A Lieutenant Governor Rick Perry with David Barton and Susan Pleasantry.” The Republican agenda, Luntz told the Texans on the second day of the convention, was best advanced by the gentle chiding and simple anecdotes of Ronald Reagan. When talking to reporters, don’t cite facts, Luntz told the delegates. Tell stories. Luntz even provided tips for casual styles of dress that make delegates more sympathetic to television viewers. So the consultant who helped draft Gingrich’s Contract With America became one of the architects of a convention that kept Gingrich and other Republican heavies such as House Whip Tom DeLay and House Majority Leader Dick Armey far from the stage at First Union Center in South Philadelphia. A woman’s right to abortion is one issue that illustrates the influence of Luntz on the party. Luntz has repeatedly advised Republicans to avoid the issue, which he warns is a “lose-lose proposition.” So in a convention where every speech was vetted by the Bush team, talk of restrictions on abortion was banned during primetime hours until Bush addressed it in two lines of his acceptance speech. Yet early on the first day of the convention, when it was hard to attract even a C-SPAN camera crew, Nebraska Attorney General Don Stenberg said what many in the party believe. In a brief speech, Stenberg said he took his state’s anti-abortion ban all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court: “We lost by a 5-4 vote. But George Bush will appoint Supreme Court justices that will turn that vote around.” So convincing is Luntz’s argument on abortion, however, that even the religious right has accepted it, reaching something of a tacit agreement to behave as long as Bush will deliver if he is elected. “Don’t ask Governor Bush about abortion,” said Reverend Jerry Falwell in an interview conducted in the aisle behind the New York delegation. Falwell, described by the National Journal as “looking well-fed” \(porcine is a more suitable adjective for the father of the notes. “Don’t ask him questions about are you going to appoint prolife justices. Because if he answers the question yes, then he blows away millions of votes. If he answers the question no, then he blows 10 THE TEXAS OBSERVER away another million votes. Don’t ask him the question. Don’t make him answer it. Pray for him. Vote for him.” Falwell didn’t get a lot of airplay, but anyone watching the convention on TV probably saw a lot of Texas Republican Party Chair Susan Weddington. With her vice chair, David Barton \(founder and president of the WallBuilders, a group opposed to the separation of at the front of one state delegation the TV cameras couldn’t resist. In 1994, Weddington was elected vice-chair and in 1998 chair of the party, with the strong backing of the anti-abortion Christian right. And long before she was elected to lead the party, she was a vocal tivist in San Antonio, where she worked for the multi-millionaire right-wing party funder James Leininger. Weddington is confident that the party and George W. Bush have not abandoned the fight against abortion rights. “It may not be the focus of as many speeches as it has been,” Weddington said in an interview, “but our fundamental support of the life issue .is the same.” She predicted that the party’s goals on restricting abortion will not be achieved “all at once or over night.” “But Republican governors have been signing legislation providing reasonable restrictions on abortion parental notification and waiting periods. And the earth hasn’t come to an end. It’s time to talk about other issues,” Weddington said, citing “economic security for women, a responsible approach to protecting the environment, education.” So successful was the convention at diffusing the party’s conservative message that by the final morning six of the thinktankers who provide the party’s intellectual undergirding scheduled a press briefing to inform reporters that the party had not moved to the center. David Keene of the American Conservative Union reassured reporters that the Republican Party has not abandoned the goals set by Ronald Reagan. In fact, Keene said, the party has moved even farther to the right than it was when Reagan left office. “The A.C.U. did a poll of the delegates and found that they are more conservative than delegates at previous conventions and that they are more united now that they have a conservative running mate for a presidential candidate who already delighted them, with Dick Cheney.” For conservatives, this is the perfect package, Keene said: “a conservative ticket, conservative convention delegation, and a conservative platform.” Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform was equally enthusiastic, taking to task critics who had described George W. Bush’s proposals as moderate. “Who would have ever imagined a candidate who would support privatizing social security, eliminating the death [estate] tax, reforming our tort law, cutting taxes, and building S.D.I.?” Norquist said. Such was the genius of the convention organized by Bush AUGUST 25, 2000 Weddington
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