In a blistering critique that used this week’s inconclusive Middle East summit as its point of departure, Bob Dole Thursday accused President Clinton of engaging in “a series of photo opportunities, treaty signings, staged handshakes and even military theatrics” in order to camouflage a “rudderless and illusory” foreign policy record.
The GOP presidential nominee charged that after nearly four years with Clinton at the helm, “our friends no longer respect us, and our enemies no longer fear us.”
Dole’s criticism of Clinton on the international front was echoed by running mate Jack Kemp during a campaign stop, signaling the sharpening of GOP rhetoric in the days before Sunday’s debate between the two presidential candidates.
Dole’s attack, offered during an address to a business group in this east Tennessee community, was by far his harshest assessment of Clinton’s handling of foreign affairs - an area where the former Senate majority leader has generally been supportive of the president, even when he did not agree with the administration’s actions.
Clinton, for his part, took the high road on the campaign trail Thursday, touting his economic record at a large rally in Buffalo, N.Y., and leaving it to White House press secretary Mike McCurry to respond to Dole’s remarks.
McCurry cited the end of the Bosnian war, an accord on nuclear weapons with North Korea and peace efforts that have given Israel what he called its “most secure position in decades” as examples of the administration’s accomplishments in foreign policy. He also sought to turn the tables on Dole, chiding the Republican’s foreign policy team as “nattering naysayers of gloom.”
McCurry added: “Bob Dole unfortunately has got advisers who used to be somebody in the 1980s who long for the days of the Cold War when life was a lot simpler because there was a common enemy.”
Although Dole took pains to avoid any controversial remarks about the current violence between Israelis and Palestinians, he pointed to Clinton’s hastily arranged two-day summit of Mideast leaders as evidence of the administration’s “string of failures dressed up for television as victories.”
Kemp, campaigning in Bridgeport, Conn., picked up on that theme, saying that diplomacy should not be carried out “in a fishbowl.”
Referring to the widely used photographs of Clinton, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat standing in the White House’s East Room after their talks ended Wednesday, Kemp said, “It’s becoming increasingly clear that photo ops are replacing true diplomacy in the Middle East.”