Mask of compassion

Behind the smiles and sweet reason, the GOP's mailed fist

Published August 14, 1996 10:39AM (EDT)


White-haired, open-faced and cheerful, Nelle Murphy is exactly the kind of person the Republicans are selling to win their way back into America's heart.

"I believe in the big tent," an alternate delegate from Madison, Wisconsin, says over the din of the parade of speakers performing for the crowd and the cameras above us. "I am elated, happy, really happy. Dole and Kemp are a great ticket."

Murphy is no radical. A former Democrat, Nelle says she is for "faith, family and friends -- I'm for family values all the way."
She's supports a constitutional amendment to ban abortion but doesn't want to make a big deal of it. She is tolerant of Wisconsin's gay Republican Congressman, Steve Gunderson, calling him, "a very nice young man."

Just across the hall, in the Texas delegation, Greg Blume from Houston is equally upbeat and happy to talk. "If we have the Congress and the president, it's going to be a phenomenal time, a phenomenal time," Blume enthuses. "Christian values," he assures me, will be at the forefront of a new America the Republican party is creating, one person at a time, down in Texas and across the country.

A businessman and born-again pro-life activist, Blume has a solution for the malaise infecting America. "What we are doing is going back to people of faith and character to keep government honest and punish those who break the laws," he says. "The dividing line is the Judeo-Christian ethic."

It is a tribute to the skill of the GOP spinmeisters that they have largely been able to keep such views off prime time television. Colin Powell's speech was perfect because it gave the Republicans an idealized African-American image of tolerance and compassion. The pro-choice Susan Molinari was chosen as keynote speaker for the same reason. Hell, we're not gonna hurt people, kick 'em off welfare, lock up abortionists or close the borders, the convention seems to be saying. Look at General Powell. Look at Susan Molinari. Look how tolerant and compassionate we are.

But there is an agenda here -- spend billions on a new defense system against a highly likely missile attack; crack down on illegal immigrants and deny citizenship to their children; ransack the Treasury with bargain-basement tax cuts. And while Bob Dole pretends to ignore the party platform, there is no doubt in Greg Blume's mind that a much more conservative America will emerge should Dole be elected president in November. Blume led the cheers in the Texas delegation for Colin Powell but is astute about what is really at stake. "What matters is this: with Dole as President and a conservative Congress, he won't dare veto any part of the conservative agenda that gets through Congress. This election really is about the future of the country. Our survival is the issue."


A. Lin Neumann reported on the trade show aspect of the GOP convention in
Tuesday's Newsreal

Quotes of the day

Eat the rich?

"The act of eating is very political. You buy from the right people, you support the right network of farmers and suppliers who care about the land and what they put in the food. If we don't preserve the natural resources, you aren't going to have a sustainable society. This is not something for Chez Panisse and the elite of San Francisco. It's for everyone. Clinton should be planting a kitchen garden on the White House lawn."

-- Alice Waters, owner of Chez Panisse restaurant in Berkeley. (From "Alice Waters: Food Revolutionary," in Wednesday's New York Times)"

Wedding bell blues

"This was not negligible. In terms of damages, what's it worth when somebody can't look at their wedding pictures without crying?"

-- Norah M. Murphy, a lawyer representing Annette Esposito-Hilder of Schenectady, N.Y., who filed a $300,000 suit against radio station WPYX for selecting her in the station's "Ugliest Bride Contest." (From an Associated Press story)

By A. Lin Neumann

Sacramento, Calif., writer A. Lin Neumann ( is a former foreign correspondent.

MORE FROM A. Lin Neumann

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