Tuesday, August 01, 2000
Unity push gets platform passed
By Calvin Woodward
The Associated Press
PHILADELPHIA Shoving aside abortion disagreements, Republicans approved a platform Monday that pledges to fix education, help the needy and yet advance the party's core belief in limited government.
After presiding over a sometimes rocky process of settling on principles for the election, Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson told the party's convention: There's so much more that unites us than divides us.
But patching over the divisions was hard work, he suggested in an interview later. I feel like I have 300 pounds of weight lifted off my shoulders, he said.
Candidate George W. Bush pushed conservatives further than they wanted to go in making the platform embrace a vigorous role for the federal government in education, in welcoming immigrants and in pursuing nuclear arms cuts.
It's his party now, said conservative activist Gary Bauer, an early dropout in the GOP nomination race. It's his platform.
Abortion-rights Republicans fell short, both in trying to include a minority report and in gathering enough support to bring the issue to the convention floor.
The religious right unchallenged by Mr. Bush easily kept the party on re cord in favor of eliminating abortion rights.
Ann Stone of Republicans for Choice said the Bush campaign privately persuaded delegates to let the issue die so the party could have a united convention.
We were a freight train that ran into a very solid brick wall called the Bush campaign, she said.
Social conservatives also succeeded in toughening the position against gay rights.
Putting in policy words some of Mr. Bush's mantra on compassionate conservatism, the platform sets a goal of clear direction, new ideas, civility in public life, and leadership with honor and distinction.
Delegates ratified the platform as one of the first orders of business. The party wrote a document that steers away from attacks on Democratic candidate Al Gore and showcases Mr. Bush.
In contrast, the 1996 GOP platform mentioned President Clinton 153 times, seeming to spend as much time going after him as promoting candidate Bob Dole.
Candidates are not obliged to run on the platform, a document written by party activists with behind-the-scenes pressure from party and campaign leaders. But it serves as a test of their control of the party.
Mr. Bush's education principles, a cornerstone of his campaign, were slightly watered down by conservatives who want Washington out of the nation's schools.
You never get 100 percent, said Ari Fleischer, Mr. Bush's spokesman.
Also, a reference to the need for a strong federal role in environmental protection was taken out.
Some of what Mr. Bush lost in the text, he got back in the platform's preamble.
Under his leadership, the Republican Party commits itself to bold reforms in education to make every school a place of learning and achievement for every child, it says.
We will preserve local control of public schools, while demanding high standards and accountability for results.
For every American there must be a ladder of opportunity, and for those most in need, a safety net of care.
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