If Pat Buchanan had his way, the Willie Horton of 1992 would not be a black rapist but a white homosexual of radic-lib persuasion attuned to a lifestyle that does not accord with mainstream proprieties. In a remarkably bigoted speech at the Republican National Convention in Houston, this would-be president made it clear enough that his White House -- if, God forbid, it ever came to that -- would close its doors to perhaps 10 percent of the American people.
As this conservative served up raw red meat in a cheering Astrodome, one had to wonder how many in his audience are gay, either open or closet, and how many more have had to deal with this matter within their immediate families. (The GOP general chairman, Robert Mosbacher, has a daughter who is lesbian, and he stands by her.)
The GOP platform dominated by social conservatives like Mr. Buchanan was notably ungenerous in its attitudes toward this group of Americans. But not even President Bush has read this tendentious document. It is far more important when a skilled demagogue who got 3 million votes in this year's GOP primaries and has a financial network to launch a 1996 presidential bid gets prime time to deliver a message of bludgeon and innuendo.
Not content with legitimate complaints that Clinton Democrats may be liberals masquerading as moderates and centrists, he called this "the greatest single exhibition of cross-dressing in American political history." With relish, he quoted a militant leader of the homosexual rights movement as telling the Democratic convention that "Bill Clinton and Al Gore represent the most pro-lesbian and pro-gay ticket in history." Agreeing with President Bush (and no doubt most Americans), Mr. Buchanan assailed "the amoral idea that gay and lesbian couples should have the same standing in law as married men and women."
What is worrisome about Mr. Buchanan, whose political potential should not be discounted, is how mean and narrow is his mind set. He would deny, exclude and penalize those who do not fit into his definition of the acceptable.
How different the sunny, open and inclusive brand of conservatism preached by Ronald Reagan to his lasting political benefit. Following Mr. Buchanan to the rostrum of the Houston convention, the former president had this to say:
"Whether we come from poverty or wealth; whether we are Afro-American or Irish-American, Christian or Jewish, from big cities or small towns, we are all equal in the eyes of God. But as Americans that is not enough -- we must be equal in the eyes of each other. We can no longer judge each other on the basis of what we are but must, instead, start finding out who we are."
If only Mr. Buchanan would listen!