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George W. Bush on Welfare & Poverty

President of the United States, Former Republican Governor (TX)


2002: Close the homeownership gap for minorities

On October, 15, 2002, Bush announced a new national goal: "We have a problem here in America because fewer than half of the Hispanics and half the African Americans own their own home. That's a home ownership gap we've got to work together to close for the good of our country, for the sake of a more hopeful future. We've got to work to knock down the barriers that have created a home ownership gap. I set an ambitious goal: that by the end of this decade we'll increase the number of minority homeowners by at least 5.5 million families. And it's going to require a strong commitment from those of you involved in the housing industry."

By mid-2006, not yet four years after Bush's speech, minority home ownership had grown by 2.7 million, trumpeted the Weekly Standard, in "Closing the Gap: The Quiet Success of the Bush Administration's Push for Home Ownership."

Source: Suicide of a Superpower, by Pat Buchanan, p. 22-24 , Oct 18, 2011

2002 National Service agenda: community & compassion abroad

Bush announced in the 2002 State of the Union address: "We want to be a nation that served goals larger than self," the president said, explaining that 9/11 had caused Americans to begin "to think less of the goods we can accumulate, and more about the good we can do." Then he asked every American to commit two years--four thousand hours--of service over their lifetimes and outlined his community and national service agenda.

The national service agenda had three priorities: responding to emergencies such as 9/11, strengthening communities, and extending American's compassion abroad. The president also announced that a new White House council, reporting directly to him, would coordinate these service efforts throughout the federal government. It was called USA Freedom Corps and it helped direct an extraordinary amount of good works to productive endeavors and ranks as one of the most successful service campaigns in our country's history. The results are there for all to see.

Source: Courage and Consequence, by Karl Rove, p.292-293 , Nov 2, 2010

Appoints Laura Bush to lead anti-gang initiative

Because one of the deepest values of our country is compassion, we must never turn away from any citizen who feels isolated from the opportunities of America. Our government will continue to support faith-based and community groups that bring hope to harsh places.

Now we need to focus on giving young people, especially young men in our cities, better options than apathy, or gangs, or jail. Tonight I propose a three-year initiative to help organizations keep young people out of gangs, in programs ranging from literacy to sports. And I am proud that the leader of this nationwide effort will be our First Lady, Laura Bush.

Source: 2005 State of the Union Speech , Feb 2, 2005

I would have increased the minimum wage

KERRY: We need to hold on to equal pay. Women work for 76 cents on the dollar for the same work that men do. That’s not right in America. We had an initiative that we were working on to raise women’s pay. The Republicans have stopped it. They don’t enforce these kinds of things. It’s a matter of fundamental right that if we raise the minimum wage, 15 million Americans would be positively affected. We’d put money into the hands of people who work hard, who obey the rules, who play for the American dream. If we did that, we’d have more consumption ability in America, which is what we need in order to kick our economy into gear. I will fight tooth & nail to pass the minimum wage.

BUSH: Mitch McConnell had a minimum-wage plan that I supported that would have increased the minimum wage. But let me talk about what’s really important for the worker you’re referring to. And that’s to make sure the education system works. The No Child Left Behind Act is really a jobs act when you think about it.

Source: [Xref Kerry] Third Bush-Kerry debate, in Tempe AZ , Oct 13, 2004

Compassionate conservatism means self-help over gov’t help

Rove recommended books to Bush to read that mirrored Bush’s thoughts that the feel-good, permissive values of the 1960’s undermined the strength of families and helped create dependency on government, ultimately harming the disadvantaged classes. Bush, in discussions with the authors, fashioned the concept of “compassionate conservatism.”

It was not a catchy phrase, and conservatives didn’t like it because it implied that there was something wrong with being a conservative -like calling someone a realistic liberal. But the phrase accurately described Bush’s philosophy. His goal was to help people. He believed the best way to do that was to develop government programs and policies that allowed them to help themselves. He did not see the government as the enemy, as the traditional conservatives did. Often, adjusting existing programs could achieve results while saving taxpayers money. Reducing taxes, in turn, was yet another way to help people.

Source: A Matter of Character, by Ronald Kessler, p. 58 , Aug 5, 2004

Created USA Freedom Corps to strengthen culture of service

In his second year in office, the President created the USA Freedom Corps to help all Americans to answer his call to service. The USA Freedom Corps is working to strengthen our culture of service and help find opportunities for every American to start volunteering. To accomplish this, they are bringing together the resources of the federal government with the non-profit, business, educational, faith-based and other sectors to begin that process and to measure our results.
Source: 2004 Presidential website, georgewbush.com , Aug 29, 2003

Calls for 4,000 hours of national service for every citizen

For too long our culture has said, “If it feels good, do it.” Now America is embracing a new ethic and a new creed: “Let’s roll.” We want to be a nation that serves goals larger than self. My call tonight is for every American to commit at least two years-4,000 hours-over the rest of your lifetime to the service of your neighbors and your nation.

To sustain and extend the best that has emerged in America, I invite you to join the new USA Freedom Corps. The Freedom Corps will focus on three areas of need: responding in case of crisis at home, rebuilding our communities, and extending American compassion throughout the world.

And America needs citizens to extend the compassion of our country to every part of the world, so we will renew the promise of the Peace Corps, double its volunteers over the next five years and ask it to join a new effort to encourage development and education and opportunity in the Islamic world.

Source: State of the Union speech to joint session of Congress , Jan 29, 2002

Housing: Help low-income purchasers, and housing developers

Source: Washington Post, p. G5 , Oct 28, 2000

Housing: Use HUD rental vouchers for first home purchase

Creation of an “American Dream Downpayment Fund,” which would allow low-income families to use up to a year’s worth of HUD Section 8 rental vouchers to make a down payment on a home. “When a low-income family is qualified to buy a house but comes up short on the down payment, we will help them,” Bush said. “If they and the bank can come up with 25% of the down payment, the government will pay the rest, up to $1,500.” Section 8 vouchers can already be used to help with mortgage payments.
Source: Washington Post, p. G5 , Oct 28, 2000

Bush’s Texan philosophy for the poor: up-by-the-bootstraps

From 1995 to 1998, the poverty rate in Texas decreased more than 10%, compared with an almost 9% drop nationwide. Tax cuts & economic reforms have resulted in the lowest state unemployment rate in nearly 20 years; welfare reform has cut public assistance rolls in half; and legal changes have expanded the role of religious groups in helping the poor.

In many ways, Bush’s record dovetails with the Texas worldview, which places the burden for escaping poverty on the poor, not the government. Conservative groups and analysts praise the governor and his actions precisely for their strong embrace of basic Republican philosophies. Texas has an up-by-the-bootstraps culture and people often loath to give-or ask for-help. The Texas Constitution prohibits the Legislature from spending more than 1% of the state budget on poor children. Cash welfare benefits are $201 a month for a mother and two children in 1995. California, by comparison, pays $611 a month for a similar family.

Source: La Ganga & Miller, L.A. Times , Oct 16, 2000

Transform low-income rentals to home ownership

We will transform today’s housing rental program to help hundreds of thousands of low-income families find stability and dignity in a home of their own. And, in the next bold step of welfare reform, we will support the heroic work of homeless shelters and hospices, food pantries and crisis pregnancy centers -- people reclaiming their communities block-by-block and heart-by-heart. My administration will give taxpayers new incentives to donate to charity.
Source: Speech to Republican National Convention , Aug 3, 2000

Focus welfare on transition to work & responsibility

Bush has called for a $8 billion plan to get religious and other volunteer organizations to assume more responsibilities for the needy. He supports welfare time limits, work and education requirements. He has proposed a requirement that unwed teen mothers live at home or in group home. In Texas, Bush proposed increased child-care aid and other transition benefits.
Source: NY Times , Jun 5, 2000

$1.7B over 5 years for home rehabs in poor neighborhoods

Bush today unveiled a plan to encourage private developers to build and rehabilitate houses in run-down, struggling neighborhoods. The incentive would be money: $1.7 billion, over five years, in federal tax credits for developers working in poor and moderate-income areas. Bush estimated that the program would make work easier on as many as 20,000 houses a year. More important, he said, it would introduce to an increasing number of Americans the experience of home ownership, which he described as a fundamental aspiration that should be more easily attainable. “Part of the American dream is owning your own home,” Bush said. “Part of the American dream is saying, This place is mine.” In recognition of that, Mr. Bush said, he continually asks-and tries to answer-the question, “How do I help people own? Not just those who are entrepreneurs or those at the top of the economic ladder-how do we help every willing heart, everybody in America, own a piece of this great land? And I’ve got some ideas.”
Source: Frank Bruni, NY Times, part of “Renewing America’s Purpose” , Apr 19, 2000

50% tax credits for 20,000 home rehabs per year

Bush would allow developers to apply for as much as 50% of the cost of their work on certain houses in tax credits. The houses in question would have to be for people making no more than 80% of the median family income in their area-nationally, the median is about $51,000-and living in neighborhoods where most residents fall into the same income bracket. The impact of the plan, which Bush’s aides said could contribute to the building or rehabilitation of 100,000 houses over five years, would be limited. But a Bush aide said the new housing initiative, like the others, was a supplement to an array of existing federal housing programs. “We’re not aiming today to solve the nation’s housing problems,” he said. “What we’ve proposed over the last week is a bucket of new tools.” [Unlike Gore’s low-income housing plan, which is aimed at subsidizing rent], Bush’s initiatives are specifically aimed at home ownership, which he described as a catalyst for safer streets and better schools.
Source: Frank Bruni, New York Times , Apr 19, 2000

New Prosperity Initiative: rent vouchers; homeowner credits

Source: Fact Sheet: “New Prosperity Initiative/Renewing America” , Apr 11, 2000

$1B & tax credits for Individual Development Accounts

The 1996 Welfare Reform law allowed states to incorporate matched savings accounts-“Individual Development Accounts” (IDAs)-into their welfare programs. IDAs are designed to help low-income families accumulate wealth. Financial institutions, charities, & faith-based groups match low-income depositors’ savings. Depositors can then withdraw the funds for education, homeownership, and entrepreneurship.
Source: Fact Sheet: “New Prosperity Initiative/Renewing America” , Apr 11, 2000

Remove tax “tollbooths” for poor single moms

“The hardest job in America is to be a single mom, making $20,000 a year,” Bush declared. He promised that as president, he would reduce the struggling woman’s marginal income tax rate and “knock down her tollbooth to the middle class.”
Source: Boston Globe, p. A1 , Jan 22, 2000

Supports low-income heating oil assistance program

Bush said he strongly backed a federal program to provide heating oil assistance to low-income residents. “I do support LIHEAP,” Bush said, referring to the federal Low Income Heat & Energy Assistance Program, which has provided billions in relief to families during the cold winter months. At last week’s debate, Bush said he would push for more oil exploration but did not mention LIHEAP. However, he said he has always backed the program and would oppose efforts in Congress to impose cuts.
Source: Boston Herald, p. 14 , Dec 9, 1999

Work and responsibility to replace welfare

Source: “A Charge to Keep”, p. 32 , Dec 9, 1999

Too much government fosters dependency

The new culture said if people were poor, the government should feed them. If criminals are not responsible for their acts, then the answers are not in prisons, but in social programs. People became less interested in pulling themselves up by their bootstraps and more interested in pulling down a monthly government check. A culture of dependency was born. Programs that began as a temporary hand-up became a permanent handout, regarded by many as a right.
Source: “A Charge to Keep”, p.229-230 , Dec 9, 1999

1972: early job as inner city youth counselor

After flirting briefly with the idea of running for the state legislature, George W.'s first notable full-time job was in 1972 as a youth counselor for the Professionals United for Leadership League (Project P.U.L.L.), an inner-city antipoverty program in Houston, of which his father was a "benevolent supporter" and honorary chairman. George W. remained for a few months counseling the hardened black youth in the city's tough Third Ward, playing basketball and wrestling with them, and taking the teenagers on field trips to juvenile prisons.

Bush so impressed his African-American co-workers with his dedication that they still speak highly of him almost 30 years later. "He was the first real white boy that all of the kids really loved," said one co-worker, who noted that George W. forged a special bond with boys whose upbringing in no way resembled his own. Another co-worker recalled that Junior was "so down-to-earth, I just thought he was a poor kid trying to make his way in the world."

Source: Fortunate Son, by J.H.Hatfield, p. 49 , Aug 17, 1999


George W. Bush on Faith-based organizations

1996: faith-based groups change lives; secular ones can't

"We need to fix the foundations," a TX pastor said, "and your old government programs aren't doing the job." He said he had a better alternative. It was the most effective welfare system in the world. It had buildings on many street corners, a list of willing workers, and regular meetings to study the perfect manual for saving lives.

He was talking about houses of worship. And he was right. Faith-based programs had the potential to change lives in ways secular ones never could. "Government can hand out money," I said, "but it cannot put hope in a person's heart or a sense of purpose in a person's life."

Source: Decision Points, by Pres. George W. Bush, p.277-279 , Nov 9, 2010

Armies of compassion receive payment in another form

The trip was [my daughter] Barbara's first time to Africa and it touched her deeply. After volunteering on my 2004 campaign, she went to work at a pediatric AIDS clinic in South Africa. Inspired by her experience, she later founded a nonprofit, Global Health Corps, which sends recent college graduates to clinics in 3 African countries and 2 American inner cities.

[My other daughter] Jenna also discovered a passion for working with AIDS patients. She volunteered for UNICEF in several Latin American countries. She wrote a bestseller called "Ana's Story" about a girl who was born with HIV.

Laura and I are very proud of our daughters. They have become professional women serving a cause greater than themselves. They are part of a larger movement of Americans who devote their time and money to helping less fortunate. These good souls are part of what I call the armies of compassion. Many come from faith-based organizations and seek no compensation. They receive payment in another form.

Source: Decision Points, by Pres. George W. Bush, p.343-344 , Nov 9, 2010

By 2007, 11% of $20B in annual grants went to FBOs

Bush's ideas were radical, that faith-based groups should be allowed to compete for government grants. They couldn't use taxpayer dollars to preach or refuse to serve someone because of religion, but Bush said, "The days of discriminating against religious institutions, simply because they are religious, must come to an end."

He set up a White House office to promote these efforts and issued an executive order providing religious charities equal access to government grant monies. No longer could only secular nonprofits apply for the roughly $20 billion each year to confront addiction, homelessness, and domestic violence. By 2007, roughly 10.8% of these funds were going to faith-based charities. Bush's focus was not whether you were a sacred or secular organization, but whether your program changed lives.

We were accused of using the Faith-Based Initiative to channel money to evangelical groups as "patronage for its friends on the Christian right."

Source: Courage and Consequence, by Karl Rove, p.239 , Nov 2, 2010

Never discriminate against religious charities

Because religious charities provide a safety net of mercy and compassion, our government must never discriminate against them.
Source: 2004 Republican Convention Acceptance Speech , Sep 2, 2004

Faith-based charity doesn’t violate church-state separation

Bush pushed to allow religious groups to compete for federal money to operate programs for the needy. At first blush, mixing religion with government appeared to be a violation of the principle of separating church and state. But, if organizations were already in place to help the needy, why not give them more funds to do their jobs? Those funds were available for organizations that had no religious affiliation. The fact that an organizations that was affiliated with the Catholic, Jewish, Protestant, or Muslim faiths received federal money did not mean the money would be used to fund religion. It meant the money would be channeled to help those who are hungry, addicted to drugs, or illiterate in the most efficient way possible because the overhead for attacking those problems and the volunteers to work on them already existed. Thus, taxpayers would not have to pay for the new layers of bureaucracy to distribute the aid. In effect, it was a way to leverage the government’s money.
Source: A Matter of Character, by Ronald Kessler, p.122-25 , Aug 5, 2004

TX first: religious charities delivering welfare services

In time, he would persuade the Texas legislature to pass a bill that permitted faith-based institutions to opt out of certain state licensing requirements.

He issued an Executive Order making Texas the 1st state to establish the option of using private and religious charities to deliver welfare services. He set up a level playing field for both religious and nonreligious groups for Texas social service contracts, abstinence education grants, and poverty-fighting initiatives. He made Texas the 1st state to permit a state prison unit to be operated by a ministry. He recommended and signed a law requiring governmental agencies to develop welfare-to-work partnerships with faith-based groups in a way that respects those groups' unique religious character.

Even detractors soon realized that Bush was actually doing what conservatives had talked about in theory for decades.

Source: The Faith of George W. Bush, by Stephen Mansfield, p.101 , Apr 12, 2004

Unleash the passion of religious charity

It’s important to strengthen our communities by unleashing the compassion of America’s religious institutions. Religious charities of every creed are doing some of the most vital work in our country: mentoring children, feeding the hungry, taking the hand of the lonely. Yet government has often denied social-service grants and contracts to these groups just because they have a cross or a Star of David or a crescent on the wall. By executive order, I have opened billions of dollars in grant money to competition that includes faith-based charities. Tonight I ask you to codify this into law so people of faith can know that the law will never discriminate against them again.
Source: 2004 State of the Union address to joint session of Congress , Jan 20, 2004

One of first acts was establishing faith-based initiatives

One of the President’s first official actions was to establish the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives. The purpose of the initiative is to recognize our greatest strength-the hearts and souls of the American people-and apply that strength to
Source: 2004 Presidential website, georgewbush.com , Aug 29, 2003

Faith-based initiative keeps separation of church and state

Q: The mixing of religion and government, for centuries, has led to slaughter. The very fact that our country has stood in good stead by having this separation - why do you break it down?

A: I strongly respect the separation of church and state.

Q: You wouldn’t have a religious office in the White House if you did.

A: I believe that so long as there’s a secular alternative available, we ought to allow individuals who we’re helping to be able to choose a program that may be run by a faith-based program. I understand full well that some of the most compassionate missions of help and aid come out of faith-based programs. And I strongly support the faith-based initiative that we’re proposing because I don’t believe it violates the line between the separation of church and state. And I believe it’s going to make America a better place.

Source: White House news conference , Feb 22, 2001

Religious groups must be part of solution to society’s ills

Bush is trying to defuse criticism of his proposal to shift certain government-funded assistance programs to religious institutions. Just as his voucher plan has drawn fire, battle lines are being drawn over Bush’s “faith-based action” plan. Critics say its programs blur the constitutional lines separating church and state. They also say that religious groups cannot really take the place of government programs. Even some churches are wary of strings that might be attached to money from the federal purse.

The new president says religious groups must be part of the solution to society’s ills. “A compassionate society is one which recognizes the great power of faith,” Bush said. “We in government must not fear faith-based programs, we must welcome

Source: Frank Bruni & Laurie Goodstein, NY Times, p. A17 , Jan 25, 2001

Establish federal & state “offices of faith-based action”

Bush plans to establish an “office of faith-based action” to oversee the programs and distribute money, and wants each state to do the same. He has not said who will head the office, which is expected to spend several billion dollars over the next 10 years on new funding for programs and tax credits.

One program Bush holds up as an example is Faith Works, a nondenominational social service agency in Milwaukee that helps troubled fathers with drug treatment, job training and placement. Its residential program also offers clients parenting and marriage counseling. Bush last summer visited the center, which claims an 80 percent success rate, and said it was “exactly the kind of program I envision” on a broader scale. A religious liberties organization, the Freedom From Religion Foundation, has filed suit in federal court, saying the program should be terminated because it conveys “a message that the Christian religion is favored, preferred and promoted over other beliefs and nonbelief.”

Source: Frank Bruni & Laurie Goodstein, NY Times, p. A17 , Jan 25, 2001

Government solving social problems crowds out compassion

My concern about the role of the federal government is that an intrusive government, a government that says, ‘Don’t worry, we will solve your problems’ is a government that tends to crowd compassion out of the marketplace, that too often in the past people said: ‘Somebody else will take care of the problem in my area. Don’t worry. The government is here.’

The problem with that point of view is that government can hand out money. No question about it. And we will in the Bush administration in a responsible way. But what government cannot do is put hope in people’s hearts, a sense of purpose in people’s lives. Government cannot make people love one another. I wish it could. I’d sign the law.

I’m here for a reason: to make it as clear as I can the power that faith can play in people’s lives, the notion that a soul searches for a better way and that there are programs throughout our society where a loving person puts an arm around a shoulder and says, ‘Somebody loves you, brother or sister.’

Source: Remarks at Cityteam Ministries, San Jose, CA , Oct 31, 2000

Supported church-based poverty program in Rio Grande Valley

If the Rio Grande Valley of Texas, the 42 border-region counties, were a separate nation, they'd look like a Central American republic. The people here constitute the largest segment of Texas' working poor.

The border region is desperately in need of public money and infrastructure. But in spite of back-to-back budget surpluses exceeding $10 billion in the 1997 and 1999 legislative sessions, there is no evidence that George W. Bush ever considered a coordinated plan for the Valley or any other stretch of the border. What he wanted was big tax cuts in a state that already ranks 50th in per capita state spending.

"He doesn't veto any of our stuff. That's the best we can say about him," said Sister Judy Donovan, who works with Valley Interfaith, a church-based advocacy group in the lower Rio Grande Valley. She added that over the past four years Bush has provided $1.6 million from his discretionary funds to a regional job-training program Valley Interfaith lobbied to establish.

Source: Shrub, by Molly Ivins, p. 170-172 , Oct 1, 2000

Devolve welfare to both state and private charities

Source: The Economist, “Issues 2000” special , Sep 30, 2000

Fund faith-based private programs that promote independence

The cornerstone of Bush’s welfare reform agenda gives states the flexibility to fund private, public or faith based programs that successfully move people from welfare to work. Welfare reform is an ongoing mission. Through successful efforts in states across America, millions of people have moved from welfare to work, and Bush says we must continue to help others develop the skills and find the jobs that will lead to truly independent lives. Bush said, “I have made welfare reform a priority as Governor, and I will do so as president. I will renew our national commitment to the principles of welfare reform: Job training. Independence. Personal responsibility. A safety net for those who still face struggle. And flexibility for the states, to continue doing the fine work we see here today.“
Source: Press Release, “Welfare Reform” , Jun 27, 2000

Church-based solutions for drugs, daycare, & crime

Source: GeorgeWBush.com: ‘Issues: Policy Points Overview’ , Apr 2, 2000

“No-strings” vouchers for religious groups to do charity

Bush advocates letting government rely on religious groups to handle social issues. His attitude toward the federal role in administering [drug programs and other social] programs is, essentially, that the government should not have any restrictions at all. “This is a program that receives no federal or state money. I asked the director, would you accept a voucher attached to a person seeking help? The director said yes, under only one condition: No strings. And I agree with that concept.”
Source: Boston Globe, p. A12 , Jan 22, 2000

Religious charities deserve government support

Participation in faith-based programs must be voluntary, and we must make sure secular alternatives are available. But government should welcome the active involvement of people who are following a religious imperative to love their neighbors through after-school programs, child care, drug treatment, maternity group homes, and a range of other services. Supporting these men and women. is the next bold step of welfare reform.
Source: “A Charge to Keep”, p.232 , Dec 9, 1999

Churches provide “armies of compassion” to help the poor

Bush spoke so often about “armies of compassion” -- the phrase he uses to communicate his idea that churches and charity groups, rather than Government, should assist the poor -- that he sounded like something of a drill sergeant. Bush’s aides said the Baptist church at which Bush spoke was chosen because it was known for for helping the poor with its own resources. “Government can hand out money,” Bush said. “But what it cannot do is put hope in our hearts and a sense of purpose in our lives.”
Source: New York Times, p. A18 , Oct 5, 1999

Look first to faith-based organizations

“In every instance where my administration sees a responsibility to help people, we will look first to faith-based organizations, charities and community groups that have shown their ability to save and change lives.” Governor Bush has stressed the necessity of encouraging acts of compassion. “These aren’t ‘crumbs of compassion’ to people whose lives are changed, they are the hope of renewal. These are not the crumbs, they are the bread of life. They are strengthening the soul of America,” he said.
Source: News Release: “Great Outdoors” , Aug 11, 1999

Religious groups compete for state service contracts

Source: GeorgeWBush.com/News/ “Faith in Action” , Jun 12, 1999

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Other past presidents on Welfare & Poverty: George W. Bush on other issues:
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George W. Bush(R,2001-2009)
Bill Clinton(D,1993-2001)
George Bush Sr.(R,1989-1993)
Ronald Reagan(R,1981-1989)
Jimmy Carter(D,1977-1981)
Gerald Ford(R,1974-1977)
Richard Nixon(R,1969-1974)
Lyndon Johnson(D,1963-1969)
John F. Kennedy(D,1961-1963)
Dwight Eisenhower(R,1953-1961)
Harry S Truman(D,1945-1953)

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Sen.Bob Dole
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