- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 3, 2000

PHILADELPHIA Former President George Bush yesterday turned up the heat on Vice President Al Gore by accusing him of hiding behind his new attack dog, President Clinton, whom Barbara Bush accused of defiling the presidency.
Seeking to turn the tables on Mr. Clinton who last week mocked the Texas governor as a spoiled rich kid whose "daddy was president" the elder Bush characterized the president as Mr. Gore's fatherly protector who feels compelled to fight junior's battles.
"Gore needs to establish his own identity," Mr. Bush told Fox News Channel. "He's the guy who ought to be saying this, not the president."
The man who was vanquished by Mr. Clinton in 1992 insisted he does not regard his son's bid for the White House as an opportunity for political payback. Still, Mr. Bush couldn't resist chastising his successor for being overly protective of Mr. Gore.
"It's hard for President Clinton to give up," he told Brit Hume of Fox.
He emphasized that Mr. Clinton should resist the temptation to "overshadow" the vice president because it makes the junior member of the partnership look "a little desperate."
"Get off the stage a little bit," the elder Bush counseled. "Stand over in the wing."
He added that Mr. Clinton is dominating the debate with the Texas governor so thoroughly that Mr. Gore, who has been vacationing all week, appears reticent to enter the fray.
"If I were Gore, I would be wondering if I should go out on the stage," the elder Bush mused. "You know: 'I mean, I'm only a vice president… . Golly, this isn't my race.' "
The former president suggested that Mr. Gore "figure out" a way to "put the hook on" Mr. Clinton and drag him offstage.
Meanwhile, Barbara Bush accused Mr. Clinton of obliterating the high standards of the White House. She said "it would be very difficult" for Mr. Gore to restore those standards because of "some of the things he's done."
Acknowledging her criticism of the Clinton-Gore team amounted to "really going ballistic," Mrs. Bush said it was "disappointing" that the president hasn't lived up to the "very high standard" that her husband and other presidents maintained.
"George respects that presidency, so if there's any disappointment, that's the disappointment," Mrs. Bush said on ABC's "Good Morning America." Asked what she meant, Mrs. Bush intoned: "You know what I mean."
The former first lady was alluding to Mr. Clinton's affair with former White House intern Monica Lewinsky. His attempted cover-up of the fling resulted in the first ever impeachment of an elected president.
"It's the presidency that we hold up to a very high standard," Mrs. Bush said. "I know George held it up."
In a clear rebuke of the Clinton-Gore administration, she said disrespect had been brought upon the office of the presidency "by un-named persons."
Mrs. Bush said it was hurtful to watch Mr. Clinton deride her son as a daddy's boy.
"When George ran … we knew we were going to be shot at," she said. "But you don't like it when it's your son, because they're not true the things that are being said.
"And that bothers you," she added. "I don't like to hear them say untruths."
While Mrs. Bush was challenging Mr. Clinton's veracity, her husband refused to elaborate on his threat to break a long-held tradition of former presidents to refrain from attacking the current occupant of the Oval Office.
"I'm tempted to get off the reservation," the elder Bush said Monday in response to Mr. Clinton's "daddy" taunt. "I'm going to wait a month and then … I'm going to tell the nation what I think of him as a human being and a person."
That set off a three-day firestorm of controversy that seemed to gain momentum as the 15,000 journalists gathered here to cover the Republican National Convention failed to turn up other conflicts in the heavily scripted proceedings. Mr. Bush had agreed to only a handful of interviews and tried to keep those low key in order to avoid taking attention away from his son.
But with each successive interview, journalists seemed to draw Mr. and Mrs. Bush deeper into the spat with Mr. Clinton.
"They're making a federal case about it," Mr. Bush said yesterday. "It's better just to say nothing about it."
When his wife began venting about President Clinton, Mr. Bush warned her not to repeat the "mistake" he made Monday.
"They're going to get all over your case," he cautioned.
"I don't care," Mrs. Bush replied.
By yesterday afternoon, the Bushes decided not to grant any further interviews. But not before Mr. Bush challenged the Democrats to show as much diversity as Republicans have demonstrated this week.
"Will the Democratic Party in their convention be inclusive?" he asked. "They didn't even let a guy who differed on the issue of life, the governor of Pennsylvania, they wouldn't even let him speak at the convention."
Mr. Bush was referring to the 1992 convention, when then-Gov. Robert P. Casey, a pro-life Democrat, was barred from speaking. By contrast, the pro-life Republican Party this week has showcased pro-choice conservatives like retired Gen. Colin Powell.
Mrs. Bush tried to turn the tables on liberals who had urged her son to choose a pro-choice running mate in order to demonstrate inclusiveness.
"Do you think Al Gore will be courageous enough to pick a VP who's pro-life?" she said.
Mr. and Mrs. Bush were not the only family members to rally to the defense of the GOP nominee yesterday. Dorothy Bush Koch, the Texas governor's younger sister, told Maryland delegates Mr. Clinton "evidently" has nothing better to do than attack her brother.
"I think it's very sad," she said. "It's much harder when someone you love is taking those hits."

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