WE first knew Bob Dole had won - well, maybe - when Hillary Rodham Clinton climaxed her Democratic convention speech with his words: "And that is what this election is all about." If Mr. Dole has not patented the what-it's-all-about refrain, he must have squatter's rights to it.
"That's what the election is all about - trust," he declared last week, and in the same address said the election was "about" at least four other things - family, leadership, business, and the next century. We seem to remember he used to say, "And that's what Bob Dole's all about." But we can't recall just what the "that" was.
This may be part of the problem critics see in "about" as this year's all-purpose campaign word. It seems to say more than it does. It's "You get the idea" rather than "I'll tell you what I'm going to do." If only Bob Dole, in his image-softening mode, had said from his Kansas alfalfa field, "Just call me Alfie." Then we could sing the old song, "What's it all about, Alfie?"
As it is, Dole gave his own best answer at the Republican convention. In the unexpected (no offense, Senator) eloquence of his acceptance speech, he never fell back on his signature phrase. He told us what he believed and what he intended and let us decide if that's what the election is all about.