Bush accused of mud-slinging

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PRESIDENT George Bush used a phone-in television show to stir more questions about Bill Clinton's anti-Vietnam war activities as a student, prompting charges that he is adopting 'smear' tactics akin to the stories of leftist sympathies used against Neil Kinnock in the British general election.

Appearing live on CNN, Mr Bush questioned Mr Clinton's patriotism, criticising him for having demonstrated against the Vietnam war when he was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford. He also suggested that the Arkansas Governor was hiding details of a trip he made to Moscow during the 1969 Christmas break.

Mr Clinton, under pressure for months to explain his avoidance of the Vietnam draft, this week acknowledged that he took part in anti-war rallies while in Britain and confirmed he had visited Moscow. But he has ridiculed claims that the visit was KGB- financed, saying he was a tourist.

Suggesting that Mr Clinton had failed to tell all of his anti-war past, Mr Bush said he should 'level on the draft, level on whether he went to Moscow, on how many demonstrations he led . . . tell us the truth'.

Attacking the Democratic candidate directly for his anti-Vietnam efforts, Mr Bush went on: 'Maybe I'm old-fashioned, but to go to a foreign country and demonstrate, when your sons and daughters are dying half-way around the world - I'm sorry, I just don't like it. I think it's wrong. I cannot for the life of me understand mobilising demonstrations and demonstrations against your own country, no matter how strongly you feel, when you're in a foreign land.'

With Mr Clinton maintaining a comfortable lead in the polls, there is little sign so far of such personal attacks cutting much ice with voters.

A Clinton spokesman said that Mr Bush's comments were 'a sad and pathetic ploy by a desperate politician'. He added: 'If he worried as much about what most Americans are going through in 1992 as he does about what Bill Clinton did in 1969, we'd all be in much better shape.'

Increasingly, Clinton officials are pointing to the apparent similarity between the latest Bush tactics and those used by John Major in the last stretch of the British election. Republican officials concede that any last hopes they have of salvation are pinned on the Major model and that they have consulted Tory strategists.

Just as the Conservatives indicated to voters that taxes would rise under Labour, so the Republicans have suggested that Bill Clinton would bring tax increases to the middle classes. Democratic officials also compare the investigation into Mr Clinton's Moscow trip to questions raised in the Sunday Times in February about a visit paid by Mr Kinnock to the Soviet embassy in London.

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