WASHINGTON -- Efforts to unify the Democratic Party behind Bill Clinton suffered a minor setback when Democratic National Committee Chairman Ronald H. Brown abruptly canceled an appearance he was to make today before a group of party fund-raisers headed by Maryland Democratic Party Chairman Nathan Landow.
The group, called IMPAC, has resisted Mr. Brown's call to rally around Mr. Clinton as the apparent presidential nominee. Mr. Landow supported Paul E. Tsongas, who dropped out of the race.
There's nothing new about Mr. Landow and Mr. Brown clashing: They've been at odds for years, particularly over how Democrats choose their presidential candidates.
But the invitation to Mr. Brown appeared to be a sign that IMPAC was ready to throw its weight behind Mr. Clinton. That impression lasted
until Mr. Brown got hold of a letter Mr. Landow wrote earlier this month to IMPAC members describing the planned meeting at the Grand Hotel.
"When I agreed to attend," Mr. Brown said in a letter to Mr. Landow Tuesday, "I thought you were hosting a meeting to discuss unifying the Democratic Party for our general election campaign."
But it appears "the meeting will be about reopening old wounds, continuing divisive anti-party bickering, and, unbelievably, an attempt to de
bate the primary process."
The part of Mr. Landow's letter that most disturbed Mr. Brown was: "Many members are concerned, to say the least, about our party's prospects for winning in November and feel the need to discuss openly how we got to where we are, and what options we have for the immediate future and for changing the process."
To Mr. Brown, that sentence reflected implicit criticism and a fresh attack on party primary rules that he helped engineer after the 1988 elec
tion. It also hints at IMPAC members' dissatisfaction with Mr. Clinton and evokes earlier rumors that members wanted another candidate chosen at the convention in July.
Not so, said Mr. Landow, who canceled today's meeting, saying Mr. Brown was the main speaker and could not be quickly replaced.
"I think it's obvious at the point we are today in the primary process the governor is going to be the nominee, and I'm prepared to lend my support wholeheartedly and work hard for his election," Mr. Landow said, adding that he expected the approximately 65 members of IMPAC would have done the same.
All the members sought, he said, was a chance to discuss with Mr. Brown whatever was on their mind.
"I would assume our chairman, being the articulate spokesman that he is . . . that he would be able to very comfortably handle any question that was put forth to him. . . . I personally don't know what he might have been afraid of."