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BASHING CLINTON IS OVER; BOOSTING DOLE IS NEXT

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After spending Tuesday night portraying Bill Clinton as a promise breaker and Bob Dole as a dream fulfiller, Republicans will finally and formally nominate Dole for president Wednesday evening.

The roll call - with a sure outcome because Dole won a majority of delegates in primaries - will come after nominating speeches by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., a former prisoner of war honoring fellow war hero Dole; Wendy Gramm, wife of former presidential candidate Phil Gramm; and Rep. Henry Bonilla, R-Texas.Republicans have designed the upcoming session as a night to build up the reputation of Dole, and it will follow a night of tearing down Clinton.

Keynote speaker Rep. Susan Molinari, R-N.Y., summarized their attack - with the help of the 20,000 or so delegates in the hall.

She said, "Have you forgotten that Bill Clinton promised a middle-class tax cut and then passed the largest tax increase in American history?" The crowd responded, "No."

"Have you forgotten that Bill Clinton promised common-sense health-care reform, only to impose a huge Washington-run health-care system on all of us?" The crowd yelled louder, "No."

"And have you forgotten that Bill Clinton promised to balance the budget first in five years, then 10, then seven, then nine - only to veto the first balanced budget in 25 years?" The crowd, now fully warmed up, screamed a long "noooo."

Molinari then said, "Americans know that Bill Clinton's promises have the life span of a Big Mac on Air Force One." She added, "We must choose the better man for a better America, and that man, we know, is Bob Dole."

The reference to Clinton's healthy appetite was about the nicest thing any Republican said about him all night as they attacked his actions on welfare, the economy, crime, education, health care and balancing the budget.

Rep. J.C. Watts, R-Okla., who grew up in a poor black family but became a college football quarterback and member of Congress, criticized Clinton for fighting GOP welfare reform bills.

He said about Republicans, "We don't define compassion by how many people are on welfare or AFDC (Aid to Families with Dependent Children) or living in public housing. We define compassion by how few people are on welfare, AFDC and public housing because we have given them the means to climb the ladder of success."

House Speaker Newt Gingrich - who received a long, raucous welcome by delegates - added, "True compassion is measured by our own good works, not by how many tax dollars we spend to support a failed federal bureaucracy. We've learned that the only way to truly help people is to empower them to help themselves."

Former education secretary and presidential candidate LaMar Alexander complained Clinton's ties to teachers unions is closing the door on allowing parents to choose which school to send their children, but he said Dole supports school choice to increase competition and quality among them.

Sen. Bill Frist, R-Tenn., a surgeon, complained, "Medicare will go bankrupt in five years, and Bill Clinton denies there is a problem. . . . Bob Dole will deal honestly with the problem."

New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman complained about Clinton's statements that America could not afford the 15 percent tax cut that Dole is proposing and said she received similar attacks about tax cuts she made that were successful.

"We've cut taxes in New Jersey 10 times in the past 30 months. Now, the people of my state have more money in their paychecks, money for mortgages, braces for the kids or savings for education. Republicans believe that you know how to spend your money better than the government does," she said.

Illinois Gov. Jim Edgar complained about Clinton's handling of the economy and taxes. "We need lower taxes. We need less government. We need less nonsense and more common sense."

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge complained the Clinton administration is too soft on crime but that Dole is for "conservative judges, three-strikes-and-you're-out and the death penalty . . . and more jobs, better schools and families that are made whole again."

On Wednesday, Alexander said that the GOP convention has lifted the spirits of many party members, concerned about Dole's prospects.

"Last week, we were down. I never saw the Republicans across the country so worried," he told "Fox Morning News," adding that the party's gathering has worked wonders.