N.Y. Times News Service
WASHINGTON _ The phone is ringing endlessly at Sen. Bob Dole's
offices in Kansas and on Capitol Hill, but not just with
congratulations for his new status as majority-leader-designate.
Barely nine days after he was swept to a victory even he did
not predict, he is caught in the cross-currents as Republican
party leader and nascent statesman, as potential presidential
candidate and as a free-trader with second thoughts about the
popularity of free trade.
It is not a happy place to be, especially when the argument is
over an international agreement that everyone says will have a
vast but unknowable effect on the fate of the world economy and
that is so staggeringly dense _ four volumes costing $145 at the
Government Printing Office _ that no one knows anyone who has
actually read it.
"I wouldn't want to be Bob Dole," said Jerry Junkins, the
chief executive of Texas Instruments, who is the head of a
business lobbying group, the Alliance for GATT Now, that is
trying to push the wavering senator to support the agreement,
which would cover 123 nations.
"Boeing is big in Kansas, and so are the farmers," he said,
ticking off others with longstanding ties to Dole who stand to
gain from the agreement. "But he must be thinking about other
things as well," he suggested, things that include primaries in
New Hampshire and Iowa that are only 18 months away.
The vote on the world trade agreement, which will be taken up
by a lame-duck session of Congress after Thanksgiving, has
suddenly become the crucial first test for Dole, who is currently
the Senate minority leader. He is trying to convince President
Clinton that unlike Rep. Newt Gingrich, who is soon to be speaker
of the House, he is interested in compromise. He is trying to
look like a statesman.
At the same time, Dole is feeling the heat from the right wing
of his party, which would happily hand Clinton an embarrassing
international defeat. And he has to decide whether to side with
the growing numbers in his party who, after five decades of
unquestioned support for free trade, now join many Democrats in
arguing that it is a code word for destroying middle-class jobs
and surrendering American sovereignty to an ominous-sounding
group of anonymous foreign judges called the World Trade
Faced with so much pressure from so many sides, Dole has done
what he usually accuses the White House of doing on foreign
policy issues: He has waffled. He likes the General Agreement on
Tariffs and Trade, he keeps saying, because it will force
America's competitors to lower their tariffs, to stop government
subsidies of companies that compete with American industry and to
extend copyright protection to including computer software, sound
recordings and movies, all strong American exports.
But he has problems, he keeps saying without being too
terribly specific, with many provisions in the legislation. On
Thursday afternoon, as Dole traveled in Minnesota on what his
office called personal business, his staff was putting together a
modest list of changes that, in the words of one negotiator in
the process, "will give him a way to protect himself
The White House concedes that without Dole, the trade
agreement is dead. So, administration officials, in the first
taste of the next two years, went out of their way on Thursday to
say that they were sure that whatever Dole wanted Dole would
"I'm fairly confident at this point," said Mickey Kantor, the
U.S. trade representative, who is negotiating with Dole.
The main issue continues to be finding a way for Congress to
monitor the new World Trade Organization on a sustained basis and
maintaining the threat that the United States could pull out of
the agreement if the new group of international arbiters
repeatedly rules against American environmental or labor laws, or
other regulations for imported goods. …