GOP Announces Convention Platform

Playing up a “progressive” side, Republicans are adopting a more conciliatory tone toward government while hewing closely in substance to their conservative fundamentals on taxes, abortion, defense and more.

The GOP’s platform committee begins work today on a draft that drops the party’s call for making English the official language and proposes a stronger federal role in education and the environment than Republican policy has favored.

“Government does have a role to play, but as a partner, not a rival, to the armies of compassion,” states the draft.

A document of the party, not the presidential candidate, it is infused nonetheless with the optimistic bearing of George W. Bush.

On the other hand, the draft leaves unchanged the party’s uncompromising stand against abortion rights. It also maintains the position that homosexuality is incompatible with military service.

Revisions to Come

Platform committee members received the draft late Thursday and are expected to make mostly cosmetic changes. The full Republican National Convention, opening Monday, will ratify the document next week.

Although the platform draft strays from Bush’s stand on abortion, “I think he’ll have no problem at all” endorsing it, Republican National Chairman Jim Nicholson said today on NBC’s Today.

“What’s important is that we remain the party that believes strongly in the sanctity of life,” Nicholson added. “We’re going to have a vigorous discussion. … The majority will decide how that document will really read.”

While the 1996 GOP platform was packed with biting, sometimes dour attacks on President Clinton, the new tome mentions Clinton and Democratic candidate Al Gore once or twice in passing.

“We want to be uplifting,” Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson, chairman of the platform committee, said Thursday on CNN. “We want to be visionary and progressive.”

No Calls for Department Closings

Gone, too, is the zeal to close half a dozen federal departments — the draft does not propose shutting any — and a portrayal of the federal government as not just intrusive, but practically villainous.

Even so, the draft sits upon the conservative foundation that less government is best.

“In recent years, America seemed to move away from some of the qualities that make her great, but we are now relearning some important lessons,” it says.

“We’re coming to understand that a good and civil society cannot be packaged into government programs but must originate in our homes, in our neighborhoods, and in the private institutions that bring us together.”

Same Language on Abortion

The draft gives no ground to abortion-rights advocates, asserting as before that “the unborn child has a right to life which cannot be infringed,” and proposing to ban abortion through a constitutional amendment and legislation.

That topic is a likely flash point for debate in two days of platform meetings. Bush believes abortion should remain legal in cases of rape, incest or to save the life of the woman — exceptions not specified in the platform — but he chose not to challenge the party’s social conservatives on the issue.

Otherwise the draft is compatible with his policies on deep tax cuts, partial privatization of Social Security and other major areas.

Thompson said he thinks Bush “is going to feel very comfortable with the platform. I don’t think anybody can embrace it in total.”

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