For Republicans in San Diego, the haggling is over. The Platform Committee has decided on its official stance on a wide range of issues, from tax cuts to trade. But the document's language concerning abortion made for an uneasy compromise, and left some attendees gloating and others grumbling. Jeffrey Kaye has a report.
JEFFREY KAYE: This week, the 107 delegates to the Platform Committee approved a 74-page document laying out the ideological principles of the Republican Party. The Patrick Buchanan campaign, along with other conservatives, saw the platform as a major victory.
ANGELA 'BAY' BUCHANAN, Chair, Buchanan Campaign: Clearly, the heart and soul now of this party recognizes the ideas and ideals of Pat Buchanan as being not only legitimate but being as that which should be made the vision for this Republican Party for the future.
JEFFREY KAYE: Conservative activists said for the first time the party's political foundation is now based on core principles advocated by both economic and social conservatives.
PHYLLIS SCHLAFLY, Republican National Coalition for Life: This is the best written and the most conservative Republican platform in many years, and we are very excited about it. There are many good reasons to support it.
REV. LOU SHELDON, Traditional Values Coalition: I really believe you're seeing the dawning of a new day, a defining moment in the history of the Republican Party for one simple reason. There has now been wedding and the amalgamation of great economic conservatives like those that are standing behind me and also social conservatives like those that are standing behind me and myself.
JEFFREY KAYE: That assessment is shared by Illinois Congressman Henry Hyde, who chaired the Platform Committee.
REP. HENRY HYDE, (R) Illinois: It re-emphasizes the conservative direction of the party. The Republican Party is a conservative party. It's a pro-life party.
SPOKESPERSON: The unborn child has a fundamental right to life which cannot be infringed.
JEFFREY KAYE: Although the party's reaffirmation of its anti-abortion stance got the most play in the news media, the platform spans a wide array of issues. Meeting first in subcommittees and then as a committee of the whole, the delegates ended up with a document enumerating traditional Republican principles of lower taxes, a strong military, social conservatism, and smaller government.
REP. HENRY HYDE: Government is too big, it spends too much money. Sometimes the zeal for downsizing can be less than subtle, but after years and years, generations of trying to do something, you realize the establishment is impervious and drastic methods are called for.
JEFFREY KAYE: In just about every plank of the platform, drastic measures meant a definite shift to the right since adoption of the 1992 platform.
DUSTY BOLTON, Delegate, New Mexico: We believe in lower taxes within a simpler tax system in tandem with fair and open trade and a balanced federal government.
JEFFREY KAYE: While the 1992 platform called for unspecified tax reductions, the ‘96 platform echoes Bob Dole's plan for a 15 percent across-the-board tax cut. The trade policy section in part reflects the protectionist views of Pat Buchanan, with a call for more vigorous enforcement of trade agreements.
SPOKESPERSON: Do we have a second?
JEFFREY KAYE: There is also tougher talk on illegal immigration, which the new platform declares a crisis. It calls for a ban on non-emergency aid to illegal immigrants and a curtailment of public assistance to legal aliens.
SPOKESPERSON: If we're going to expect that folks are going to vote for Republicans in this fall's election, we're going to have to show some differences. And we've carried that give me your tired, your poor to its furthest extreme under the Democrat leadership of this country.
JEFFREY KAYE: Under Republican leadership, according to the platform, there would be a drive for legislation to deny automatic citizenship to the U.S.-born children of illegal immigrants.
REP. HENRY HYDE: Being born in this country has always entitled you to citizenship, but under--in the circumstance where the parents have deliberately broken the law perhaps for the purpose of having children and having them become citizens, I think it's reasonable to want to halt that.
JEFFREY KAYE: In a section of the platform entitled Families and Society, delegates expressed their social conservatism by voting to review the nation's divorce laws.
DANIEL PERKINS, Delegate, Louisiana: Legally, it may be easier to divorce your spouse of 25 years than it is to fire an employee of two weeks.
SPOKESMAN: We do not support spouses who just abdicate their responsibilities and walk out the door and have no accountability for it.
SPOKESMAN: All of those in favor of the amendment say aye.
PEOPLE IN GROUP: Aye.
SPOKESMAN: All of those opposed say no.
PEOPLE IN GROUP: No.
JEFFREY KAYE: And on the abortion issue, which stirred the most controversy, the committee voted overwhelmingly to retain the party's staunch anti-abortion position. The platform retains the party's position which since 1984 has called for a constitutional amendment to outlaw abortions. After contentious debate, the committee rejected an amendment pushed by Bob Dole that would have expressed tolerance for abortion rights advocates. Instead, the committee voted to publish an addendum to the platform that would include all dissenting views.
REP. HENRY HYDE: We're a party of the open door. We think that our arguments and our diversity is a sign of strength, rather than weakness. But we are a pro-life party, and we support the right of the unborn to, to live.
JEFFREY KAYE: The open door language was intended to satisfy Republican abortion rights activists such as Ann Stone of Republicans for Choice but Stone says the anti-abortion plank will cost the party votes, regardless of the open door policy.
ANN STONE, Republicans for Choice: We still feel the open door is closed. In fact, we can just throw a padlock on it.
JEFFREY KAYE: Meaning?
ANN STONE: Meaning that as long as you have a constitutional amendment to ban abortion in that platform, you're still shutting women out because you're not recognizing their role in contemporary society. And that's what the party has failed to understand.
JEFFREY KAYE: But party leaders called on Republicans to set aside their differences and Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich stated that Republicans are more united than Democrats.
REP. NEWT GINGRICH, Speaker of the House: And I challenge our friends in the news media, go ask Dick Gephardt, is he going to speak in Chicago about how opposed he is to the welfare bill. Go ask David Bonior. Is he going to speak in Chicago about how opposed he is. Ask the members of the Black Caucus. Yes, this is a great majority party, and yes, the Republican Party has debates within itself. But by comparison with the Democratic Party, we are unified, we are together, and we are going to win the election this fall.
JEFFREY KAYE: Today workers were setting the stage for Monday's convention just as delegates were preparing to showcase a platform they believe will enable Bob Dole to beat Bill Clinton.