Bob Dole decried terrorism on Sunday but said that Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House, closed for more than a year as a precaution against such attacks, should be reopened.
“They ought to open it up. There ought to be other ways to protect the president,” Dole said as he began a trip to the West.
Speaking at a rally at a sprawling zoo, Dole pressed his assertion that President Clinton was waging “a war on the West” with his policies.
The biggest applause from the receptive audience of several hundred came when the Republican presidential candidate declared, “It’s time to get rid of Bruce Babbitt and appoint a new secretary of the Interior.”
Dole stopped briefly in Montana on his way to California at the beginning of a four-day campaign trip.
His comments on Pennsylvania Avenue, the broad boulevard in front of the White House, came earlier Sunday at his campaign headquarters in Washington where Dole commented on the bombing at Atlanta’s Centennial Olympic Park.
Coming so soon after bombings of U.S. complexes in Saudi Arabia and the explosion of TWA Flight 800, Dole said: “This tragedy only heightens our concern for the security of Americans at home and abroad.”
“We must continue searching for ways to improve our defenses against terrorism to better ensure the safety of all our citizens,” he said.
Clinton acted on the advice of the Secret Service in the spring of 1995 and banned vehicular traffic on Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House after two security breaches at the residence in 1994 - by a small plane and a gunman on the sidewalk.
Dole, who was Senate majority leader at the time, said he went along with the decision because “the only option they had was closing it.”
Since then, however, Dole said, “There are some who feel strongly the other way, that it’s not going to stop terrorism. If people are determined, want to just give their lives, they’re going to get through somehow.”
Clinton has opposed reopening the street.
But Dole spokesman Nelson Warfield said, “Today, Pennsylvania Avenue stands as a depressing monument to what even the threat of terrorism can do to the openness of American government. That has to change.”
“Senator Dole wants to see the Secret Service devise a plan to reopen Pennsylvania Avenue and at the same time to provide for the safety of those who work in the White House,” Warfield added.
Although the Rocky Mountain West has been considered part of the GOP base for the past few decades, Clinton carried Montana, Colorado, Montana and Nevada in 1992. Dole would like to turn that around.
“1996 may be the year” the GOP wins back the West, Dole said.