Conventions without credibility On to the hustings: Democrats, GOP put on shows to manipulate the voters.

September 01, 1996

CONVENTIONS ARE OVER and the campaign begins. As Bill Clinton enjoys a bounce rendered less than triumphant by the kinkiness of the president's deposed political strategist and the tobacco-growing past of his anti-smoking vice president, it is about time to get serious.

But first, while memories are fresh, some observations about the San Diego Republicans and the Chicago Democrats:

Bob Dole described himself as "a bridge to a time of tranquillity, faith and confidence in action." Well, when did an American born in 1923 ever know serenity after the age of 5? Stock Market crash, Depression, World War II, Korea, Cold War, Vietnam -- could it be that only Bill Clinton's '90s come close to normalcy? The president grabbed this opening by calling himself the bridge to the future and dismissing his opponent as a bridge to the past.

If this were not enough to indicate the Republican presidential candidate needs a new speech writer, consider Mr. Dole's other big blooper -- his attack on Hillary Rodham Clinton and her best-seller thesis that "it takes a village to raise a child." The president defended his wife and buttressed his lead among women.

For now, Republicans are so gleeful over the sex scandal that has enveloped Dick Morris, a longtime "Friend of Bill" and political adviser to the president, that they have yet to vet Mr. Clinton's acceptance speech in Chicago. When they do, they will find the Democratic opponent taking credit for some key items in Newt Gingrich's "Contract with America" -- most especially the House Republican decision to impose on Congress the same laws imposed on the private sector. They will discover the president saying at one point that those who supported welfare reform have a "moral obligation" to help those denied assistance and a few moments later assigning "responsibility" to those who criticized the GOP-inspired measure.

The president also lauded "peace in Bosnia" (a dicey proposition) and claimed, in a leap of faith, that he would find the funds to pay for his $112 billion tax cut program. The latter, however, is an unfertile field for the Republicans since Mr. Dole's plan for offsetting his $548 billion tax cut plan is even more evanescent.

In an age when politics is in the hands of cynical professionals like Dick Morris, who worked as easily for Jesse Helms as for Bill Clinton, national conventions are deservedly losing their audience. But words still matter. Ideas matter. And truth matters. Voters, be wary.

Pub Date: 9/01/96

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