Republicans face conventional warfare

Police and protesters escalate their verbal battle as the GOP marches in.


Alicia Montgomery
July 27, 2000 1:18PM (UTC)

As the Republicans and protesters descend, the City of Brotherly Love is haunted by "the specter of Seattle." The Philadelphia Daily News reports that the city's cops don't want a repeat of the lawlessness and destruction of property that marred the World Trade Organization demonstrations in Seattle, while the protesters don't want a repeat of the excessive police force of that event.

As tensions rise, the finger-pointing is already underway. "Everything depends on what [protesters] want to do and where they want to do it and their level of cooperation with authorities," said Police Commissioner John Timoney. The demonstrators complain that, in addition to police spying and intimidation, the city is trying to undermine their cause by refusing such accomodations as portable toilets during the protests. "When you host a major political convention, you will have protesters," said Jeffrey Garis, chief of Pennsylvania Abolitionists United Against the Death Penalty. "But this city is like a spoiled child who wants the privileges without the responsibilities." There's little time to cool the rhetoric before the first protest on Saturday.

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Pentagon scandal may snag Cheney
When George W. Bush makes his convention speech, he's likely to promise an end to the scandal-ridden Clinton era. But something in ticket mate Dick Cheney's past could complicate that pledge. The Associated Press reports that during his tenure as defense secretary, Cheney entertained deep-pocketed Republican donors at the Pentagon. In 1992, members of the Republican National Committee's Presidential Roundtable -- donors of $5,000 or more -- were allowed to attend a briefing with Cheney. In addition, an RNC brochure released that year to boost the Presidential Roundtable pictured Cheney in a Pentagon meeting with its members.

The Bush campaign quickly dismissed the report and defended Cheney's record. "Secretary Cheney is a leader who is widely respected across party lines for his integrity, experience and judgment, even earning praise from Al Gore," said Bush spokesman Scott McClellan. (When Cheney was appointed as secretary of defense in 1989, Gore said, "I applaud the choice and congratulate the president for the choice.")

Bush-Cheney hits the trail
The new vice presidential nominee made his debut campaign stop in friendly territory when he and Bush appeared at Cheney's old high school in Wyoming. According to CNN, the Texas governor praised Cheney for rising above ideological bickering during his congressional career. "He's a man who knows Washington well, but is not of Washington," Bush said. "And thankfully so -- Washington today is a place of needless partisan shouting and nightly polls and daily attacks ... We're committed to working in a constructive way to build consensus and get things done." Cheney picked up on Bush's theme, telling the crowd, "I can't think of anything more important than giving to our kids and our grandkids a government they can once again be proud of."

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Lynne Cheney: Helpmate or Hillary-type problem?
Another political star from Wyoming's Natrona County High School is Dick Cheney's wife, Lynne. While her record as a soldier in the "culture war" earned Lynne Cheney fans among conservatives, the Washington Post reports that her strong views and combative style could make her a target. "Conservatives love her," said William Bennett, the man Lynne Cheney succeeded as chief of the National Endowment for the Humanities in 1986. "She'll be hard to muzzle." As head of the NEH, Cheney commissioned the critically acclaimed PBS series "The Civil War," but was also famous for refusing to fund projects that she felt had an anti-Western political agenda. Conservatives cheered her for protecting tax dollars from those whose ideas they found questionable, while liberals and some academics bristled under what they considered unreasonable and politically motivated criteria for funding during her tenure.

Outside of government, Cheney also made a reputation for herself as host of the cable news program "Crossfire Sunday" and as an outspoken critic of Hillary Rodham Clinton. Ironically, the post-Hillary politicization of candidates' wives -- or at least those with independent records in public life -- could open up Cheney to considerable fire from the left.

Feminists bash Hillary-hating letter
New York Republicans collected nearly every bad thing that has been said about the first lady and printed it in a letter to raise funds for her opponent in the Senate race, Rick Lazio. They call the action fair game and politics as usual, but CBS reports that some feminists call it sexism. New York State GOP chairman William Power wrote the now infamous letter, in which he calls Clinton a "shrill and scheming person" who is "cold-blooded and hotheaded" and "power hungry." Author Erica Jong questions the true motivation of the letter and of other attacks on Clinton. "This name-calling employed against powerful women is the oldest trick in the male chauvinist book," she said. Washington University's Wayne Fields, an expert in political rhetoric, said that the anti-Hillary language is similar to what has been applied to female politicians for years. "Pat Schroeder had to deal with this all the time," he said of the former Democratic congresswoman, who ran for president in 1988. But Fields believes that its Hillary-bashing may come back to haunt the GOP. "I think they're playing into her hands," he said. "Forcing the language into extremes is going to make the sexism ... more obvious." At that point, Fields asserts, "it becomes rhetorical fodder for the other side."

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New York Republicans deny any sinister subtext to their letter. Said GOP spokesman Dan Allen, "We've used a lot of different words to describe a lot of different candidates over the years."

Lazio backs discredited AIDS theorists
The Long Island congressman's own correspondence has put him in hot water with scientists and AIDS activists, according to the New York Post. Lazio has sent several letters lobbying government agencies on behalf of researchers who don't believe that HIV causes AIDS. In these missives, Lazio solicited government funds for the Group for the Scientific Reappraisal of HIV/AIDS, a group viewed by many in the AIDS research community as scientifically irrelevant and potentially dangerous. "HIV causes AIDS -- that's been proved every way you can possibly prove it," said Dr. Jeffrey Laurence, an AIDS researcher at Cornell University. Laurence believes that promotion of the organization's theories could undermine efforts to stop the spread of HIV. Lazio's office denies that his advocacy signals a belief that HIV and AIDS are not related. "Rick disagrees with the group's belief in the cause of AIDS," said Lazio spokesman Dan McLagan, "but he's tried to help them as constituents and AIDS sufferers."

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Poll positions
Presidential race:

  • Bush 49 to Gore 45 (USA Today/CNN/Gallup July 24).
  • Bush 48 to Gore 45 (ABC News/Washington Post July 20-23).
  • Bush 43 to Gore 41 (CBS News July 13-16).
  • Bush 46 to Gore 40 (Fox News July 12-13).
  • Bush 45 to Gore 41 (Zogby July 14-17).
  • Gore 46 to Bush 45 (Newsweek June 29-30).
  • Bush 40 to Gore 39 (Associated Press June 21-25).

    Third-party candidates:

  • Nader 3 to Buchanan 1 (USA Today/CNN/Gallup July 24).
  • Nader 7 to Buchanan 6 (ABC News/Washington Post July 20-23).
  • Nader 4 to Buchanan 4 (CBS News July 14-16).
  • Nader 6 to Buchanan 3 (Zogby July 14-17).
  • Nader 6 to Buchanan 2 (Newsweek June 29-30).

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  • Alicia Montgomery

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

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