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Moral Cleansing in Houston BY MOLLY IVINS Houston ‘thought Patrick Buchanan’s speech was chock-full o’ dandy ideas. Reliaious warfare, for example. Due to the unfortunate historical luck of our nation having been founded well after the Reformation and the Inquisition and all that good stuff, we’ve never had religious warfare in this country, and just think of all we’ve missed. Mass slaughter in the name of God, killing for Christ, pogroms, the ambiance of Northern Ireland and Lebanon, tons of fun. Cultural cleansing. There’s another knacky notion. Why should the Bosnians have all the fun? We could have a cleansing of our very own right here at home. I especially liked Buchanan’s program for the inner cities M 1 6s. That was the Battle of Stalingrad portion of his speech, you recall, in which we retake our cities block by block from these people who have somehow infiltrated their own country. That Buchanan’s story of the young National Guardsmen who saved the home for the elderly from mob menace turned out not to be true is of no importance to me. We here at the Republican convention approach truth in a larky spirit, with imagination, flexibility and insouciance. We never consider hypocrisy at all. That is why Patrick Buchanan was able to call Bill Clinton, who suffered an acute crisis of conscience over the war in Vietnam and then signed up for the draft lottery anyway, a draft dodger. So what? If that doesn’t trouble Pat Buchanan, who was himself an ardent supporter of the war in Vietnam but was excused from the draft after he explained to his board how terribly a knee was bothering him, then what-the-hell, why should it bother us? Who cares that the same knee that bothered him so awful bad at the age of 20 is the one he still jogs on today at the age of 53? We’re into an antic spirit here at the Astrodome. Anything goes. Hate-mongering, you say? Hate-mongering against gays? 0 pish. Tush. Why not claim that gays are seeking special protection and special preferences under the law? Just because they pay taxes and die in wars \(military regulations against them notwithassume they should be given equality under law, is it? Just because no gay group has ever demanded preferential treatment at the national, state or local level -never asked for hiring quotas or affirmative action or special preference of, any kind is that any reason not to claim they have? They have, after all, asked that they not be discriminated against because of their sexual orientation. Where is your good Republican spirit of laissez faire? I would be totally bummed by this convention if I didn’t think I was looking at a lot of dead political meat here. How many things can one party do wrong? The Republicans deliberately stacked this convention with fundamentalist right-to-lifers when they thought Ross Perot was going to be in the race. Assuming the vote would split 30-3030 and all they needed was a few more points from a small war or some such handy event, the Rs went out to nail down their far rightwing base. And now they’re nailed over there, far from the mainstream, pretending it’s a big tent while the delegates boo and charge the podium at any mention of choice on abortion. For a wonderfully gleeful demolition of the new Republican claim that Clinton raised taxes in Arkansas “128 times,” see Michael Kinsley’s merry abolition of this novel thesis in the Aug. 31 edition of The New Republic or his syndicated column. Molly Ivins, a former Observer editor, is a columnist for the Fort Worth Star Telegram. 1992 Creators Syndicate Inc. Presidential campaign four years ago. At a pro-choice rally across the street from the Astrodome Wednesday, Chuck Bracht, a “lifetime” Republican from Houston, said he believed Bush has made “a horrible miscalculation” in casting his lot with the Far Right. “He thinks he can have that plank in there and still mollify pro-choice voters,” said Bracht, who believes many Republicans like him will balk at voting for Bush -under these circumstances. “It’s important to get back to the roots of individual liberty,” the insurance agent said. Phyllis Dunham, executive director of the Texas Abortion Rights Action League, said Texas Republicans who speak out in favor of abortion choice lose their credibility within the party. “It’s tough; I think, it’s a shame that [Texas Republican Chairman] Fred Meyer and Sen. Gramm really are very heavy-handed about that and it’s very difficult for pro-choice Republicans to sit there and make known their choices.” She added, “We’re going to keep on encouraging Texas Republicans to cross party lines and vote pro-choice and Democrats to cross party lines and vote pro-choice because it’s necessary. This is the last election cycle before Roe v. Wade becomes history and we have to make a difference now.” But Meyer said the platform reflects popular opinion. “I don’t think we need to move at all. I think we are in line with the philosophy of the American people,” he said. “We’re going to have a broad coalition of Americans who believe in the things that George Bush and the Republican party believe in and of course that is a wide spectrum and covers a lot of people.” Kay Hutchison said the party has agreed to disagree on abortion. “The Republican Party is a big tent and we welcome those who are prolife as well as pro-choice,” she said. “People disagree in the Democrat Party on it. People disagree in the Republican Party on it and people disagree within the family on it.” President Bush and Vice President Quayle have presented themselves as abortion opponents, but recent statements indicate some waffling, if not outright confusion, over the issue. On July 22, Quayle told CNN’s Larry King he would “support” his daughter if she became pregnant and wanted an abortion. The next day, Marilyn Quayle contradicted her husband and said her daughter would bear the hypothetical child. On Aug. 11, when asked a similar question on NBC’s “Dateline,” Bush said he would “stand by” the decision of a granddaughter who decided to terminate a pregnancy. Asked whether the granddaughter should make the choice, he replied, “Well, who else’s could it be?” The next day, Barbara Bush said abortion should not be in the party’s platform at all. President Bush tried to divert attention from the abortion controversy Monday evening as he arrived at the convention and derided Bill Clinton for taking the election for granted and talking about his transition team. Bush promised cheering supporters “the most stirring political comeback since Harry Truman gave them hell in 1948.” While Bush’s, rambling, feisty speech, peppered with gags about the Democrats, was timed for the evening news, most networks did not break away to cover it live, focusing instead on Woody Allen’s love affair with Mia Farrow’s adopted daughter. The opening day of the convention sought to rally the right wing; Pat Buchanan, who had savaged Bush during the Republican primaries, and former President Ronald Reagan, who had been lukewarm toward his successor, gathered to praise Bush rather than bury him, as they warned that the Democrats could not be trusted with both Congress and the White House. Buchanan, whose 3 million votes in the pri maries earned him 78 delegates to the convention, drew cheers with his attacks on Clinton and Gore. The former Richard Nixon speechwriter and TV commentator, who avoided his own military service with a medical deferment, contrasted Bush’s war record with Clinton, who Buchanan said “sat in a dormitory room in Oxford, England, and figured out how to dodge the draft.” He attacked Hillary Clinton, saying the would-be First Lady believed that 12-yearolds should have a right to sue their parents and that she had compared marriage to slavery or life on an Indian reservation, taking out of context her writings from the 1970s about the THE TEXAS OBSERVER 7