News Briefs II
Dole Tries to Reassure Elderly On Medicare PolicyThe Washington Post
Robert J. Dole campaigned Saturday for votes of the elderly in America's land of retirement, attempting to repel Democratic charges that he would ravage Medicare to pay for tax cuts benefiting the wealthy.
At a boisterous rally at the University of Tampa, he accused President Clinton of using scare tactics and invoked the memory of his mother, Bina, who lived on Social Security benefits, in pledging to repeal the tax increase on Social Security benefits for upper-income recipients that Clinton had proposed in 1993.
He criticized Clinton for vetoing the Republican proposal last year to slow the growth of Medicare costs, a plan that Democrats described in national television attacks as "cuts" designed to pay for $270 billion in family and business tax breaks.
The plan, said Dole, would have saved Medicare from bankruptcy while still allowing costs to rise at twice the rate of inflation. "Remember that veto the next time the White House plays politics with Medicare," he told hundreds of supporters, many of whom were waving pompoms and Dole-Kemp placards in a crowded and humid gymnasium here.
"We're going to save the programs, not devastate the programs," Dole said. Playing off the retirees in the audience, he added, "Welcome to the retirement party for President Clinton."
Dole has pledged to cut taxes by $548 billion while balancing the budget. Last week, he moved to assure veterans that their benefits would not be compromised, and weeks ago put off-limits Social Security and further cuts in Medicare beyond last year's GOP plan. But his restatement of those assurances Saturday in a state bulging with senior citizens reflects the campaign's concerns that Democratic charges are sticking. The last time Florida, with 25 electoral votes, voted for a Democratic president was in 1976.
He had a warm-up for his Medicare reprise in the GOP response to Clinton's weekly radio address, where he blamed the president for ignoring the 6.2 percent annual spending increase in the Republican proposal for Medicare. Under the plan, spending would increase from $5,300 to $7,100 per beneficiary in the next six years.
"Instead of offering solutions, he offers a harsh and negative advertising campaign, hoping to scare you into believing that our plan would harm those Americans who rely on Medicare," Dole said.
Democrats Stress Unity For ConventionThe Washington Post
Twenty-eight years after their most tumultuous convention of the century, Democrats returned to Chicago Saturday for what they hope will be one of their most placid, a four-day celebration designed to launch President Clinton toward a second term and secondarily to bring the party back to power in Congress.
The convention that opens here Monday has been carefully staged to show off what party leaders claim is unprecedented unity among the once-brawling Democrats. But for most of the week, the convention hall largely will be a sideshow to the president's campaign train trip through the Midwest.
The president's advisers promise that Clinton will deliver proposals on crime, education and the environment from the train trip through Ohio and Michigan that they hope will dominate the evening news early in the week and set the stage for his ambitious acceptance speech Thursday night. In that speech, aides said, Clinton will begin to sketch the outlines of what a second term would mean for the country, if he defeats Republican presidential nominee Robert J. Dole in November.
With Clinton preparing to embark on his train ride through middle American on Sunday, Vice President Al Gore arrived here Saturday afternoon to plant the administration's flag and act as the president's stand-in until Wednesday night. Gore, who will deliver two prime-time speeches at the convention, told a rally in downtown Chicago, "I am confident of victory because the American people are not buying what the other party is offering."
Gore trumpeted the economic progress under the administration, including lower inflation, a lower deficit, 10 million new jobs and a stock market that has nearly doubled in value and said the president's record shows "what leadership can provide."
Infant Swapped for RentThe Hartford Courant
The Connecticut couple who reported their infant son missing on Wednesday had actually made a deal weeks earlier to give the child to their landlord in exchange for several months' back rent, law enforcement officials said Friday.
The landlord in turn planned to deliver the child to his lesbian sister and another woman in Maryland, authorities said.
James and Lynn Luddy, who claimed their child was abducted from their third-floor apartment in Torrington, were arrested early Friday on risk of injury to a minor and conspiracy charges. Their landlord and another woman allegedly involved in the baby-selling scheme were also charged.
As the result of a tip from a consignment shop owner in Danbury, the infant, James Timothy Luddy Jr., was found late Thursday with Carol M. Brooks, 42, of Brookfield, whom law enforcement officials described as a conduit for the baby's transfer. The 6-week-old boy was in good condition and is now in the custody of the state Department of Children and Families, Torrington police said.
The mastermind behind the scheme, police say, was Jerry Petrovits, 44, of Goshen, a bail bondsman and the Luddys' landlord. One police source said Petrovits hatched the plot to take the child before he was born.
The Luddys, who have been married three years, and Brooks were held in lieu of $200,000 bail after their arraignments Friday morning in Superior Court in Litchfield.
Petrovits' bail, set by police, was $50,000; and it was posted by his daughter shortly after 9 a.m. Friday. The landlord's arraignment is scheduled for Sept. 3. Petrovits could not be reached for comment.