Dole’s tolerance statement suspicious

Moderate and conservative Republicans feuding over their party’s official position on abortion detracted from the pomp and circumstance surrounding Bob Dole’s historic departure from Congress on Tuesday. Dole, in fact, was solely to blame for throwing a fire bomb at his own party and reigniting one of the nation’s most divisive and emotionally charged issues. After delivering his parting words to Congress on Monday, Dole announced he would include a plank in his party’s platform expressing tolerance for Republican abortion rights supporters.
The untimely declaration startled many Republicans who had previously agreed only to embellish the platform’s preamble with vague pledges for compromise on a number of especially divisive issues such as abortion, term limits and affirmative action. In response to Dole’s pronouncement, conservative Republicans vowed to fight the inclusion of an abortion plank in the party platform. Dole reaffirmed his support for a constitutional ban on abortion and declared himself ardently pro-life, but insisted the party must broaden its base to capture opposing views.
Dole’s newfound willingness to acknowledge the electoral power of the majority of Americans who support limited abortion rights demonstrates his political savvy and deliberative skills. Dole’s sincerity, however, is suspicious. The steadfast promise for an anti-abortion amendment undermines his contention that his administration would be willing to tolerate abortion rights policies. Dole’s present-day leniency may simply be a cue to social conservatives and moderates alike that he is trying to attract support among pro-choice Republicans. How he might handle the fiery issue, if elected, is another matter altogether.
Dole hoped to stir up a little excitement in the polls last month when he resigned from his leadership post in the Senate to concentrate solely on the campaign. Instead, he continues to trail President Clinton in the polls. Dole can’t possibly hope to put up a good fight in November unless he can provide the moderate majority with solid reasons to choose him rather than reject the president. Dole’s risky attempt to reconcile the GOP by including a statement of tolerance certainly targets the moderate constituency he needs. Dole’s campaign team even concedes its candidate has no intention of accommodating the policy preferences of pro-choice Republicans if he is elected.
Just as Clinton’s strategic opposition to gay marriages defined him against what many moderates consider extremist liberal politics, Dole’s concession to the abortion rights wing of his party signifies his refusal to allow social conservatives such as Pat Buchanan and Ralph Reed, executive director of the Christian Coalition, to dominate the Republican party. Nevertheless, abortion remains the most controversial and morally fused issue in American politics today. Dole’s rhetoric, which shamefully feigns tolerance to muster votes, only taints his own pro-life stand and mocks the legitimate voices of Americans who support abortion rights.