“In the final analysis, the issue in this campaign is leadership”, says Bob Dole over and over again, adding that “I voted in Congress fifteen or twenty thousand times in twenty-seven years. My record is there. You can study it.”
Let’s “study” some contrasts. Repeatedly, Dole says that the deficit is the biggest domestic issue. As President, he would push for a spending freeze, which upon closer scrutiny turns out to be a flexible freeze with a number of exceptions. The big surge in the federal deficit under Reagan was assured in 1981 when Dole fought for the huge corporate tax reduction at the same time that the White House was pushing for a doubling of the military budget. Still he loses no opportunity on the campaign trail these days in asserting no tax increases for the wealthy under a Dole Administration.
Dole can’t have it both ways — leadership is standing up to “Red Ink Ronnie” and reducing the cruel burden on future generations of a $3 trillion national debt, costing over $250 billion a year in interest, by the end of the Reagan years in 1989.
Dole has a foundation to provide financial assistance to disabled people. Yet he champions the tobacco industry’s demands in Congress, relies on the cigarette companies for campaign contributions and other support. In his home state of Kansas, corporate lobbies, together with the insurance industry, are moving through the legislature cruel restrictions on the right of injured and sick people to have their day in court against the wrongdoers who caused their suffering. To date, there has been no word of disapproval from Bob Dole.
During the New Hampshire primary he called himself “an ally of the environment.” Yet he did not oppose the hazardous Seabrook nuclear plant. Twice he voted against New Hampshire’s Senator Gordon Humphrey’s bill to end the huge boondoggle called the Clinch River Breeder Reaction project in Tennessee. Humphrey finally won that struggle in 1983.
In 1984 Dole voted against extending the Superfund hazardous waste cleanup program — probably the most popular environmental law in the country in terms of its objectives. He voted to prevent victims of toxic wastes from suing for compensation under the federal Superfund law in 1985 and a year later even voted against letting states set higher standards than the federal government for pesticides in food. Fortunately, he was on the losing end of this federal pre-emption vote.
He boasts, that unlike the patrician George Bush, he is a man of the people. Well, over four-fifths of the people do not like Senators heftily raising their own salaries in a period of government deficits and shaky economic times. Nonetheless, Dole took the lead in passing such a raw special tax break for members of Congress that public revulsion led to its resounding repeal
less than a year later in 1982. He also voted to raise Congressional salaries and against any caps on outside honoraria fees from outside lobbyists several times.
Deep inside Dole’s mind, a struggle of sorts goes on between the rights of the people and the privileges of the corporations. Guess who wins almost all the time? Here is just one contrast. Dole voted in 1980 against helping citizen groups, such as elderly associations, with their expenses so that they can participate before regulatory agency proceedings (as regarding hearing aid frauds), alongside the corporate lawyers. Yet when it comes to funneling your tax dollars into corporate subsidies, the Big Boys can count on Dole. The Kansan enthusiastically gives businesses lucrative patent rights to taxpayer financed government research discoveries.
When will the great opportunity presented by daily Presidential campaigning, covered by hordes of reporters, materialize into citizen discussions of the candidates’ actual records. I suppose the answer to that question is when enough citizens jump into the campaign process itself and make themselves its shapers. Until then, the cosmetics will reign.