A few days ago, I posted this on FaceBook:
“Sad to read the obituary today of one of my favorite journalists, Richard Reeves. He wrote for a number of publications, including the New York Times and Esquire. He was a regular PBS commentator and wrote several books about U.S. presidents. He wrote a lot of great stuff, but for me, the best words he wrote came In August 1992, when he was in Houston to cover the GOP convention for the National Journal. Here’s how he started one of his columns: “Convention journalism is getting better: “The Dark Side of the GOP” by Juan R. Palomo in The Houston Post. The toughest column I read this week, stripped of the style and let’s-pretend politesse of better-known writers …”
A number of my FB friends asked that I post a copy of the column. It took a while, but I finally found a copy (it doesn’t have the exact date), and here it is:
The Dark Side of the GOP
By Juan R. Palomo
Houston Post, August 1992
IN GRANTING bulldog Patrick Buchanan a prime-time slot Monday night, the Bush campaign allowed America, once again, to catch a glimpse of the dark side of the Republican Party.
Doctors may have re stored Buchanan’s heart recently, but we have to wonder whether anybody can do much to put some heart into what is rapidly becoming the Grouchy Old Party, thanks to people like Buchanan, Jerry Falwell and Phyllis Schlafly.
Certainly, Bush is doing little to rein in these people, despite his and wife Barbara’s transparent attempts to make us believe that they are distraught over some of the awful things Buchanan and some in the president’s campaign are doing and saying.
What came across the screen Monday was an ugly, mean, vindictive and petty person. It wouldn’t have been so bad if the cameras had not panned across the Astrodome showing delegates, alternates and guests laughing their heads off in adoring glee each time Buchanan spewed out the vicious attacks on everything not endorsed by the right wing’s agenda.
Buchanan cloaked his venom with what he likes to call his country’s “Judeo-Christian” tradition. Most of us are not great biblical scholars, but it doesn’t take a religious expert to know this Judeo-Christian tradition is based largely on tolerance, acceptance and love, three things that seemed to have taken a walk whenever the rightwing fanatics have taken over the spotlight.
If there is a spirit about this convention, it is one of intolerance, a spirit that says if you’re not with us 100 percent, you’re our enemy.
Take, for example, the many placards that were waved as Buchanan spoke with the message: “Family rights forever; Gay rights never.”
Or take party Chairman Richard Bond’s words: “We are America. Those other people are not America.”
Or the actions of a group of young Republicans on Tuesday. Wearing convention credentials, they banged on the windows, shouted and chanted campaign slogans and insults at a restaurant where Democratic Party Chairman Ron Brown was trying to conduct a news briefing.
Contrast all that with Ronald Reagan’s words Monday night: “We are all equal in the eyes of God”
Contrast it all with the words of Massachusetts Gov. William Weld: “Everybody deserves to be treated with dignity.”
Weld, at least, has been consistent in that his words have matched his actions. But Reagan spent his entire political career uttering sweet words of love while tolerating – and benefiting from – the hateful words of this some of his rightwing followers.
Which is exactly the game the Bushes have been playing. In interview after interview, they go through exhaustive handwringing exercises deploring some of the sleazy tactics of people in this campaign and telling us that deep down they are good, decent intolerant people. But a good, decent and tolerant person does not allow those who work for him to play dirty, and he does not permit his party’s platform to be a document of exclusion.
Tonight, Barbara Bush will stand before America as a symbol of this administration’s “family values” and she will be wildly cheered. The next night Bush will take his turn on the podium and also will talk about family values. He too will be wildly cheered.
But their words will ring hollow unless they act more convincingly to put a stop to all the hateful rhetoric and actions that are coming out of the Republican Party.
George and Barbara Bush talk about putting their arms around a hypothetical family member who is gay or has had an abortion. But let’s talk about real people. Can they bring themselves to put their arms around those very real members of the American family that the right wing of the party would love to banish from America?
Can the Bushes, for instance, look one of their good friend Robert Mosbacher’s daughters in the eye and tell her they believe she should be denied equal rights because she is a lesbian, which is what Buchanan and his bunch believe? If they cannot do that, they should repudiate Buchanan, Schlafly and Falwell, and all those other apostles of hate who have taken over the Republican Party.
America is getting tired of these people and unless the GOP purges itself of them soon, it is in real danger of becoming a minority party.