Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Clinton, Dole Give Voters Glimpse of Campaign '96

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Clinton, Dole Give Voters Glimpse of Campaign '96

Article excerpt

IN A PRELUDE to presidential debates, President Bill Clinton accused Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole and his Republican allies of injecting "poison pills" in popular bills to force his veto. Firing back, Dole blamed Clinton and congressional Democrats for legislative gridlock.

The two traded charges Wednesday in back-to-back televised appearances - Clinton from the White House and Dole from Capitol Hill. It was their first real face-off since Dole, R-Kan., clinched the GOP presidential nomination in mid-March.

Both leaders suggested that it would be best to put politics aside. But with Election Day six months away, there was a furious drumbeat of politics nevertheless.

Clinton was the headliner at an evening Democratic National Committee gala that raised a record $11 million for the party's campaign coffers. He said the Republican Congress had amassed a record of "extremism, deadlock and government shutdowns" and accused Dole and House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., of attacking him in "intense personal terms."

Dole accused Clinton of using his veto to block important measures. "If the president used the same spirit he talked about today, we'd already have a balanced budget, we'd have real welfare reform, we'd have tax cuts for families with children, and we'd have pension reform," Dole asserted.

The Republican National Committee, meanwhile, unveiled a new ad showing a video of Clinton saying he had raised taxes too much in 1993. The ad urged the president to support Dole's efforts to repeal a gas-tax increase that Clinton pushed through in 1993 for reducing the deficit.

Gingrich also weighed in on Clinton's call for nonpartisanship. If Clinton and the Democrats agreed to quit running ads attacking Dole, Gingrich said, he would be willing to take Clinton's comments seriously.

Otherwise, Gingrich said, it's an "astonishingly shallow gimmick unworthy of the president of the United States."

GOP Chairman Haley Barbour, for his part, called it "the most transparent, phony hypocrisy that I have ever seen. . . . It is a joke. It is beyond normal Clinton standards it was so transparent."

With more than a 20-point lead in the polls, Clinton urged Republicans in Congress to "join me in three months of progress, not three months of partisanship. …

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