Dole assails Clinton on health care STATE OF THE UNION

January 26, 1994|By New York Times News Service

WASHINGTON -- Sen. Bob Dole of Kansas, the Republican leader, assailed President Clinton's health care plan last night as "a massive overdose of government control."

"Our country has health care problems, but no health care crisis," Mr. Dole said in speech prepared for a nationally televised response to the president's State of the Union address. Mr. Dole called for more modest steps toward universal health insurance than he has supported in the past.

Mr. Dole criticized the president in other areas as well, from taxes to military spending. "The president and his Democrat majority" are wrong "on their entire approach to government," he said.

On the best platform Republicans are likely to have all year, Mr. Dole made an all-out assault on the president.

He mentioned cooperation only once, when he recalled that many Republicans had supported Mr. Clinton when he won passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement with Mexico and Canada, which had been negotiated under the leadership of his predecessor, President George Bush.

Gone, at least for last night, was the legislative Mr. Dole, who often seeks compromise. In his place was the combative, partisan leader who ran for vice president unsuccessfully in 1976 and lost bids for his party's presidential nomination in 1980 and 1988.

He was sounding an electoral trumpet for November, reflecting what Republicans had discussed at lunch yesterday.

They reminded themselves that their best moment in public opinion polls came last year when they defeated Mr. Clinton's economic stimulus program with a Senate filibuster and gave the president not a single vote in either chamber for his deficit-reduction and tax measure.

Mr. Dole contended that the president's claims of a reduced federal deficit were true only because "the largest tax increase in American history would decrease any deficit temporarily."

He said Mr. Clinton's plans did not involve serious spending cuts, except in one area.

"The one place the president has cut drastically is precisely the wrong place -- national security -- slashed to the lowest levels since before Pearl Harbor," Mr. Dole said.

He said the nation "cannot afford to have a hollow military." And he added that the nation cannot "afford to let the United Nations dictate what is in America's national interest."

On crime, he did not so much challenge the president's record or his arguments, since he had not heard them when he prepared the speech. Instead, he criticized "liberal Democrats" who he said had weakened previous Senate crime bills passed by the Senate.

He demanded rhetorically to know whether Mr. Clinton would press the House to accept the toughest elements of the bill the Senate passed in November.

And he complained of "talk in the administration of legalized drugs," a notion suggested by Dr. M. Joycelyn Elders, the surgeon general, and promptly disavowed by Mr. Clinton.

On welfare, Mr. Dole again did not attack the president's specific proposals, which had not yet been put forward.

Instead, he told the nation that, "Republicans here in Congress and Republican governors across the nation are fighting for changes that make work, self-sufficiency and reducing illegitimacy top priorities."

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