, Dole said, ``Some polls indicate he takes more from Clitnton this time arond. Some of his suporters are anti-incumbent.″
_Said he knows that retired Gen. Colin Powell ``has no interest on being on the ticket.″ Still, Dole said Powell had told him he’d be able to ``help in foreign policy and defense areas″ and that ``hopefully, he’ll speak at the convention.″