Dole Backs Gulf Troops, Hits Clinton's `Weak Leadership': Won't Make Foreign Policy an Issue until End of Crisis

By Kellman, Laurie | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), September 4, 1996 | Go to article overview

Dole Backs Gulf Troops, Hits Clinton's `Weak Leadership': Won't Make Foreign Policy an Issue until End of Crisis


Kellman, Laurie, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


SALT LAKE CITY - Bob Dole yesterday altered his campaign strategy to hammer away at President Clinton's "weak leadership" in the Persian Gulf, abruptly cutting off criticism and vowing to wait until after the Iraqi crisis concludes to make foreign policy an issue.

The U.S. air strikes in Iraq, ordered by the president, put Mr. Dole in a precarious position: He does not want to appear to be criticizing the president during a foreign-policy crisis, but at the same time, the decorated World War II veteran wants to sell his own qualifications as commander in chief.

Yesterday, in an early-morning statement and a speech here to more than 3,500 members of the American Legion, Mr. Dole walked the tightrope. He stood staunchly behind the American troops, soft-pedaling his charge on Monday that the president's inaction led to the crisis. But the GOP presidential nominee subtly suggested past indecisiveness on the part of the administration.

"I trust that this development marks the beginning of decisive action by the United States to curtail the power and arrogance of Saddam Hussein," Mr. Dole said.

In his speech to the American Legion, he repeated his support for the troops and left out any mention of supporting Mr. Clinton's decision to send troops to enforce Iraq's no-fly zone.

"They are freedom's heroes, and we support them without hesitation or reservation," he said during a speech originally intended to focus on values. "In matters like this, all of us think not as Republicans or Democrats, but as Americans."

The comments reflected Mr. Dole's support of Mr. Clinton's commitment of American forces to Bosnia-Herzegovina late last year. Some congressional Republicans were angry that their Senate majority leader would support the president.

Mr. …

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