Pubdate: Thu, 05 Aug 1999
Source: Reuters
Copyright: 1999 Reuters Limited.
Author: Kay Henderson


DES MOINES, Iowa (Reuters) - Republican presidential front-runner
George W. Bush decried ``trash-mouth politics'' on Thursday, as
newspapers highlighted his refusal to discuss unsubstantiated
allegations he once used cocaine.

The issue sprung up after Democratic Senate Leader Tom Daschle
Wednesday complained to reporters that the media was giving Bush an
easy ride, compared to the treatment it meted out to first lady
Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Bush, the governor of Texas and son of former President George Bush,
has declined on a number of occasions to speak about what he may or
may not have done when he was younger.

His usual response is to say, ``When I was young and irresponsible, I
behaved that way. I'm not going to inventory what I did.''

He has acknowledged heavy drinking but said he gave up alcohol many
years ago.

Campaigning in Iowa ahead of a nonbinding ``straw poll'' of
Republicans next weekend, Bush told an audience of several hundred
cheering supporters: ``I don't like trash-mouth politics. I don't like
tearing somebody down.''

``I believe so strongly about changing America. That's what I want to
talk about. I'm not going to tear down my opponents,'' Bush added.
``This campaign can elevate politics to a new level.''

In Chicago, Democratic presidential candidate Bill Bradley said he
hoped the campaign would revolve around serious issues rather than

``I would hope we don't go down that road ... I think there are plenty
of positions that would allow people to make their judgements,'' he
told reporters.

Daschle's remarks at a breakfast with reporters prompted one headline
in the conservative Washington Times that read: ''Daschle urges media
to go after Bush; says cocaine rumors need to be probed.''

The South Dakota lawmaker issued a statement Thursday saying he had
been misquoted.

``I said, and I believe, that it is absolutely appropriate and
acceptable for Gov. Bush to refuse to answer questions about his past
personal behavior. What's not so acceptable is for the media to
arbitrarily hold one public figure to one standard of disclosure and
another public figure to a far higher or lower standard,'' Daschle

Democrats have privately complained that Bush has received soft
treatment from the media since entering the presidential race in June.
Some were particularly put out by a seven-part series on Bush that ran
in the Washington Post last week which revealed little that was new.

The New York Daily News used Daschle's comments as a peg to inquire of
all the other presidential candidates from both parties whether they
had used cocaine.

``Eleven of 12 leading presidential candidates yesterday denied ever
using cocaine. The only candidate who refused to answer the question
was Republican front-runner, Texas Gov. George W. Bush,'' the
newspaper reported.

The Iowa straw poll, open to Republicans who pay a $25 entry fee, has
taken on added importance after Bush said he wanted to win with 5,000
votes and 50 percent of the poll.

A poor performance by some of the other candidates might force them
out of the race.

Bush currently leads the Republican field by a large margin and has a
huge money advantage over all his rivals except millionaire publisher
Steve Forbes, who would be able to finance his campaign largely out of
his own pocket.

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