Asking for Hyde

Posted: Jul 17, 2004 12:00 AM

WASHINGTON -- More than 100 Republican House members have signed a letter to President Bush asking that Rep. Henry Hyde of Illinois, currently House International Relations Committee chairman and a leading opponent of abortion, be a prime-time speaker at the Republican National Convention in New York.

 The letter was written by Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana, who has led the complaint about lack of strong conservative speakers at the convention during prime time. The schedule includes Sen. John McCain of Arizona, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Democratic Sen. Zell Miller of Georgia.

 "Henry Hyde is truly an icon of our party to millions of its most ardent supporters," said Pence's letter. Conservatives, sluggish in supporting Bush, would be energized by the sight on national TV of the 15-term congressman from the Chicago suburbs.


 Until John Kerry intervened, Democratic planners were keeping Sen. Hillary Clinton off the national convention speaking schedule in Boston out of a desire not to give her an advantage in the 2008 presidential contest if President Bush is re-elected.

 The other reason given by party activists for not including the senator was to break free of the Clintons. Presidential candidate Kerry stepped in to schedule her as introducing Bill Clinton, who will speak in prime time on the convention's opening night.

 A footnote: Democrats have been comparing what they call Vice President Dick Cheney's drag on the Republican ticket to the impact by then Vice President Dan Quayle in 1992, when an incumbent GOP president was defeated. Republicans are frustrated that they cannot contest that comparison without appearing to downgrade Quayle's capabilities.


 The Congressional Black Caucus is ignoring the racist and obscene language used by one of its members, Rep. Mel Watt of North Carolina, after a stormy meeting with independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader June 22.

 After Nader rejected demands by the Black Caucus to end his candidacy, Watt was heard saying this to the consumer rights advocate as the meeting broke up: "You're just another arrogant white man, telling us what we can do. It's all about your ego -- another f---ing arrogant white man."

 "I do not like double standards," Nader said in a letter Tuesday to Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, chairman of the Black Caucus, that demanded an apology. Cummings told this column he was leaving the matter in Watt's hands, and Watt has denied making the comments.


 While President Bush again turned down an invitation by the NAACP convention in Philadelphia this week, a request to speak there by freshman Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina was ignored.

 On May 25, Graham wrote to NAACP President Kweisi Mfume asking to speak about his proposal for Social Security modernization. "It's my hope," he said, "to find common ground and jump-start the national debate by reaching out to all Americans from across the political spectrum." Neither Mfume nor anybody else in the NAACP replied.

 A footnote: Privately, many Republican insiders think the president erred in rejecting the NAACP for the fourth straight year. They contend that getting booed and heckled probably would have been a political plus.


 The Oklahoma Republican establishment has broken a truce by running attack ads against conservative Republican Senate candidate Tom Coburn after he took a big lead in the polls for the July 27 primary.

 "We can't count on Tom Coburn," concludes a new television ad for his primary opponent, former Oklahoma City Mayor Kirk Humphreys. It cites Coburn's votes, as a House member in the late 1990s, against military and intelligence appropriations bills because they contained pork barrel spending.

 The ad went on the air after a Coburn poll showed him leading party establishment favorite Humphreys, 51 percent to 26 percent. The two candidates had agreed not to attack each other so Democrats would not be given ammunition in a tough general election campaign.