Special Report: The Chemical Weapons Convention
Dole Endorses Chemical Weapons Treaty
By Candy Crowley/CNN
WASHINGTON (April 23) -- As the Senate began debate on the Chemical Weapons Convention before a Thursday vote, the measure's principal backer, President Bill Clinton, got a boost from former rival Bob Dole.
Dole spoke out at a White House event that attracted a dazzling array of marquee politicians from both parties. It was guaranteed to attract attention, designed to push the international treaty banning chemical weapons through a reluctant Senate.
"If I were present in the Senate I would vote for ratification of the CWC [Chemical Weapons Convention] because of the many improvements that have been agreed to," Dole said. (128K wav sound)
There was also more lobbying, in advance of Thursday's vote, by the president and retired Gen. Colin Powell.
"At the bottom line, our failure to ratify will substantially increase the risk of a chemical attack against American service personell," Clinton said. "None of us should be willing to take that. As commander in chief, I cannot in good conscience take that risk." (224K wav sound)
Said Powell: "It's in the best interest of America. It's in the best interest of America's fighting men and women." (96K wav sound)
For Dole, who helped out House Speaker Newt Gingrich with a loan last week, it was a move into international waters and the role of elder statesman. Although he is no longer in the Senate, his pull there is real.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) called Dole's comments "a very important expression of support and one that I feel will be very much respected by our colleagues on both sides of the aisle." The measure requires approval from two-thirds of the Senate.
There are limits, though, to Dole's staying power. The senior Republican senator from North Carolina may be one. Sen. Jesse Helms said the treaty "is not global, it is not verifiable and it will not work." (480K wav sound)
Still, Dole's support for the treaty may provide the impetus -- or the cover -- for the many Republicans still publicly undeclared, in particular Dole's successor, Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott.
Lott, who has been trying to ride herd over moderate Republicans who generally support the treaty and raucous conservatives who oppose it, has been on the fence. He says that he will wait and see, but adds he is troubled by a treaty provision about sharing chemical weapons information and equipment with other nations that ratify the documents. "I think that's dangerous," he said. (288K wav sound)
Everyone knows politics can make for strange bedfellows, so it wasn't too surprising to see Dole and Clinton together in the White House's East Room. What everyone fails to add is that strange bedfellows can make all the difference in the world.
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