As a tropical storm washed out the second day of his New Jersey-bybus campaign tour, Bob Dole downshifted Tuesday to a harsher, more-negative message, with the candidate, his surrogates and his commercials all slamming the character and morality of President Clinton.
It began before the rain started to fall, as Dole waded into a crowd in the town of Lyndhurst and a man called out, “Please get Bozo out of the White House.”
“Bozo’s on his way out,” said Dole, who in Sunday’s debate had twice chided President Clinton for failing in his 1992 debates with George Bush to address his opponent with respect as Mr. President. Dole press secretary Nelson Warfield later characterized the Bozo remark as a “light moment on the rope line.”
The jabs grew less light as the weather worsened. The sharpest, most unexpected comment came from Michael Chertoff, who left his job as majority counsel to the Senate Whitewater committee in June.
“The president promised to have the most ethical administration in American history. Well, how many of that administration are in jail now? How many of that administration had to resign in disgrace? Why does the White House spend more time hiding its files from subpoenas than it does punishing drug dealers?” said Chertoff, who spoke at the Lyndhurst rally before Dole.
“President Clinton wants to build a bridge to an anything-goes future where you can get away with it as long as you can talk your way out of it,” Chertoff added.
Warfield suggested that a strategic decision had been made by the campaign to turn up the heat on Clinton and the character issue.
“It is fair to conclude that Bill Clinton is not going to be successful hiding from his record for the entire campaign. … This is fair commentary,” said Warfield, while denying that there was an overall campaign plan to go negative.
On another front in what appeared to be a day for taking off the gloves against the president, the Dole campaign released a radio commercial that attacks Clinton for supporting “ninth-month abortions … gays in the military and condoms for school kids. That tells you a lot about Bill Clinton, it does.”
In an appearance Tuesday morning on a nationally syndicated radio show, Dole reinforced the suddenly elbows-out character of his campaign by saying that in the final presidential debate next Wednesday, he will bring up former White House personnel security director Craig Livingstone, who quit last summer amid reports that his office improperly collected FBI files on Republicans.