Dole-Kemp ticket Bid for tolerance: Running mate will counter Pat Buchanan and the religious right.

August 12, 1996

BY PUTTING Jack Kemp on his ticket J Republican presidential nominee Robert J. Dole has moved adroitly to counter the ugly image of intolerance implanted in the COOP platform by religious activists. Only a day before the surprise vice presidential selection was announced, Pat Buchanan's sister was bragging about a "Buchanan platform" and a "Buchanan convention." It won't be the latter. The Dole-Kemp duo will see to that.

Yesterday Senator Dole made a point of saying he will not be bound by everything in the platform and, in fact, hadn't event read it. This reinforced the message of his choosing Mr. Kemp, whose whole career prepared him for his vow in Russell, Kansas, that the GOP will "represent the whole American family: No one will be left behind, and no one will be turned away."

Mr. Kemp is compassionate rather than contemptuous of the poor. He is a free-trader rather than a protectionist, a defender of decent rather than punitive treatment of immigrants, a vigorous advocate of opportunity-creating federal programs who does not indulge in antigovernment rhetoric.

If any Republican leader is to appeal to African-Americans and Hispanic-Americans, it is this quarterback-turned-congressman-turned HUD secretary who describes himself as a "bleeding heart conservative." Yet Mr. Kemp is acceptable to the religious right, if grudgingly because, like Mr. Dole, he opposes abortion without putting it at the top of his agenda.

While Mr. Kemp's differences with Mr. Dole over immigration policy, affirmative action and other issues are being trumpeted by the Clinton White House, it was the presidential contender rather than his running mate who established economic common ground. He did so last week by calling for the kind of deep tax cuts long advocated by his supply-sider ticket-mate. This was quite a leap for the Kansas senator, a veteran deficit hawk and advocate of what Mr. Kemp (until now) has opposed: a constitutional amendment mandating a balanced budget.

In maneuvering to jump-start his stalled campaign and take control of his party, Mr. Dole is emulating the "triangulation" strategy adopted by President Clinton to position himself as a centrist "New Democrat" who shuns both his party's liberals and far-right Republicans. The Republican standard-bearer now can find plenty of middle ground between his big-tent, open-minded running mate and the forces of intolerance and xenophobia that threaten to undermine the Republican Party.

Pub Date: 8/12/96

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