Bush hits at 'big spender' Clinton

GEORGE BUSH made his most energetic pitch yet yesterday to take back the initiative on economic policy in the US election, labelling Bill Clinton a social engineer bent on replacing free enterprise with government intervention.

Seeking to turn attention away from the past and his own weak economic record, Mr Bush drew a sharp distinction between his own commitment to tax cuts and entrepreneurship and Mr Clinton's promise to increase government investment in education and training with tax increases.

'This is the most fundemental disagreement between us,' the President told supporters at a rally in Oklahoma. 'Whether the driving engine of growth is government interventionism or entrepreneurial capitalism.'

Comparing Mr Clinton to early European socialist leaders, Mr Bush declared: 'My opponent and his advisers can trace their intellectual roots to the social engineering ideas popular at the turn of the century.' And targeting Mr Clinton's commitment to raising government investment, he added: 'No matter what you call it, it's still big-time government spending directed by Washington planners who want to reorder social and economic priorities.'

Mr Bush's assault came as a new crop of opinion polls confirmed Mr Clinton still holding a more than respectable 10-15 point lead over the President, with little sign of Mr Bush achieving new headway. All the surveys confirm voters holding the economy as the issue of most importance.

The Bush campaign meanwhile seized on fresh evidence that Mr Clinton may have misled the US military in seeking to avoid the Vietnam draft 23 years ago, dubbing him 'Mr Doublespeak' and unfit to be president. This latest draft flap was triggered by an affidavit released by the former chief of the reserve training programme in Arkansas, for which Mr Clinton signed himself on in 1969 but never attended.

In the statement, Colonel Eugene Holmes, accused him of 'purposely defrauding the military'. The White House spokesman, Marlin Fitzwater, said it went 'to the heart of why Bill Clinton should not be president'. And in a reference to inconsistencies in the explanations offered by Mr Clinton about his draft record, Mr Fitzwater added: 'The issue is not the war; the issue is how he approaches problems - Mr Doublespeak on all of these policy issues that he deals with.'

Mr Fitzwater's attack confirms a strategy in the Bush camp of taking every chance of undermining the opposition's credibility, especially where his military record is concerned. Latest polls suggest, none the less, that voters have yet to be influenced by the draft question and are in fact equally suspicious of Mr Bush's role in the Iran-Contra affair of six years ago.

Mr Clinton, meanwhile, travelled to Colorado, traditionally a Republican state but which this year could be a Democratic win. On Wednesday evening the Governor and his wife, Hillary, were guests at a star-studded fund-raiser in Hollywood, led by such notables as Barbra Streisand, Richard Dreyfuss and Dustin Hoffman. In her own tribute the actress Whoopi Goldberg declared: 'Bill, babe . . . You're a pretty neat cat. I like you]'

(Photograph omitted)