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The issue: Contest for the White House

Our opinion: By experience, ability, policy preferences and, yes, character,

Bob Dole is a much better candidate to lead the nation into the 21st century.

Ignoring the web of deceit and the smell of scandal that surrounds his

administration, President Clinton keeps repeating his tiresome talk about being

a bridge to the 21st century.

It is, in fact, just one more example of his camouflaging reality with

rhetoric. The bridge he is selling is an illusion. The future of prosperity he

says it leads to is delusion.

Bob Dole, the Republican challenger, is the one with all the necessary

qualifications to lead this great nation to a great future in the 21st century.

He does not need a bridge. His feet are on solid ground.

At this point let us dismiss the presidential candidacies of Texas

billionaire Ross Perot, consumer activist Ralph Nader, and a host of others.

The contest is really only between Democrat Clinton and Republican Dole.

Four years ago, Clinton ran as a "new" Democrat. But, after he won, his true

inclinations were quickly visible in that crumbled monument to statism, his

plan to "reform" the way health care is delivered in this country. Now he is

embracing the political center again, but the record pretty much says this is

an embrace of expedience.

Dole, driven by political circumstances of his own, has veered to the right.

But he cannot be comfortable there; if he is elected, expect him to return to

moderate conservatism, where the vast majority of the American voters today

stands. He is with them.

The President keeps pointing to the economy as a sterling accomplishment of

his. The Republicans are needlessly denying the fact that the economy is in

pretty good shape.

It is true that millions of new jobs have

been created. It is true that inflation is

low. It is true that the annual federal

budget deficits have been declining. It is

true that the stock market keeps reaching new highs.

What is not true is that this is all Clinton's doing. A Republican Congress

in Washington, D.C., and Republican governors all over the country, like Jim

Edgar of Illinois, have played a major role. Credit must also go to some

Democratic governors, like Evan Bayh of Indiana. And don't forget that most

powerful unelected Republican, Chairman Alan Greenspan of the Federal Reserve

Board. Without his largely invisible but firm hand, Clinton might not have had

much to brag about.

What is also open to serious question is whether this run of good luck can

continue for another four years if Clinton is re-elected. Dole's economic plan,

including his proposal for a 15 percent cut in individual income tax rates and

50 percent cut in the capital gains tax rate, seems more likely to succeed in

giving the economy the kind of tonic it would need beginning next year and well

into the next century.

A reduction in taxes, as happened during the Kennedy-Johnson presidencies,

would put money into the hands of the people instead of the federal government,

and that money would be spread everywhere, creating successive waves of growth

in prosperity. This, in turn, would produce significant increases in tax

revenues not only to offset the tax cuts but also to help eliminate budget

deficits.

Clinton, on the other hand, not only would retain a strong role for the

federal government, with all the adverse consequences the country has become

all too familiar with, he also seems intent on postponing solutions to tough

problems. His modest tax cuts would expire in 2002, but his tax increases would

continue, as would the renewed upward surge of annual budget deficits. His

philosophy is: after the second term, the deluge.

And deluge it will be if the thorny problems of keeping Social Security and

Medicare solvent and taming the deficit are not addressed honestly and

immediately.

On foreign policy, Clinton as president has not been as consistent or tough

as he was when running for the White House in 1992. There have been flip-flops

on Bosnia and coddling of China; Saddam Hussein's repressive regime is stronger

in Iraq; relations with Britain, France, Russia and Canada need repair, and

most of the countries in Africa, the Middle East and Europe have been angered

because of Washington's election-year crusade to oust U.N. Secretary-General

Boutros Boutros-Ghali.

And the character issue. We are not even talking about the personal and

political scandals Clinton left behind in Arkansas from his days as governor.

We are talking about the dark clouds hanging over the White House in the form

of allegations of Whitewater coverup, patronage-prompted firing of the staff of

the travel office, missing FBI files, tainted campaign money, etc.

For those who prefer to avert their eyes from character issues because such

issues have to do with personal life, not public office, we ask: What is the

difference now? How long can you avert your eyes?

In an ironic way, this year's situation is reminiscent of 1972. Richard

Nixon, the consummate politician who won a narrow victory in 1968, was running

high in public opinion polls for re-election - despite a strong smell of

scandal. He smashed the hapless George McGovern, his Democratic challenger, on

Election Day. Then, after having astonished the nation with his assertion that

he was not a crook, he resigned in disgrace in August 1994.

In the 1972 election, however, McGovern's own far-left views were also a

factor in Nixon's landslide victory. A large number of voters, including

traditional Democrats, felt he was not a viable choice. This year, in Dole, a

man of accumulated wisdom, precious experience, tested leadership and sterling

character, the country does have a solid choice.

For the sake of the country, that choice should be taken. We urge our

readers to ignore the opinion polls and vote for Bob Dole.

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