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Jewish World Review Oct. 4, 1999 /24 Tishrei, 5760

Don Feder

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Econophone

GOP 'big tent' -- enter on left, exit on right

http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- I DIDN'T KNOW the Republican platform had a World War II plank. Those who urge Pat Buchanan's banishment from the Grand Old Party apparently believe it does.

Sen. John McCain -- who takes decidedly un-Republican positions on limiting campaign contributions and tobacco taxes -- says no good Republican can tolerate Buchanan's belief that Germany did not threaten our vital interests in 1940.

Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol thinks Republican leaders would do well to emulate Harry S. Truman (when he showed Stalin stooge Henry Wallace the Democratic Party's exit door in 1948) by bidding Buchanan depart.

Understand, I profoundly disagree with the historical analysis and foreign-policy prescriptions set forth in Buchanan's new book, "A Republic, Not An Empire." Still, I'm struck by the blatant double standard on accommodations under the big tent.

While it may not say much about the rise and fall of the Third Reich, the GOP platform has been resolutely pro-life since 1980. Yet no prominent Republican has invited New Jersey Gov. Christie Todd Whitman to take a hike, her support for the abomination of partial-birth abortions notwithstanding.

Republicans advertise themselves as the party of family values. Next year, the party will probably nominate New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani for an open Senate seat. A proponent of abortion unlimited, who supported then-Gov. Mario Cuomo's re-election bid in 1994, last year Giuliani pushed through an ordinance bestowing marital rights on same-sex couples.

Presidential hopeful Elizabeth Dole, who was last seen snipping the Second Amendment out of copies of the Constitution, gets to hang with the party of NRA life member Ronald Reagan -- as does retired Gen. Colin Powell, who supports racial quotas, thus betraying the heritage of the party of Lincoln.

Sens. Arlen Specter, George Voinovich, Susan Collins and Olympia Snow voted against the GOP's modest tax cut, vetoed by the president, which would have returned to taxpayers 3.5 cents of every dollar they will send to Washington in the coming decade.

In February, five Republican senators voted against removing the president on both articles of impeachment, despite his manifest guilt. McCain is quite comfortable having all of these Republicans-if-you-can-believe-it as his tent-mates.

The big tent is no more than a way of watering down the GOP's professed pro-life stance. The party mustn't be too vocal on behalf of the unborn, lest we feel unwelcome, liberal Republicans plead.

The party listens.

The Republican National Committee couldn't even bring itself to back a 1998 resolution denying RNC funding to candidates who defend partial-birth abortions, which the 1996 party platform called "four-fifths infanticide."

The big tent has an entrance that opens only on the left and an exit on the right. There's room for Whitman, Giuliani, Dole and Powell, but not for the winner of the 1996 New Hampshire Republican primary.

A party does not become successful by staging purges. Once you begin cutting out mavericks on one issue, where do you stop? Deviationism has a way of weeding itself out, witness the extinction of the Rockefeller Republicans, a gang that was significant 40 years ago.

Republicans must stand for something -- and more than just rhetorically.

The GOP lost the presidency in 1992 and 1996 because, for most of the electorate, George Bush and Bob Dole were nearly indistinguishable from Bill Clinton.

The Republican platform should unapologetically enunciate a traditional-values, limited-government philosophy, as well as a foreign policy that is neither interventionist nor isolationist, but based on our national interests.

Mavericks should be allowed in the tent, but not fed and watered, and certainly not esteemed.

If pro-abortion, high-tax, New World Order types insist on calling themselves Republicans, let them. But keep them miles away from the national ticket. Give them a stand-up-and-wave at the next nominating convention, not a speech from the podium.

As for Pat Buchanan, whose idiosyncratic foreign-policy views haven't been Republican mainstream since the 1920s, he's in the process of purging himself.

If McCain and Kristol are going to establish rules for expulsion at this late date, I wish they'd tell us exactly what they are now, instead of making them up as they go along.

JWR contributing columnist Don Feder can be reached by clicking here.


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©1999, Creators Syndicate