Civility or compromise?

National | The full text of Dole's declaration on the pro-life platform Aides to presumptive GOP presidential nominee Bob Dole labored for 10 weeks to pitch the big-tent abortion compromise unveiled June 6; in less than 10 days, however, Mr. Dole has managed to collapse the deal. At first, pro-life and pro-family leaders-with a few exceptions-welcomed the compromise. That support was contingent on private assurances given by Dole operatives that the "declaration of tolerance" would appear in the preamble of the Republican platform-welcoming GOP voters who disagreed with the party on a host of issues, not just on abortion. Placement of the tolerance provision is key: If it appears next to the abortion plank and nowhere else, pro-life and pro-family groups won't accept it. But in a CNN interview June 10, Mr. Dole insisted the tolerance language would "be in the abortion plank, not in the preamble," and that his position is "not negotiable." Moreover, he explained, it is his intention to single out abortion as the only issue on which good Republicans could disagree: "This is a moral issue. It's not like all the other things in the platform." But Mr. Dole did not allow good Republicans to disagree with his latest overture to pro-abortion forces: The next day, in Kansas City, Mr. Dole lashed out at critic Gary Bauer, president of the Family Research Council. Late last week, the Dole damage control team was in high gear. For the record, Mr. Dole's original statement on the issue is reprinted in full below.

Issue: "Future of health care," June 22, 1996

Since 1980, the Republican Party platform has included a statement of pro-life principle and supported a pro-life constitutional amendment. In the 1996 platform, I will not seek or accept a retreat from those commitments.

Some Republicans have suggested that the platform be silent on this issue to expand our appeal among Americans with different views. I agree with the goal, but not the method. In 1980, the Republican platform on which Ronald Reagan ran for president stated strong pro-life beliefs and also acknowledged that "we recognize differing views on this question among Americans in general-and in our own party...." I expect to run for president with the existing pro-life language from our 1992 platform and with the declaration of tolerance for divergent points of view on issues such as abortion. There are a number of issues, including term limits, on which Republicans of good will disagree.

Let me be very clear: No one will be turned away from our convention or my campaign because they do not agree with me on these issues. But I have been chosen the Republican nominee, and I intend to run on a platform that reflects my views. Those views have been demonstrated in a long, consistent public record. They are a matter of conscience, not calculation.

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Just as important as the wording in our platform, however, is the spirit we carry into this election. I will stand up for my beliefs with confidence, but I will not silence those who disagree. This has been the practice of the Democratic Party, which excluded one of its most popular leaders-Governor Bob Casey-from its last convention. We Republicans must avoid the bitterness and intolerance of the Democratic Party that leads them to silence those who oppose their hard-line views. Our convention must reflect not only our strong pro-life convictions, but a decent regard for the opinions of those who disagree. This is not compromise, it is civility.

This same extremism was apparent in President Clinton's recent veto of a bill preventing partial-birth abortions. With that decision, defending a practice most Americans find horrible beyond belief, the president surrendered any claim to moderation on this issue. The president has yet to demonstrate there are any abortions, under any circumstances, he would not support.

I believe it falls to Republicans in 1996 to speak for that great majority of Americans-for people of good will in both parties-who both respect a stand on principle and are searching for common moral ground. In the long term, I believe that only in this tolerant spirit can Americans ever come together to end the abortion tragedy-not with anger and hatred, but with hope, compassion, and humanity.


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