Republicans Unite to Attack Clinton

SAN DIEGO -- Finding new unity in their shared distaste for President Clinton, Republicans gleefully attacked the Democrat's record on everything from taxes to crime to welfare reform, and promised that a Bob Dole presidency would "restore the American dream."

"Bill Clinton ... promises one thing and does another," said Representative Susan Molinari of New York, the keynote speaker Tuesday, the second day of the Republican National Convention. "He hopes we will forget his broken promises. But ... Americans know that Bill Clinton's promises have the lifespan of a Big Mac on Air Force One."

As delegates cheered enthusiastically, speaker after speaker returned to the same charges: that Clinton promised in 1992 to balance the federal budget, cut middle-class taxes and enact welfare reform, only to retreat from those commitments once he was in office.

"CandidatedClinton promised a balanced budget; Congress passed it; President Clinton vetoed it," said Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas. "It's time to elect a president who will keep Bill Clinton's promises -- and that man is Bob Dole."

She then summoned up a videotape compiled by the Republican National Committee that showed Clinton, during his first term, pledging to seek a balanced budget by a series of shifting target dates -- five years, then seven, nine, 10, eight, and finally "between seven and nine" -- leaving delegates laughing. The party previously used the footage in a recent national advertisement for the Republican cause.

The fusillade of attacks on Clinton reflected a theme Dole and other Republicans plan to rely on in the coming campaign: voters' persistent doubts, reflected in national polls, about the president's consistency and reliability.

"Have you forgotten that Bill Clinton promised a middle-class tax cut and then passed the largest tax increase in American history?" Molinari asked. "No!" the delegates roared.

The White House and the Clinton campaign responded immediately with a 15-page rebuttal -- and managed to smuggle copies onto the podium inside the San Diego Convention Center even as Molinari was attacking the president in her keynote address.

The response noted that Molinari was referring to Clinton's 1993 tax increase, which raised taxes on higher-income families -- but which economists point out was smaller, when corrected for inflation, than a tax increase Dole supported in 1982.

The Democratic paper did not address Clinton's failure to balance the federal budget by his original five-year target, but argued that his most recent fiscal plan would balance it in seven years.

Molinari, 38, delivered her address in a chatty, conversational tone, with few rhetorical flourishes.

She deliberately steered clear of the issue that has divided the Republican Party most deeply: abortion.

She has been one of the party's most dogged proponents of abortion rights, and said this week that she plans to ignore the party platform's anti-abortion clause.

"Only the media thought I was going to address the pro-choice issue," she said.