Bush woos gays

Texas governor makes up with McCain, kisses up to press. Environmental hazards for Gore and friendly fire in New York.

By Alicia Montgomery
Published April 14, 2000 8:23AM (EDT)

Presidential hopeful George W. Bush met with a group of a dozen gay Republicans in hopes of buffing his "compassionate" halo. The New York Times reports that Bush said he came away from the event "a better person." "These are individuals who've got interesting stories to tell and it's important for the next president to listen to people's real-life stories," Bush said.

Listen but not change anything. The Texas governor showed no signs of relenting on his anti-gay positions, including his opposition to same-sex marriages, allowing gays to serve openly in the military and hate-crimes legislation. Though Bush said he might consider having a gay Republican speak at the national convention, the "family values" wing of the party quickly cracked the whip. "The last time I checked, the homosexual agenda is not a part of the party platform," said Janet Parshall, a spokeswoman for the Family Research Council. "Therefore, in this case, an appearance would be worth a thousand words, and then he would have trouble in River City."

In spite of the parsing, the carefully selected group of gay politicians -- no one from the John McCain-leaning Log Cabin Republicans was invited -- left the summit satisfied. Steve Gunderson, a gay former Republican congressman from Wisconsin, said, "The goal was not to change his mind. It was to start a conversation." Always aim high.

McCain makes nice

And now for someone else Bush is just dying to talk to. McCain, popular presidential also-ran, has agreed to meet with his former rival, according to CNN.com. The two have talked about talking ever since Bush beat McCain in a nasty primary fight.

Though he has agreed to meet, McCain has made no promises to endorse the Texas governor, and Bush himself is careful to set expectations low. "Of course I want his support, but I don't know if it will happen as a result of the meeting," Bush said. "I'm sure John and I will have a very constructive conversation and I look forward to talking about areas where we can work together to achieve ... to work together to win." The Straight Talk Express probably won't be a Bush bus anytime soon.

Bush is all talk

Now that McCain is almost out of the picture, Bush is trying to take over his mantle as most accessible candidate. Reporters are greeting the change with skepticism, according to the New York Times, though the Bush campaign says it is committed to keeping its candidate available. The new Bush now allows his campaign plane conversations to be on the record, provided the press does not report anything personal. Or anything Bush deems irrelevant to his candidacy. Or anything he might say in an unguarded moment. Or anything ...

Gore goes to war

Opening up to the media also gives Bush a chance to bash Al Gore, who has now gone more than 50 days without a news conference. But the vice president is talking to someone. The Washington Post reports that Gore spent part of a school visit telling eighth-graders about his experience in Vietnam. "I carried an M-16 and a pencil," he said. Gore has acknowledged that he used his pencil a lot more than his M-16 because he went to the country as a journalist and saw no combat.

Ballad of the green beret

Over the years, Gore has battled for the title of environmentalist. The Los Angeles Times reports that "Earth in the Balance," the vice president's green gospel, is being reissued to coincide with the 30th anniversary of the first Earth Day. The GOP can't wait, believing that the opinions Gore expresses in the 1992 book, including calls to phase out internal combustion engines, are sufficiently outrageous to upset mainstream voters.

The vice president is unbowed, however. "I'm proud that I wrote those words in 1992 and I reaffirm them today," Gore writes in the book's new foreword. He also includes a handy list of page numbers to guide critics to his more controversial statements. "For those who want to attack my view," he further writes, "let me save you the trouble of reading the entire book." Book-shy Bush will certainly be relieved.

I don't beg your pardon

Even though independent counsel Robert Ray has threatened to throw the book at President Clinton, Clinton emphatically refuses to entertain the idea of a pardon. The Washington Times reports that a contentious Clinton flat out rejected the possibility. "Well, the answer is I have no interest in it. I wouldn't ask for it. I don't think it would be necessary," the president said during a question-and-answer session. Clinton also blasted Whitewater fanatics, calling the endless investigation "a lie and a fraud from the beginning." Just like his Monica Lewinsky alibis?

Hillary's circle of friends

The president's wife finds herself in hot water again. According to the Associated Press, the release of a U.S. Commission on Civil Rights report critical of the New York Police Department and Rudy Giuliani was delayed because Mary Frances Berry, the commission's chair, has contributed $250 to Hillary Rodham Clinton's campaign.

This isn't the first time Clinton administration officials have been suspected of running interference for the first lady's Senate bid. In December, Department of Housing and Urban Development chief Andrew Cuomo very publicly stripped Giuliani of control over $59 million in federal funds for the homeless.

Rudy's corporate welfare

Giuliani has gotten in trouble for being too friendly to a contractor. A judge threw out a $100 million city deal because it was "corrupted" by the mayor's bias, according to the New York Daily News. Manhattan Supreme Court Justice William Davis ruled that Giuliani steered the contract to set up a welfare-to-work program to Maximus Inc. of Virginia, shutting out better organizations. Whose welfare is Rudy concerned about?

Manhattan state of mind

New York Times columnist Gail Collins says that Giuliani's talent -- and true love -- is for being mayor of New York. "He'd try to do it forever if it weren't for term limits," Collins writes. In support of her theory, Collins describes the mayor's abruptly canceling an upstate fund-raiser to attend the Yankees' opening-day game. "You can raise money anytime," Giuliani said. Not with that attitude.

Whom should you vote for?

Take our survey and find out. You might be surprised.

Poll positions

Presidential race:

  • Bush 44 to Gore 44 (Newsweek April 6-7).

  • Bush 45 to Gore 37 (Fox News/Opinion Dynamics Poll April 5-6).

  • Bush 50 to Gore 41 (Gallup/CNN/USA Today April 7-9).

  • Gore 47 to Bush 46 (ABC News/Washington Post March 30-April 2).

  • Bush 46 to Gore 45 (CNN March 30-April 2).

    Vice presidential preferences (previous):

    Preferences for Republican vice presidential candidate among all voters (Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll March 22-23):

  • John McCain, 27 percent
  • Elizabeth Dole, 19 percent
  • Rudy Giuliani, 6 percent
  • Christine Todd Whitman, 6 percent
  • George Pataki, 3 percent
  • Tom Ridge, 3 percent
  • Fred Thompson, 3 percent
  • Connie Mack, 2 percent
  • Other, 3 percent
  • Not sure, 28 percent

    Preferences for Democratic vice presidential candidate among all voters (Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll March 22-23):

  • Bill Bradley, 27 percent
  • Dianne Feinstein, 10 percent
  • Bob Kerrey, 6 percent
  • Bob Graham, 5 percent
  • John Kerry, 4 percent
  • Bill Richardson, 4 percent
  • Evan Bayh, 3 percent
  • Other, 6 percent
  • Not sure, 35 percent

    New York Senate:

  • Clinton 52 to Giuliani 42 (New York Times/CBS News April 1-5).

  • Clinton 46 to Giuliani 43 (Quinnipiac College March 28-April 3).

  • Giuliani 46 to Clinton 43 (Marist Institute March 27-28).

  • Clinton 45 to Giuliani 42 (Zogby March 23-25).

    On the trail

    Bush: At home in Texas.

    Gore: California.

    Sound off

    E-mail Trail Mix with your comments, suggestions and tips at alicia@salon.com.

  • Alicia Montgomery

    Alicia Montgomery is an associate editor in Salon's Washington bureau.

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