Dole backs reopening of Pennsylvania Ave. Reversal on security seems to surprise aides

July 29, 1996|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

BILLINGS, Mont. -- Bob Dole reversed himself yesterday and said he opposed President Clinton's decision last year to close a two-block stretch in front of the White House to guard against a catastrophic terrorist attack on the president's home.

Dole's assertion that Pennsylvania Avenue should be reopened to traffic, which he made during a brief appearance where he read a statement deploring the bombing in Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta, came in response to a question and seemed to catch his aides by surprise.

When Clinton announced last year that he was following the recommendation of the Secret Service and closing the stretch of Pennsylvania Avenue to vehicles, Dole applauded the action. Until yesterday, he had given no public indication that he was reconsidering his position.

"Well, my view is they ought to open it up," Dole said during a four-minute appearance before a small group of reporters at his Washington campaign headquarters, before flying to Montana yesterday evening. "There ought to be other ways to protect the president."

As Dole then left the lectern, a reporter asked him whether the bombing in Atlanta might change his view, and Dole called over his shoulder: "No. It wouldn't change it."

Nelson Warfield, Dole's press secretary, explained Dole's new position by saying: "There is only one president. He was willing to acquiesce to this president's judgment on Pennsylvania Avenue. When he is president, his object will be different."

The closing of two blocks of Pennsylvania Avenue came a month after the April 1995 truck bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City, which killed 168 people. But new security measures at the White House had, by then, already been under consideration because of two earlier events, involving a pilot's crashing a light plane into the South Lawn and a gunman's firing a semiautomatic rifle at the White House.

Pub Date: 7/29/96

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