WHO'S GOP IS IT?
AUGUST 14, 1996
Kwame Holman reports on what some of the delegates think about the alleged double image, the party of the prime-time podium versus that of the platform and the delegates.
A RealAudio version of this NewsHour segment is available here.
Aug. 14:Pat Buchanan talks about his place and influence in the Republican Party.
June 24:A NewsHour look at the Texas GOP convention, and it's strongly pro-life plaform and tone.
Complete NewsHour coverage of the Republican primary campaign and Election '96 is available here.
KWAME HOLMAN: There has been precious little suspense for delegates at the Republican National Convention. Their presidential nominee was chosen months ago. His running mate was picked just before the delegates arrived at the convention. Conservative and moderate delegates agreed to disagree on the contentious issue of abortion, eliminating the threat of a floor fight over the party platform. The 123-member Texas delegation, second largest to California's, partied this week along the beach at LaJolla, North of the convention site.
WOMAN: Bob Dole and Kemp--we're with the Retire Ross Perot group. (laughter)
KWAME HOLMAN: Meanwhile, the New Jersey delegation, 48 members strong, gathered at the B Street dock for a sunset cruise aboard the SS Horn Blower. State Party Leader Chuck Haytaian appeared relaxed, recording convention moments on videotape for a local news station back home. The atmosphere surrounding the New Jersey delegates is much different from four years ago in Houston. In 1992, the mostly moderate delegation was deeply split over strong anti-abortion language in the party platform. A floor fight threatened to disrupt the convention and from behind closed doors, Chuck Haytaian warned against it.
CHUCK HAYTAIAN, New Jersey Republican Party: (1992) We have a convention that we want to come out of with a bounce of at least 10 points. This issue is divisive enough to keep that bounce to minus 20. That wouldn't be any bounce. I don't think we have to add to that problem.
KWAME HOLMAN: This year, however, there are no such problems. The agreement to include some minority positions on abortion in the party platform reduced this week's platform vote to a mere formality.
REP. HENRY HYDE: Mr. Chairman, I move the adoption of the report of the committee on resolutions.
KWAME HOLMAN: In fact, most of New Jersey's delegates weren't even in the convention hall when the platform passed. Chuck Haytaian seemed satisfied.
KWAME HOLMAN: Mr. Haytaian, four years ago at about this time you had delegates preparing to demonstrate and show their displeasure with the plank, with the platform because of abortion. What's going on now?
CHUCK HAYTAIAN: Well, that fight rightfully was fought in the Platform Committee. We gave our ideas, our thoughts. In fact, I think there's been some games. The very fact that the platform now has what occurred with resolutions, although they were defeated, are now part of the platform as an appendix, I think it's a foot in the door, so, therefore, we now have the unity that we want and the fact of unity means winning the presidential race, that's what it's all about.
KWAME HOLMAN: For the Texas delegation, this convention lacks the drama that enveloped their state party convention in San Antonio just two months ago, also over the issue of abortion. In June, conservatives ousted moderates from the delegation and signed an anti-abortion pledge.
BILL PRICE, Texans United for Life: This convention has decided to stand up and say we're not sending pro-aborts to San Diego to fight to change our party platform. (applause)
KWAME HOLMAN: Now in San Diego, Texas delegate Lynn Smith stopped short of calling for the ouster of moderates from the national delegation.
KWAME HOLMAN: But you would want them to continue to stay in the party and be, and be part of the party?
LYNN SMITH, Texas Delegate: I don't see--that's a tough question to answer--I don't agree with them, you know, philosophically, and I believe that the majority of the party--I believe it's a very small minority of the party is abortion advocates, and I want to see the party unite against Clinton, and, you know, we need to pull together in that effort. I'm not going to agree with ‘em philosophically over the abortion issue, though, never.
KWAME HOLMAN: In an effort to demonstrate unity, convention organizers named the conservative governor of Texas and New Jersey's moderate governor as temporary convention co-chairs and featured both on opening night in prime time. But the featured speaker was party moderate Colin Powell.
GEN. COLIN POWELL, Former Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff: You all know--you all know that I believe in a woman's right to choose, and I strongly support affirmative action. (applause) And I was invited, and I was invited here by my party to share my views with you because we are a big enough party and big enough people to disagree on individual issues and still work together for our common goal, restoring the American dream.
KWAME HOLMAN: And in prime time last night, a steady stream of moderates followed. New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman was back. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson was one of the delegates Texas conservatives tried to oust last June because of her moderate views on abortion, but they failed, and there she was in prime time last night. And, of course, New York Congresswoman Susan Molinari, a strong supporter of abortion rights, gave last night's keynote address.
REP. SUSAN MOLINARI, (R) New York: We must choose the better man for a better America, and that man we know is Bob Dole. (applause)
KWAME HOLMAN: This morning, New Jersey delegates attending a rally with Gov. Whitman, Massachusetts Gov. Weld, and other party moderates, were feeling pretty good about the prime time look their party was presenting.
KATHLEEN DONOVAN, New Jersey Delegate: Look who the party put on prime time TV. Certainly last night pro-choice, moderate Republican women, leaders in our party were there speaking. Sen. Hutchinson, Gov. Whitman, Congresswoman Molinari, that's who our party chose to put on prime time TV. That says a lot about our party.
REP. RODNEY FRELINGHUYSEN, (R) New Jersey: I think it makes good, good political sense to have Christie Todd Whitman and other moderates like Susan Molinari, but I think Bob Dole, with Jack Kemp, his vice presidential candidate, wants to make sure that all Republicans are included, so we widen our base.
KWAME HOLMAN: Meanwhile, Texas delegates attending a huge Christian Coalition rally this morning didn't seem bothered by the stream of moderate Republicans to the convention podium.
SUSAN FANCHER, Texas Delegate: Not really because this--you know, this is America, and they're really just trying to make every, you know, something said from everybody, and I believe they feel like we got the platform and so they're letting the speakers speak to the other side, and that's--as far as I'm concerned, that's okay.
MARY CARL FINKELSTEIN, Texas Delegate: I don't feel like it's moderate at all just because the pro-life issue has not been mentioned, and certainly the issues are still lowering your taxes and lowering crime and getting people off of welfare and into the job market and, umm, making, um, government regulations less, so that small businesses can hire and build and add on. Those are all conservative values.
KWAME HOLMAN: But if the social conservatives have concern about getting their message across, Christian Coalition head Ralph Reed assured those delegates they still have time.
RALPH REED, Christian Coalition: Now let's go out there for the next two days, and let's make it clear that as long as we're here, the Republican Party is going to remain unapologetically pro-life and pro-family. Thank you very much, and God bless you.