Bob Dole on Saturday invoked President Clinton’s failed effort to overhaul the nation’s health care system as the “defining moment” of his presidency, saying it symbolized Clinton’s dedication to big and expensive government programs.
Dole made his remarks on the eve of the anniversary of the president’s speech to Congress announcing his ambitious - and ultimately unsuccessful - plan to guarantee health insurance for all Americans. The remarks came in Dole’s weekly radio program.
The Republican candidate’s aides said his comments were intended to preview a week in which Dole will highlight the issue to contrast the two men’s different views of what he described as “the role that government will play in the daily life of America’s families.”
“President Clinton and I have a fundamental difference of opinion over just how large that role should be,” Dole said. “Perhaps this difference can clearly be seen by looking back at what I believe was the defining moment for this administration. It was exactly three years ago tomorrow - Sept. 22, 1993 - that President Clinton told Congress and the American people that the federal government should be in charge of health care in America.”
Dole’s remarks Saturday signaled that he intended to take what Clinton’s aides view as the single largest political failure of the Clinton presidency and inject it into the current campaign. Raising the health care issue also allows Dole to remind voters of the role that Hillary Rodham Clinton played in directing the unsuccessful White House effort.
Until now, Dole has referred only indirectly to the first lady’s White House role, promising that his wife, Elizabeth, would not have an official role in White House affairs.
Saturday, Dole warned that Clinton, if re-elected, would revive the couple’s effort to impose a health care plan.
“Indeed, Mrs. Clinton, the architect of the proposal, told reporters this summer that the Clinton plan was, quote, ‘still the right model,”’ he said. “And during this campaign President Clinton has already proposed hundreds of additional ideas for how the government can spend your money and run your life.”
Dole’s attack on the health care plan Saturday contrasts with what he said when Clinton first proposed it. He initially supported the concept of a health care plan that covered all Americans, but not the exact plan proposed by Clinton.