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South Carolina Republican Primary Debate

February 29, 1996 at 12:00 AM EDT


MODERATOR: Do you think negative ads are hurting the political process, and do you regret having run such ads, Mr. Forbes?

STEVE FORBES, Republican Presidential Candidate: I regret having spent so much time discussing my opponents, when they made promises before an election and then routinely broke those promises after the election; however, in the last two weeks I’ve concentrated simply on getting my message of growth, hope, and opportunity across to the American people, particularly in Delaware and in Arizona.

SEN. ROBERT DOLE, Republican Presidential Candidate: Well, I think Steve has been very effective with these negative ads. I saw my favorable ratings go from 80 percent in Iowa down to 50, and he spent about $12 million, I think, just on Bob Dole. He’s the king of negative advertising. He gets the title without any contest.

PATRICK BUCHANAN, Republican Presidential Candidate: I think, Steve, you’re right, you overdid it with those negative ads, and I think, Bob, you overdid it up in New Hampshire. And I think there was a reaction against both of you.

LAMAR ALEXANDER, Republican Presidential Candidate: Sen. Dole in New Hampshire for his last four days took all of his ads off and ran negative ads against me, just me. CNN said they were untruthful, they were misleading, and they were distorted. Now, that’s going on, Bob. That needs to stop. We need to be positive.

MODERATOR: We’re going to take a look at some of the negative ads throughout the next 45 minutes or so. The first one is an ad that has been run by the Dole Campaign.

AD SPOKESPERSON: (Dole Ad) President Pat Buchanan? He says, “Women are simply not endowed by nature with the measure of single-minded ambition and the will to succeed.” And he advocates arming South Korea, Japan, and Taiwan with nuclear weapons. He’s too extreme, and he can’t beat Bill Clinton.

MODERATOR: Mr. Buchanan.

PATRICK BUCHANAN: Bob, it is a sign of the vapidity and the hollowness of your campaign that in your 72nd year as Majority Leader that you’re running these kinds of ads–

SEN. ROBERT DOLE: Eleventh year.

PATRICK BUCHANAN: Thirty-fifth year in Congress, that–

SEN. ROBERT DOLE: You’ve been in Washington 35 years, so–

PATRICK BUCHANAN: –you’re running ads of these kinds of–about an old friend, that you know are not true, and that you went through in New Hampshire yourself.

MODERATOR: Time up, Mr. Buchanan. Sen. Dole, do you stand by that ad?

SEN. ROBERT DOLE: Well, I just took it out of his columns, and maybe they’re not accurate. I always thought they were.

MODERATOR: This is an ad run by the Alexander campaign.

AD SPOKESMAN: (Alexander Ad) Bob Dole voted to raise taxes by $320 billion. Alexander supports term limits. Dole opposes term limits. Alexander has fresh, conservative ideas. After 35 years in Washington, Bob Dole is out of ideas.

MODERATOR: Senator Dole?

SEN. ROBERT DOLE: Well, I knew he was running negative ads. I didn’t want to bring it up. I didn’t want to embarrass him here in front of all these people, but here’s a guy that wanted to be the boy scout up in New Hampshire and said none of us should run these kind of ads, then he comes right down here and picks one out which is not true. I support term limits. I’ve said I support term limits. In fact, there’s an ad watch analysis of that ad today that shows that it’s completely wrong.

MODERATOR: Gov. Alexander, do you stand by your ad?

LAMAR ALEXANDER: I absolutely stand by the ad. Bob, the only reason that’s on the air is because in six states, including the last five days in New Hampshire, you ran ads about my record that weren’t true. You said I had, I had an income tax in Tennessee, when I rejected an income tax.

MODERATOR: This is an ad being run by the Buchanan campaign.

AD SPOKESMAN: (Buchanan Ad) Dole, Alexander, and Forbes supported a new trade deal with Mexico. They promised it would create jobs. It didn’t. Said it would improve our trade balance; it hasn’t. They claimed American wages would grow; they haven’t.

PATRICK BUCHANAN: (in ad) I will rewrite these unfair trade deals that destroy our jobs.

MODERATOR: And gentlemen, Mr. Forbes, would you respond to that, please?

STEVE FORBES: The problem with that is not the desire to reduce trade barriers. When trade barriers are reduced, America does genuinely well. We’re the most competitive nation in the world. If we reduce barriers here at home on Americans getting ahead, we’ll continue to be by far the most competitive nation in the world.

MODERATOR: Mr. Buchanan, do you stand by your ad?

PATRICK BUCHANAN: Well, I certainly do. The problem with NAFTA, Steve, it was a lousy deal to begin with, and we knew it. Your $1 billion trade surplus is gone. We’ve got a $15 billion trade deficit with Mexico, 300,000 lost American jobs, many of them in South Carolina. If NAFTA is a success, I would hate to see a failure.

MODERATOR: We’re going to take another look at another ad that’s been run in this campaign. You will not see the actual ad, itself, but this is a transcript, and we’ll have the words that the ad used and you’ll hear those words. This is from the Forbes campaign.

FORBES AD BEING READ BY PERSON: Lamar Alexander brags he balanced budgets as governor, but he doesn’t tell you he raised taxes four times to do it, while doubling state spending. Running for President, Lamar Alexander collects 295,000 dollars a year from his law firm that lobbies for special interests in Washington.

MODERATOR: And, Gov. Alexander, is that ad accurate?

LAMAR ALEXANDER: Well, I think Steve was right to stop running ads like that. I’ve never lobbied. I do work for a law firm. I actually have a job outside government. I have resigned that job now that I am running for President. As far as taxes, after eight years, Steve could have pointed out, if he’d been generous, that I balanced eight budgets, reduced the state debt, had a AAA bond rating, no personal income tax, and the fifth lowest taxes. Three of the four tax increases he talks about were fee increases to build the best road system in the country. Ronald Reagan did that. We all want better roads. The other one was, I’d do it again. I told the teachers and the people of Tennessee that we would–if we would become the first state to pay teachers more for teaching well, merit pay, that I would pay for it, and we did that.

MODERATOR: Time, Governor.

LAMAR ALEXANDER: And it’s helped us grow jobs and have a much stronger state economy.

MODERATOR: Thank you. Mr. Forbes, do you stand by your ad?

STEVE FORBES: I’d absolutely stand by it. As governor, he did raise taxes. As governor, he did double state spending, and when he became education secretary, he increased the size of that department too, increased the spending there, so he talks like a conservative but he seems to act like a liberal. He also did work for a lobbying firm that paid him $295,000 a year. All that is true. Moreover–

LAMAR ALEXANDER: Steve, you haven’t learned a single thing in your whole campaign. The negative ads come right out of your mouth. You know that’s not true.

STEVE FORBES: It is true.

LAMAR ALEXANDER: You spent most of this year changing our Republican Party–

STEVE FORBES: And, Lamar, as governor, as governor–

LAMAR ALEXANDER: –into a negative ad side show, starting with Bob Dole, next to me, and you should be ashamed of yourself for continuing that kind of tact.

STEVE FORBES: Lamar, as governor, with that ad, that was a charitable ad. That ad did not talk about some of those cozy business deals you did as governor, investing one dollar, getting–

LAMAR ALEXANDER: There you go again, Steve.

STEVE FORBES: –getting six hundred and twenty thousand dollars in return.

MODERATOR: Time up, Mr. Forbes. Time up, sir. Thank you very much.

LAMAR ALEXANDER: Steve, you should go practice your dirty business on a race for the school board before you try for the Presidency of the United States of America.

MODERATOR: Governor, thank you.

STEVE FORBES: Governor, your cozy business deals are not capitalistic. They’re reminders of–

LAMAR ALEXANDER: My ethics have never been questioned.

MODERATOR: Thank you both, gentlemen, very much.

LAMAR ALEXANDER: Could you wait just a minute? My ethics have never been questioned, never been questioned.

MODERATOR: Mr. Buchanan–

LAMAR ALEXANDER: The United States Senate, a democratic majority with Sen. Dole there, examined everything I’ve done in my life and not one single Senator voted against that. You come into this campaign never having run for any office–

MODERATOR: Thank you, Governor.

LAMAR ALEXANDER: –smearing Bob Dole–smearing me–

MODERATOR: Thank you, Governor. Let’s give the other candidates a chance to talk here. Mr. Buchanan–

STEVE FORBES: –turned $1 into $625,000.


PATRICK BUCHANAN: It’s my turn, I think. Bob, can you get ’em to yield to me, Bob?

SEN. ROBERT DOLE: I like what they’re doing, but–

PATRICK BUCHANAN: I’m enjoying this! We’ll yield you guys some more time. No, let me say this. Let me say this. Look, you know, let me–excuse me, let me side with Lamar on this, really, and let me side with Steve Forbes on the issue of I don’t care how much Steve Forbes makes. Steve Forbes inherited four hundred–whatever it was–he inherited the money. So what? Who cares what’s in his tax return? Who cares about this nonsense? Why don’t we focus this on the issues, focus on what we’re going to do for the country, when we criticize an opponent, let’s do it. If they stood with NAFTA and GATT, and I don’t believe in those, I stood against ’em, let’s argue it on that basis and get away from this personal nonsense that they’re doing to Steve, and Steve, I think you’re doing to Lamar.

MODERATOR: Sen. Dole. It’s your opportunity.

SEN. ROBERT DOLE: Well, I’m running for President. I don’t know what these other guys are running for.