Repeat after me: The Republican Party is the party of diversity. The Big Tent. The party of inclusion.
It does not matter if it's true. These are the talking points this week, and at a Republican Main Street forum in a midtown movie theater today, panelists Newt Gingrich, Christine Todd Whitman and Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., had them down. The threesome spoke to an audience of mostly reporters, and shared lots of mainly cosmetic reasons for their argument that the GOP was the party to join even if the right-wing mindset does nothing for you. Prefer that the Constitution not be amended to deny women reproductive choice and gays marriage rights? Don't let the Republican platform keep you from getting behind Bush and Cheney. It's the convention speakers list, hear, that should put your mind at ease. The lineup of moderates proves the Republicans aim to be inclusive and a majority party -- a party of the people.
"There is a party of narrow-minded bigotry," Gingrich said. "It is called Democrats." For proof, again, just look at their speakers' lists. "You ought to ask the Kerry campaign why the only pro-life Democrat to speak at a national convention this year was Zell Miller -- and he wasn't in Boston," Gingrich said. And then there's what happened to Bob Casey, Gingrich's other main case study in Democratic bigotry. Yes, the Republicans are still talking about Bob Casey, the late pro-life Pennsylvania governor who was not invited to speak at a Democratic convention -- last decade.
Gingrich and Whitman had another great example of how inclusive the Republican party is. Newt turned to Whitman, a woman and a moderate governor, for the GOP response to Clinton's State of the Union address in 1995. "It was important when he asked me to deliver the response not only because it was important to me personally ... but because it did show it was an overt sign by the party leadership that we are an inclusive party."
A reporter tried to steer the discussion to the influence of Republican moderates in policymaking under this White House and this congressional leadership. When it really matters, are moderates heard? (Already today, two GOP groups have complained about their views being marginalized.) Upton named a few examples of moderates having an effect on policy such as the child care tax credit, the prescription drug benefit, and the once bipartisan-supported No Child Left Behind Act.
But what about those right-wing speakers, another reporter asked. Why not give a James Dobson or an Alan Keyes a voice in primetime, if the party is in fact so open to diversity? Why exclude them in favor of moderates? "We didn't have anything to do with it," Upton said. "But we're delighted they picked our folks to be the primetime speakers."
Whitman added: "There are two primetime speakers who I think do represent alot of the conservative philosophy and they're called the president and the vice president."