George W. Bush reaffirmed his support for the Christian Coalition’s values today in a three-minute videotaped address meant to soothe any hard feelings created by his absence from their convention.
“Should I be elected, I will lead our nation toward a culture that values life, the life of the elderly and the sick, the life of the young and the life of the unborn,” Bush said. He didn’t explain why he initially hadn’t intended to speak.
Addressing abortion, which is high on the list of concerns at the convention, Bush said good people disagree on the issue, but everyone should seek ways to promote adoption and parental notification.
“And when Congress sends me a bill against partial-birth abortion, I will sign it into law,” he added.
Bush outlined his support for cutting taxes, restoring children’s moral values and reforming Social Security and education.
“Like Ronald Reagan, I believe that the freedom we cherish ultimately depends on the values our families teach,” Bush said.
Dede Robertson, wife of Christian Coalition founder Pat Robertson, echoed her husband’s earlier warning that Bush shouldn’t take their support for granted. Speaking before Bush addressed the crowd, she criticized both parties.
“We have one candidate who changes his personality every now and then and then we have another candidate who has distanced himself from his supporters and pals around with John McCain,” she said.
Members Support Bush
Christian Coalition members attending the convention were more sympathetic to Bush.
“We are the choir here,” said Tonnie Dunmoyer, a real estate broker from Hemet, Calif. “He doesn’t have to come here because we are for him. He should be out there stumping to talk to people.”
Bruce Friedman, an engineer from Brandon, Fla., agreed.
“I would have liked to see George Bush here in person, but I know that he is out campaigning. I don’t think he would have changed anyone’s mind in this room,” he said. Bush was in Crawford, Texas, preparing for the first presidential debate.
Bush’s unscheduled address surprised many in attendance, who were unclear there would be a videotaped message on two giant television screens. When the Texas governor was announced and the lights dimmed, many in attendance rose to applaud expecting Bush to walk on stage.
The audience gave their loudest applause to Alan Keyes, a former contender for the Republican presidential nomination.
Keyes said moral outrage over the Clinton administration was key to the Republicans winning the White House, conceding that in prosperous times it was virtually impossible to defeat an incumbent on just economic issues.
“If voters go into the voting booth thinking about material things, we are going to suffer a material and bitter defeat,” he said.
Reform Party candidate Pat Buchanan, who has spoken at past conventions but was not invited this year, later held his own rally in the same hotel.
Republicans in past years have counted on the Christian Coalition to help get out the vote across the country, but Bush has focused more on moderates and swing voters. Some in the party have been concerned that Buchanan could drain away religious conservatives.
While not mentioning him by name, Buchanan didn’t overlook Bush’s absence.
“Are we supporting folks who will not stand with us?” Buchanan asked about 100 supporters. “If they won’t come speak to you, they won’t speak about these ideas, they won’t talk about these issues, can you trust them to fight for you once they get in the White House?”
Directing his comments to Bush, he added: “Why don’t you try sending a video tape to the ballot box?”