TOPICS > Politics

Lamar Alexander on the Trail

February 26, 1996 at 12:00 AM EDT

LAMAR ALEXANDER, Republican Presidential Candidate: (Colorado Springs – Saturday) I’d like to say a short word about the other choices that you have. One of them is Sen. Dole. I have the greatest respect for Sen. Dole, but Republican primaries are family discussions and family discussions are a time for plain talk. Our goal is to beat Bill Clinton. Most of us saw Sen. Dole follow Bill Clinton after the State of the Union Address. Most of us imagine what will happen next October in the Presidential election. There will be a debate, 40 million people will be watching, and you know exactly what Mr. Clinton will do. He’s not much of a President, but when his medicine show goes on the road, it’s a pretty good show. And you can imagine what will happen next October in that big debate. He’ll get a question, and he’ll move out from behind the podium like he, like he does, and he’ll walk over slowly to the questioner and he’ll look the questioner right in the eye and he’ll feel their pain. (laughter in room) And he’ll give a very good answer about the future. He’ll fake a compelling vision, and the whole country will turn around to see what the Republican nominee has to say about the future.

If all we can talk about is getting a bill out of a subcommittee in Washington, instead of families, about Congress instead of neighborhoods, about Washington instead of schools, if we have no more vision than that, Bill Clinton will be reelected, the Democratic Congress will be elected, and we’ll have a Speaker named Gephardt instead of Gingrich.

I’m afraid that the message we heard coming out of Iowa and New Hampshire was this: Sen. Dole, we respect you, we appreciate your long service in the Senate, but you’re not the right man to have in that debate with Bill Clinton and you’re not the right man to be the first President of the next century. It’s time for new leadership. It is time to move on. (applause) There’s one other choice, and I’ll say this very quickly, and then I’ll finish up. Pat Buchanan and I worked together for President Nixon 30 years ago. We don’t have any bad words to say about each other. I’m not going to join in those who are calling him names or anyone who’s trying to smear him by guilt by association. But I am–I am going to contest my friend Pat’s ideas. And I did that down in Arizona a couple of nights ago. I said, “Pat, I’m not going to let you hijack our party.” Buchananism is wrong for our party and wrong for our country. We cannot build a wall around America. The most important words are we are all Americans. We need to paint a rising, shining picture of the future. That’s what President Reagan did. He was for a strong America. Pat opposed the Gulf War. He was for trading in the world. Pat wants to build a wall. He understood the difference between illegal immigration, which we should control, and legal immigration, which is of value to our country. He was an optimist about our future, not a pessimist. Sometimes all of the other choices forget the most important thing that the next President can say as we go into the new century, and it would be these words: We should spend less time trying to figure out who to blame for what goes wrong and less time trying to figure out what the government owes us and more time being willing to accept personal responsibility for the consequences of our own actions. (applause)

I have the executive background to be the commander in chief. I helped Tennessee grow from one of the poorest states to the fastest-growing in family incomes, and I have helped to create a company with 1200 employees, so I know about job creation. I can balance a budget because I’m the only one who has balanced budgets. I will give the military the lead, in doing a better job of controlling our borders, I will see that we celebrate the great American outdoors, and oppose environmental extremism, I will do the things–(applause)–I will do the things that need to be done in Washington, but after we get Washington’s act in order and after Washington makes it easier to take control of our own lives, we have some more work to do. I would like to lead us into the next century expecting less from Washington and asking more of ourselves. If the television set is on and it is trash, we can turn it off. If the children are not learning to read, we can read to them. My mother gave me my library card, not the President of the United States. It still works best that way. (applause)

So I would like to be the leader of the Republican Revolution. I would like to help reelect our Republican Congress. I would like to help build a future based upon Republican principles as we go into the next century. I believe I can stand up there with Bill Clinton next October and paint a picture of the future based on our principles that’s more compelling than whatever he cooks up that day. (applause) I believe–(applause)–I believe that I am the right person to contest with Pat Buchanan over the next several weeks for the heart and soul of the Republican Party. If all Sen. Dole can do is duck debates, run negative ads, and have no new ideas, he would be better in the Senate than he would be as President. So I would like to ask for your help. And here’s a way we might sort this all out. Sen. Dole can go back to doing what he’s very good at, leading the Senate. Pat Buchanan can go back to “Crossfire,” and I’ll be the President of the United States. Thank you. (applause)

MR. LEHRER: Lamar Alexander speaking in Colorado Springs this weekend. Tomorrow, we’ll have a speech by Sen. Dole.