ROBERT J. DOLE, in accepting the Republican nomination for the presidency, last night cited the "old values" he has learned "through the gracious compensations of age" in urging the American people to reject a Clinton administration that has "insulted" them with its emphasis on materialism. He said the 1992 Clinton slogan -- "it's the economy stupid" -- ignored the higher objectives of morality and national survival.
His underlying theme was his own life story of devotion to country. "God, family, honor, duty, country," he chanted twice. "Courage. . . sacrifice. . . doing what's right. . . trust" -- especially the latter -- were words he invoked. And though he did not attack President Clinton personally, he contemptuously dismissed the administration's "elite who never grew up, never did anything real, never sacrificed, never suffered and never learned."
No man in all American history has sought the White House after wartime injuries as grievous as Bob Dole suffered in World War II. He teetered on death. He went through three years of agonizing rehabilitation. To this day his right arm is useless and his left arm numbed. The contrast with Mr. Clinton's avoidance of military service in Vietnam is clearly to be one of the underlying issues of the 1996 campaign.
How well this tactic will work is problematical. Mr. Clinton defeated another war hero, George Bush, four years ago. And surveys of audience reaction to GOP convention attacks on the incumbent president indicate they have not only failed but boomeranged. If Mr. Dole is to get a "convention bounce" is will have to come from the overall impression created last night.
The Republican nominee stressed predictable issues in emphasizing his differences with his opponent. But what was more interesting, in the context of the San Diego convention, was his insistence that "the Republican Party is broad and inclusive" and his pointed observation that anyone who thought otherwise could take the nearest exit.
While the former Senate majority leader clearly lost ground to the Christian Coalition in the drafting of a party platform he pointedly said he has not read, he imposed a pragmatic conservatism on the convention in an effort to soften his party's image. On that theme, he again returned to his life story, suggesting his own suffering could never make him indifferent to those in need.
The character issue will be raised in many different forms in this campaign. Last night, Senator Dole placed it at the very center of his quest for the White House.
Pub Date: 8/16/96