HOUSTON -- Barbara Bush yesterday criticized the Republican Party platform as judgmental and suggested that its ultra-conservative slant did not reflect the entire party membership.
"You shouldn't read it to mean the Republican Party," the first lady said in an interview with CNN. "You ought to read it to mean this is what's generally felt."
Her comments came on the second day of the Republican National Convention, which President Bush is counting on to end his political free-fall.
Mrs. Bush, who addresses the convention tonight, suggested that the platform will hurt her husband's re-election chances more than it will help. Last week, she said the abortion issue had no place in the platform. Yesterday, she went considerably further.
"One of the things when you get to be ancient you learn is, don't be judgmental of others," said Mrs. Bush, who has spoken out against homosexual discrimination. "Everybody's different. Everybody has their own problems. . . . And you shouldn't be judgmental. You ought to be caring and loving and kind and try to help people."
She was not the only prominent Republican unhappy with the convention's negative rhetoric.
Indiana Sen. Richard Lugar said he believed that the hot-button issues, such as abortion and homosexuality, weren't appropriate. "I don't think it appears to be a winning issue for the president," he said. "It's not an appealing message."
As for Pat Buchanan's strident attack Monday night on Hillary Clinton as a "radical feminist," Mr. Lugar said, "I wish they would cut it out."
Mr. Kemp also seemed to distance himself from the anti-gay and anti-feminist rhetoric. "The party should not be bashing anybody," he said.
Mrs. Bush's remarks, however, ignited a firestorm of indignation from some of the party's more conservative corners.
"If Barbara Bush will not stand by her man, the Christian Action Network will," said Martin Mawyer, president of the group. "I have spoken to a lot of religious conservatives, and they all have expressed disappointment and shock at Barbara Bush's statements."
But campaign spokeswoman Torie Clarke said the first lady was simply reflecting the party's diversity of views.