Wednesday, March 01, 2000

Bauer: McCain went too far in criticizing religious leaders




BY HOWARD WILKINSON
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Former GOP presidential candidate Gary Bauer supports John McCain for the Republican nomination, but the Christian conservative leader was stung by the Arizona senator's denunciation of religious right leaders Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell.

        “I wish he had not gone as far as he did,” Mr. Bauer said in Cincinnati Tuesday, while stumping for Mr. McCain one week before the Ohio GOP presidential primary.

        “I think there is a very personal conflict going on here between these two and Senator McCain,” said Mr. Bauer, a Newport native who gave up his own presidential bid earlier this month and endorsed Mr. McCain.

        While campaigning for votes in Tuesday's Virginia GOP primary, Mr. McCain delivered an attack on “self-appointed leaders of the religious right” for distorting his record and turning “good causes into businesses.” He singled out Mr. Robertson and Mr. Falwell.

        Mr. McCain said American politics should not be defined by “agents of intolerance,” whether they be “Louis Farrakhan and Al Sharpton on the left, or Pat Robertson and Jerry Fal well on the right.”

        Mr. Bauer, seen in his party as one of the leaders of the Christian conservative movement, said he thought it was “unfortunate” that Mr. McCain compared the two conservatives to Mr. Farrakhan and Mr. Sharpton.

        But he said that he hoped people would “read the whole speech Senator McCain made, not just take this part out of context.”

        Mr. Bauer said Mr. McCain also praised conservative religious leaders like the Rev. James Dobson and Charles Colson, the former Watergate figure who now runs a prison ministry.

        Mr. Bauer said Mr. McCain is the candidate best able to put together a coalition of Republicans, Democrats and independents to beat Democratic front-runner Al Gore in November.

        Mr. Bauer said he was “disappointed” with Mr. McCain's Senate votes against ending federal funding of fetal tissues research.

        “He was wrong about that; I believe he would vote differently if the issue came up again,” Mr. Bauer said. “But this is a man with an 85 percent voting record on pro-life issues.”

        The only thing Mr. Bush has done on anti-abortion issues, Mr. Bauer said, is get a parental notification bill through the Texas legislature.

Bush, Gore win Tuesday primaries Continuing coverage from Associated Press.



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