Dole Accuses NAACP of 'Set-Up'

NEW YORK -- Prolonging his feud with the NAACP -- and once again raising the specter of ill-temper that has haunted his career -- Bob Dole on Thursday accused the civil rights group's president of "trying to set me up" by inviting him to speak to the organization.

Dole declined the invitation earlier this week, with aides blaming a scheduling conflict.

But in a telephone interview with New York radio host Don Imus, Dole alluded to another factor -- agreeing with the suggestion that he likely would have received a frosty reception at the annual meeting of the United States' largest black civil rights organization.

"That probably would have been the case," Dole said, noting that Kweisi Mfume, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People's new president and a former Democratic congressman from Maryland "is not known as a moderate Democrat or a nonpartisan Democrat. He's one of the leading liberal Democrats."

A few hours later, Dole went further. Returning to Washington's National Airport from New York, Dole stopped to talk with reporters. Asked about Mfume, Dole said "the head of the NAACP is a very liberal Democrat and I think he was trying to set me up."

Scowling, Dole then abruptly turned and got into his car.

The exchange is the latest display of a tendency on Dole's part that has troubled Republican strategists -- a seeming unwillingness to put a controversy to rest without having had the last word coupled with a tendency to turn political arguments into personal quarrels.

"He wants the last word," said a senior GOP operative. "He's having a lot of trouble sticking to what the message is supposed to be."

Earlier this month, for example, Dole insisted on repeating his belief that nicotine may not be addictive and then suggested that C. Everett Koop, the former surgeon general in the Reagan administration, had criticized his stance because he had been brainwashed by the liberal media.

A few weeks before that, after falling into a fight with party conservatives over abortion, Dole publicly attacked Gary Bauer, a prominent conservative activist.