Combative Dole Accepts Nomination

SAN DIEGO, California -- Promising sweeping tax cuts to revive America's economy and old-time leadership to reverse what he termed the country's moral slide, Republican Bob Dole accepted the nomination of his party Thursday night and pledged to create an administration "that is able, honest and trusts in you.''

The 57-minute address to cheering delegates served as a call to arms against President Bill Clinton and his administration, as well as a paean to trust, values and character -- traits, Dole said, he has reaped from a long life of hardship and experience; traits, he implied, his opponent sorely lacks.

While spelling out his policy differences with Clinton and seeking to turn his age from a potential liability into a precious asset, Dole, 73, signaled that he intends to focus his campaign on what his strategists believe is the incumbent's chief weakness -- public doubts about whether the president can be trusted.

He also sought to turn the concept of trustworthiness to another purpose: implying that his version of smaller government was evidence of the Republican Party's belief in the power of the individual.

"The fundamental issue,'' he said, "is not of policy, but of trust.'' The question is "not merely whether the people trust the president, but whether the president and his party trust the people, trust in their goodness, in their genius for recovery. For the government cannot direct the people, the people must direct the government.''

The speech marked a bold shift in tone for the convention. After three days of speeches designed heavily to appeal to women and moderates, Dole offered a strongly conservative -- even combative -- message.

Employing the word "trust'' no fewer than 10 times, Dole used the much-anticipated speech to "set a marker,'' to "uphold a standard,'' to repair a nation he said has lost its moral compass and become obsessed with material success.

He ignored the issue of abortion, having lost a battle here last week with religious conservatives over his bid to insert a tolerance passage in the platform. There was no mention of the environment, nor any nod to the gender gap that plagues his candidacy.

Immigration received only the briefest brush, and there was only a stealth reference to affirmative action, neutral enough to be uttered by a Democrat: " ... the guiding light of my administration will be that in this country we have no rank order by birth, no claim to favoritism by race, no expectation of judgment other than it be evenhanded.''