THE SOUTHERN SENATOR in line to succeed Bob Dole as majority leader branded President Bill Clinton "a monument to status quo" on Monday and exhorted Republicans to help Dole oust Clinton this fall.
A combative Sen. Trent Lott of Mississippi also promised an aggressive pursuit of the Republican goals of lower taxes and smaller government. "I just keep smiling, and I just keep coming," Lott exclaimed on the eve of his ascension to the top Senate job.
Lott is the odds-on favorite to defeat fellow Mississippian and longtime rival Sen. Thad Cochran. GOP senators will vote Wednesday for a successor to Dole, who is resigning today to devote his time to running for president.
"I feel very good about my prospects," Lott said, and no one, including Cochran, was disputing that prognosis.
Lott, 54, brushed aside suggestions that his brash style and more conservative outlook will bring radical changes to the Senate, which under Dole has remained an outpost for pragmatism and collegiality.
"He is going to be our presidential nominee, so we are going to be in synch," Lott said. "We have a very, very similar agenda."
But in a speech to elderly Republicans, he also outlined bold plans to shrink government, overhaul Medicare and rewrite the nation's tax system.
"I think we need fundamental tax reform," said Lott, a disciple of the supply-side economics preached by Ronald Reagan and former Rep. Jack Kemp. "We need to take the system we have now and scrap it."
Addressing the interests of his older audience, Lott, the current Senate majority whip, said he wanted to eliminate the estate tax, which he called "the cruelest tax of all." He also wants to end all earnings limitations for Social Security recipients. He promised action this year to cut the capital gains tax.
"I am committed to giving folks back their tax dollars," Lott said. …