- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 2, 2000

PHILADELPHIA Retired Gen. Colin Powell's opening-night speech didn't sit well with some delegates to the Republican National Convention, but all were careful yesterday to stick to the script of party unity.

In his prime-time speech Monday night, Gen. Powell was at odds with the positions of Texas Gov. George W. Bush, most Republican delegates and the party's platform on racial preferences, abortion and campaign-finance reform.

"He's got his views, like many other moderate Republicans, but they represent the minority of the party. And that's fine. He ought to work as hard as he can to advance his views," House Majority Whip Tom DeLay of Texas said yesterday of Gen. Powell.

"The problem is, he's in the minority."

Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the leading Republican opponent of campaign-finance reform, said, "The convention this year is about bringing people together. And we have made a commitment to each other, from right to left across our party spectrum, that we are not going to cast any stones.

"So I'm not upset with any of the speakers, even though I don't necessarily agree with every word every one of them uttered," he said.

Virginia delegate Mike Farris said Gen. Powell was given free rein to present his own view.

"But I don't think those views necessarily represent Governor Bush's," he said. "I don't agree with Powell on those issues. I think I agree much more with Governor Bush's."

Mr. Farris said he didn't worry too much about Gen. Powell's views as representing policies in a Bush administration. "There will be a lot more to a Bush administration than him," he said.

Gen. Powell said in his speech that "some in our party miss no opportunity to roundly and loudly condemn affirmative action that helped a few thousand black kids get an education, but hardly a whimper is heard from them over lobbyists who load our federal tax codes with preferences for special interests."

"I thought it was a gratuitous slap at the business wing of the Republican Party," said Richard Lessner, vice president of American Renewal, a lobbying arm of the Family Research Council. "Affirmative action and tax policy are really unrelated issues, not really linked in the minds of too many people."

Mr. Lessner also said that the convention's diversity theme highlighted by the Powell speech may have been a bit overdone so far. "We're entirely in favor of diversity, but it has to be diversity based on principle," he said.

"It can't be diversity in a sense that we really don't stand for anything and that anybody who believes anything is welcome in a political party," Mr. Lessner said.

Gen. Powell is no ordinary Republican asked to address the convention. He is a friend of the Texas governor and his running mate, Richard B. Cheney, and of former President George Bush, the nominee-to-be's father. Until picking Mr. Cheney, the younger Mr. Bush had indicated that he would love to have Gen. Powell as his running mate.

Still, despite the widely held view that a Bush-Powell ticket would be virtually unbeatable, Mr. Farris said a Powell vice presidential candidacy would have caused "big negative ripple effects."

Mr. Bush, campaigning in West Virginia on his way to the Republican National Convention here, said yesterday that he agrees with Gen. Powell that the party has "a lot of work to do" to reach out to minorities."

"He said there's deep distrust in the African-American community and he's right," Mr. Bush said. "We've got to do a better job of recruiting minorities to our party. And I'm going to make that happen."

Mr. Bush's convention planning took account of the pleas from Republicans in Congress who come from districts heavily populated by independents and liberal Republicans and who face tight re-election contests.

Virginia delegate and former Reagan White House aide Morton Blackwell said the "entire Reagan coalition is essentially united behind George W. Bush. The convention presentations are not directed primarily to that base, but to swing voters, people we hope for one reason or another will vote for Republicans."

Mr. Bush is walking a fine line, however, between appealing to socially liberal swing voters and the party's conservative base.

Mr. Blackwell said allowing the diversity of viewpoints by convention speakers "works so long as they don't offend the base of the party. Thus far, I don't think they have."

• Dave Boyer contributed to this report from Harrisburg, Pa.

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