KENNEBUNKPORT, Maine, July 26 -- Former President Bush Friday promised to do anything he is asked to help Bob Dole, his one-time GOP presidential primary rival, win the White House. 'I'll do anything Senator Dole wants me to do. My heart lies in this... at this level, the Dole level (actively helping Dole) and I'll do anything they ask me to do,' said Bush following an informal afternoon meeting with the Kansas Republican, and Bush's son, Texas Gov. George W. Bush Jr., at the Bush family's seaside home in Kennebunkport. Dole praised his former rival saying, 'I think President Bush and Mrs. Bush did an outstanding job. I was very proud to be the Republican leader in the period during those years.' Bush was asked by reporters if he offered any advice for Dole on his expected unveiling of a large tax cut. 'I have great confidence in Dole's knowledge of revenue so that whatever he comes out with will make good sense.' The Washington Post reported Thursday that, based on a working paper obtained from the Dole campaign, the Kansas Republican was giving serious consideration to proposing a massive tax cut of $600 billion over six years as part of his overall economic plan. The tax issue haunted Bush's presidency after he went back on his 1988 campaign pledge of 'no new taxes' by orchestrating the 1990 tax increase. Asked if Dole's possible proposal could come back to harm Dole, Bush said, 'Not if he plays it right.'
The highly publicized news conference after the Dole-Bush meeting was supposed to take place at Bush's Kennebunkport compound but rain and fog forced the event inside to a nearby hotel. Bush and Dole held a bitter rivalry during the 1988 GOP primary season, when Bush came from behind to defeat Dole in the New Hampshire primary after losing the Iowa caucus the week before. Following his stunning defeat, Dole angrily said Bush should 'stop lying about my record,' a caustic remark that helped to reinforce Dole's lingering hard-edged public image. Dole skirted the issue of a vice presidential running mate when asked if Bush's son, George W. Bush, was being considered for the post. The former president emphatically denied that his son was on the list of possible running mates. Dole also took the time to pay tribute to the sixth anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act, which Dole sponsored and Bush signed. 'It's a happy Independence day for many, many hundreds of thousand of Americans with disabilities,' said Dole. Asked about continued intra-party conflict regarding the anti- abortion language in the GOP platform, Dole said, 'I believe we can have different views in our party, tolerate different views and have diversity.' Several Republican abortion rights supporters Thursday, led by Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine, staged a news conference Thursday where they called on the party to soften its platform, which includes a specific plank calling for a constitutional ban on abortions. Dole said simply that he has had a discussion with Snowe on the abortion issue since the Thursday demonstration. In Washington, the White House was already criticizing Dole for his yet-unveiled tax cut proposal claiming it was based on 'wild economic theory' that Dole himself once criticized. Speaking to reporters about the possible $600 billion in tax relief, press secretary Mike McCurry said President Clinton had no plans to try to match his challenger's proposal. The president has proposed a modest package of tax relief measures, mainly targeted in education. 'We've had a very important, good, measured, prudent, targeted tax relief measure on the table, based on common sense not on wild economic theories,' McCurry said. 'It's a $600 billion tax cut that Mr. Dole plans that apparently is backed with nothing more than the same type of supply-side economics that Mr. Dole himself once criticized. 'I'm waiting to see the napkin upon which he draws the justification for this plan,' McCurry said.