Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Conservatives yesterday fumed over what they see as twin betrayals in recent days — the Republican National Convention platform’s endorsement of amnesty for illegal aliens and Vice President Dick Cheney’s fence-straddling on homosexual “marriage.”

“It’s a fairly solid document,” American Values President Gary Bauer said of the platform, the nonbinding quadrennial statement of party principles.

“But I’m concerned overall that simmering discontent on issues like immigration and the vice president’s confusing remarks on same-sex marriage will cause us to be surprised on Election Day about where our voters went,” he said.

The platform will endorse President Bush’s “guest worker” plan, which has been criticized as an amnesty because it would be open to illegal immigrants and put its participants on a path to eventual citizenship. At the same time, it endorsed his January statement that amnesty for illegals is a bad thing.

“It’s Clintonlike doublespeak in a Republican platform: I’m against amnesty but let me define what amnesty is,” said Rep. Tom Tancredo, Colorado Republican. “The president is wrong not to reach out to his base, which opposes amnesty. This pandering to Hispanic voters is going to get the president into more trouble than if he dealt with illegal immigration forthrightly.”

Mr. Tancredo, in Denver, was working by phone and e-mail with conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly, who is in New York to observe the platform proceedings to find platform members willing to introduce amendments to the immigration plank.

“I want the platform to oppose amnesty, Social Security benefits and driver’s licenses for illegal aliens working in the United States,” Mr. Tancredo said.

In the halls outside the New York rooms where handpicked members of platform subcommittees were “debating” the final language, conservatives not on the platform committee were grumbling over immigration and other issues.

A longtime party operative confided that, in his view, “Nothing will sap turnout by our voters like amnesty. It’s the complaint I hear most from our folks.” Another platform delegate used an obscenity to refer to the immigration plank.

Social conservatives did claim victories on keeping the party’s 25-year opposition to legal abortion undiluted and on including Mr. Bush’s call for a constitutional ban on homosexual “marriage.”

But their elation was dampened by Mr. Cheney, who said Tuesday that he prefers for states, not the federal government, to handle the issue of homosexual unions, reiterating his 2000 campaign stance.

Although Mr. Cheney acknowledged that Mr. Bush acted in response to activist state courts that had sanctioned homosexual “marriage,” the vice president, who has a lesbian daughter, appeared to lament the push for a constitutional amendment when he added: “But the president makes basic policy for the administration.”

“If the vice president perceives the problem of activist judges and their actions, as he stated in his remarks, then how can he not endorse the same solution the president and his pro-family allies have proposed?” said Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council. “Protection of our values is made more difficult when mixed messages emanate from the White House.”

Mr. Bauer, who ran for president in 2000 to Mr. Bush’s right on social issues, called the vice president’s remarks “unhelpful” and warned that the party “can’t afford to be turning off the people that have the most passion for President Bush and Vice President Cheney.”

As Mr. Cheney alienated the Republican base, he won applause from Patrick Guerriero, executive director of Log Cabin Republicans, a homosexual rights group that opposes a constitutional amendment, for giving “a deeply personal statement but also a powerful political one.”

The White House played down the apparent split between the administration’s two top figures.

“He has made clear that he supports the president,” said White House spokesman Scott McClellan.

• Ralph Z. Hallow contributed to this report from New York; Joseph Curl reported from Washington.

Copyright © 2022 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide