Republican presidential candidate Elizabeth Dole, after tacking to the left on guns, shifted to the right yesterday with a call to cut off federal funds for libraries that allow access to pornography on the Internet.
In public comments and letters to congressional leaders, Dole framed the pornography debate as a critical component in America's culture wars. "This isn't about First Amendment protections," she said. "It's about our values."
During a news conference at a library near Seattle, Dole touted the virtues of new computer software that helps computer users filter out such material. "We shouldn't let pornography slip in through an electronic backdoor," she said. "Libraries shouldn't use federal tax money to put pornography on their shelves and they shouldn't put it on their desktops or laptops."
Tony Fabrizio, her chief strategist, said the Internet issue is one more way for Dole to contrast herself to the Clinton era. "One of the things a president has to do is exert some moral authority," he said. "She feels President Clinton basically robbed the White House of its moral authority."
Dole is pressing GOP leaders on Capitol Hill to "close a loophole" in the House's sweeping juvenile justice bill "that allows adults to gain access to pornographic material at federally funded libraries."
Although the legislation would force libraries to prevent children from viewing pornography on computers, "the congressional plan does not go far enough in promoting the values we share while protecting taxpayers and families from pornography on the Internet."
"If you can end smut on the Internet and cut off federal dollars going to fund access to it, it's a twofer," said Republican pollster Michael Baselice, noting that conservatives in particular will be drawn to the substance of Dole's proposal.
Baselice, who is neutral in the presidential contest, said that Dole, like every other GOP contender, is searching for ways to siphon attention and money from Texas Gov. George W. Bush. "The Dole campaign has to look for some things that will enable them to communicate with Republican rank-and-file voters to raise awareness of the campaign and help raise dollars," he said.
Linda DiVall, Dole's pollster, said the Internet proposal is "obviously targeted to people concerned about the moral [condition] of the country today."
Dole was not the only candidate on the campaign trail yesterday talking about high-profile issues. Vice President Gore addressed a subject that affects the lives of millions of Americans, unveiling a five-point plan for tackling cancer with increased spending on research, easier access to experimental drugs and new prevention efforts.
"We will take the concrete steps that will cut by 700,000 over the next decade the number of people diagnosed with cancer each year," he told medical professionals at a Philadelphia hospital.
If elected, Gore said he would spend more on cancer, including doubling the cancer research budget at the National Institutes of Health, increasing school-based prevention programs by $25 million annually, launching a $200 million antismoking ad campaign and expanding Medicare to include senior citizens in clinical trials.
He also pressed Congress to pass the Democrats' proposed Patients' Bill of Rights and legislation requiring every health plan to cover clinical trials.
CAPTION: ELIZABETH DOLE