TOPICS > Politics

Dole on the Trail

February 27, 1996 at 12:00 AM EDT


SEN. ROBERT DOLE, Republican Presidential Candidate: I’m very proud to be here today, and I know there are a lot of veterans in the audience, a lot of families, men and women, who were veterans. I’m not certain how many of you went back for the D-Day celebration, but I did, on Omaha Beach and Utah Beach, and thought about the young men and women who gave their lives for America, thought about what they might be doing today in America, what their children might be doing or their grandchildren. And the thing that it points out time after time after time is the greatness of America. We are the greatest country on the face of the earth. Don’t let anybody kid you about that. Everybody wants to be like America. (applause) And that’s the role we have in the world. We need strong leadership, and I’ve said many times, I’m not perfect. The fact that I was in the service doesn’t mean I deserve anything. The fact that I spent some time recovering doesn’t mean I deserve anything. But I have learned a little about what it means to sacrifice for your country and what made America great in the first place. And I believe the American people are ready for strong leadership, Democrats, Republicans, or independents want somebody at the White House they can look up to. (applause)

Let me give you the most recent example in Cuba, where Castro shot down a couple of airplanes. There are four pilots–four people missing. These are little Cessna airplanes. They weren’t jets. And they were over there on rescue missions, trying to find somebody trying to flee Communist tyranny called Castro’s Cuba. And the President called a Security Council meeting and wrung his hands for two days, and today at 4:30, he laid an egg. (laughter in crowd) He laid an egg. And I think it’s a shame that President Clinton’s weak action today did not match his tough rhetoric. And I regret that President Clinton reversed only part of his misguided and counterproductive decision to ease sanctions on Fidel Castro’s brutal dictatorship.

It was wrong to ease sanctions in 1995. We told the President, you’re going to make a mistake. Castro doesn’t listen. You shouldn’t ease sanctions; you ought to tighten sanctions on Castro– that’s something he understands–(applause)–and drive him out of office. (applause) So that was a propaganda victory for Castro in 1995. Now President Clinton also now said he will seek reparation for the victims of Castro’s air assault, and he took steps to limit U.S. air travel, which he should have done, which he shouldn’t have eased in the first place. And I support these measures of being a small step in the right direction, but after months of moving the wrong way toward coddling Castro, President Clinton has yet to understand that the only way to deal with Castro’s tyranny is with real pressure and real firmness. Unfortunately, President Clinton has also not unequivocally endorsed the one measure–there’s a measure pending right now in the Congress of the United States that would have an impact on Congress–it’s legislation that would tighten the arms–tighten the embargo on Cuba. (applause) If the President’s serious about ending Castro’s– Fidel Castro’s regime in Cuba, then he ought to endorse our legislation.

Let me tell you that when you go to the polls on Tuesday and participate in this primary process, that this is very serious business. We’re not electing a talk show host. I don’t want to be on “Crossfire.” I’ve been in the real crossfire, and I know what it’s all about. (applause) And let’s face it, folks, you can’t build a wall around America. You can’t build a wall around America. This is America. This is not a banana republic. This is America. We’ve got to trade. We’ve got to reach out, and the President of the United States has all the tools he needs now to level the playing field. We just need a new President. (cheers and applause) And that’s why it’s important that you nominate someone who can beat Bill Clinton. I’ve got a plan for Bill Clinton. I want to send him back to Little Rock, back to Little Rock. (cheers and applause)

I want to say it as simply as I can. I never thought about getting into politics in my lifetime. I bet there are others in this same audience. When we came back from World War II, as compared to Korea and Vietnam, we were sort of heroes. It didn’t make any difference what we did. The American people looked up to us. I didn’t think I’d be running in 1996. I thought George Bush was going to be reelected in 1992. But I went over to D-Day as I said earlier, and I thought a lot about it. I said, well, maybe there’s one more mission for my generation. Maybe there’s one more call to service for my generation. And I think my generation, we’re not any different than other generations, but we span quite a few years. And we’ve seen a lot happen, a lot of good things happen in America. And I think we’ve held America together many, many times, as other generations will do that follow us.

So I’m here asking you, because at home if you don’t ask people to vote for you, they’ll say, Bob, I didn’t vote you. You’ll say, why not? Well, you never asked me. So I’m going to ask everybody in the sound of my voice to vote for me on March the 5th. It’s that important. It’s serious business about electing a President of the United States. (applause) I just want to tell you this phrase is not really about Bill Clinton or Bob Dole. It’s not really about Republicans or Democrats. It’s really about America. It’s really about your children. It’s really about your grandchildren. It’s really about our future. It’s really about the next generation. So it’s all up to you on March 5th. Thanks a lot, and God bless America. (applause)