Alexander declares for presidency

March 01, 1995|By Los Angeles Times

MARYVILLE, Tenn. -- Surrounded by images of small-town America, former Tennessee Gov. Lamar Alexander announced his bid for the 1996 Republican presidential nomination yesterday with a rhetorical blast at Washington's "arrogant empire" and a promise to complete "the people's revolution" against government.

Wearing a red flannel shirt and standing outside the county courthouse in his hometown, Mr. Alexander offered up the concept that rolling back the federal government was the central challenge now facing Americans -- the spiritual successor to the long struggle against the "evil empire" in the Soviet Union.

"In every neighborhood in America, the government in Washington is is stepping on the promise of American life," Mr. Alexander declared. "The New American Revolution [is] about lifting that yoke . . . and giving us the freedom to make decisions for ourselves."

In a speech that never strayed far from those themes -- he called Washington "arrogant" six times -- Mr. Alexander promised to shift to the states control of as much as $200 billion in federal education, welfare, and job training programs and to "lead literally a revival of the American spirit the old-fashioned way, neighborhood by neighborhood, block by block and family by family."

Everything about this first turn in the limelight was meant to underscore Mr. Alexander's portrayal of himself as the outsider in a race whose two most prominent figures are senators: Bob Dole of Kansas and Phil Gramm of Texas.

Just as in 1978, when he walked across the entire state in a trademark red flannel shirt en route to his election as governor, Mr. Alexander began the day at the front porch of his boyhood home.

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