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Special Event

Republican National Convention: Speaker Hastert Accepts Rules Committee Report

Aired July 31, 2000 - 12:45 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you, Roger and Greta.

Right now, Mike Grebe is speaking. He is a lawyer and he's chairman of a Foley & Larder (ph), in Milwaukee, which is a firm. He's chairman of the Rules Committee here. He was introduced by the speaker, Dennis Hastert.

Let's listen a little bit to hear what he has to say.

MIKE GREBE, CHAIRMAN, RULES COMMITTEE: The RNC standing committee on rules proposed several changes to the party rules. The Republican National Committee adopted these recommended changes with additional amendments at its meeting on July 27, 2000.

Mr. Chairman, I would like to note that our committee on rules and the order of business is proposing significant revisions to the party rules. And I would like to bring to the attention of the chairman and the delegates, some of the most important provisions.

First, there will be stricter enforcement of the time window for the delegate selection process. Second, state party rules are now given autonomy over state law, for the purpose of determining the delegate selection process. Third, RNC members will serve as automatic delegates for the next national convention, although they will not be entitled to alternate delegates. Fourth, importantly, there will be an increase in the number of base at-large delegates awarded to the states and territories for the next convention.

In addition to other delegate awards, all states will now be given an additional four at-large delegates: the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, the Virgin Islands will each be given two additional delegates; and Puerto Rico will be given six additional delegates. An equal number of alternate delegates will be provided for those additional delegates.

Several other changes were adopted as well, including a variety of technical amendments that clarify our rules. One such change was a reordering of the party rules so that the rules pertaining to the national convention would be placed together.

Mr. Chairman, I now move adoption of the rules of the Republican Party, and the resolution.

DENNIS HASTERT, CHAIRMAN, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL CONVENTION: Thank you.

Without objection, the previous question is ordered. The question occurs under resolution offered by the delegate from Wisconsin. All those in favor, signify by saying "aye."

Those opposed, "no."

The ayes have it and the resolution is agreed.

Without objection, the motion we consider is laid upon the table.

I now have the honor of introducing...

BLITZER: Dennis Hastert accepting the Rules Committee report. The rules have now been changed. They've been formally approved.

Stuart Rothenberg is joining us, our political analyst.

One of the major changes that this convention has done is to approve what are called, they call them here "automatic delegates," the Democratic Party has long called them "superdelegates." They're going to be adding three RNC members, Republican National Committee members, to each state and territory, 55 delegations here, another 165 delegates will be attending the next convention in four years. It gives the Republican Party or the RNC a greater say in what's going on, the so-called establishment.

STUART ROTHENBERG, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Absolutely Wolf, on the Democratic side, you mention they do have -- already have superdelegates, including state party people, committee men. These are the political insiders, the veterans who think not just about ideology, but also about electability and process. They're the insiders and the Republicans haven't had that, they're going back to it.

BLITZER: You know, Stuart, we're going to talk a little bit more about this later. But Governor Tommy Thompson of Wisconsin, he's chairman of the Platform Committee, he's now speaking on the podium.

And let's listen in to hear what he has to say.

GOV. TOMMY THOMPSON (R), WISCONSIN: And working together, we made this the most open platform process, perhaps in our party's history. We reached out to people across this country. We met with every group and individual that wanted to express their views. And we created an open environment for all Republicans to pursue the inclusion of their initiatives in the platform.

In our subcommittee and committee hearings, we had good, serious discussions on the whole range of issues that face our country, in the best traditions of our party. And today, our committee is proud to present to you a document that is positive, uplifting and visionary. It is a vision of limited government, relying on the intelligence and the entrepreneurship of the American people. It's a vision of American as a land of dignity and opportunity for all, where every American can reach his or her dream. It focuses on real solutions to real problems like saving and strengthening Social Security and rebuilding our national defense.

As a governor, I am particularly proud of what our platform says on education. It reflects Governor Bush's call to action that no child is left behind.

(APPLAUSE)

It focuses on education excellence, strengthening accountability in our schools, returning local control and giving choices to parents who know what's best for their children's education.

And our platform gives every American the tools to climb the ladder of opportunity. Most important, we know that taxes are too high. And so our platform offers millions of American families the tax relief they need and the greatest relief...

(APPLAUSE)

... and the greatest relief and the greatest tax relief to those most in need. We think that you know how to spend your money better than the government does.

(APPLAUSE)

Every Republican is an American. We want to solve problems with Governor Bush's leadership. We want to get to work. But to accomplish this, all of this, to achieve all the good things we promise in our platform, we have to win.

(APPLAUSE)

As chairman of the Platform Committee, I've travelled all over America and I know that people all over this country want Governor Bush to win.

(APPLAUSE)

We've produced a platform that will help him win, that reflects his vision of compassionate conservatism, of prosperity with a purpose.

As Republicans, there is so much more that unites us than divides us. I want to thank everyone on the committee and our staff for all your hard work. I'm proud of this document and I commend it to you and to every American. The Liberty Bell may have a crack, but this is as strong and as complete as every American here today can listen in.

It is now my pleasure, great pleasure, to introduce my co-chairs of the Platform Committee, first the outstanding Senator Bill Frist of Tennessee will speak and he will be followed by Representative Sue Myrick of North Carolina. Give them a big, warm welcome, and thank you so very much.

(APPLAUSE)

BLITZER: Governor Tommy Thompson, the chairman of the Platform Committee making it clear that this platform is about to be formally approved.

Stuart Rothenberg joins me, and Bill Schneider, our political analyst.

Stuart Rothenberg, this platform is a statement that is in line with what Governor Bush wants to project, but at the same time there are some differences in the platform from his own positions.

ROTHENBERG: Well, I think that's inherent in any political platform, Wolf. The idea that the platform is going to state the party's position is in itself a strange contradiction in that you have individual candidates for office whether it's for Congress or for the White House. You have Republicans from liberal, moderate areas of the country to very conservative areas. So I don't think it's surprising that the governor has some difference with the platform.

And, look, when you look in the past, Bob Dole didn't even read the platform, apparently. So this is nothing new.

BLITZER: So it's a normal thing for presidents to have to run on platforms that -- with which -- element of which they disagree?

SCHNEIDER: It's a normal thing for people to ignore party platforms. I remember in 1980, Jimmy Carter was handed a platform and had a strong support, endorsement of abortion rights, and he had to disagree in writing with his own party's platform. He didn't win that year, of course, but I don't think it was because he disagreed with his party platform.

Party platforms are mainly meant to be something that you give a wing of the party that may be discontented. That's what Bush is doing right now.

BLITZER: John King is standing by on the floor of this convention, I believe in Oklahoma. What's the reaction down there, John?

JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Seated for the first time on the floor, Wolf, here in the Oklahoma delegation. This a very conservative delegation. Many of the delegates here also activists in an organization, the Republican National Committee for Life, an anti- abortion group.

As they've been listening to the platform debate here, these three ladies I'm with quite upset. Let me start with Cheryl Williams (ph).

Cheryl, you say you're upset not because of what's in the platform so much but by what they decided to print in this book that comes along with the platform. Explain that to me.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The very last two pages are the work that we did and it shows how many amendments we worked with. But they printed the text of several amendments that did not get into the committee report, and I don't understand that, especially since mine, to abolish the Department of Education, was on a division, and it is not included.

KING: Now, which ones specifically here do you object to.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm very upset that they printed the language from the pro-abortion group and not -- if they could just say it was defeated and the numbers, but they did not have to put it in print.

KING: OK, and let me ask your colleague here, Carolyn McClarty (ph). Is that right?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, that's right.

KING: Now, Governor Bush says he agrees with this platform, although he's also said that if he names Supreme Court justices -- and the next president could get as many as three or four appointees -- that he will not view abortion as a litmus test issue. Does that trouble you?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, it does, because you have to have that first, and then the other issues stem from that. If you don't have that as a core value, then something's wrong.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's right.

KING: And to my left is Peggy Carter (ph).

Peggy, you were talking about abolishing the Department of Education and how you were upset that your friend's amendment did not get in there. The governor has said he will make education a big issue, yet not only does your platform not abolish the Department of Education, there are some conservatives who say that he favors too much of a role for Washington in that? Do you share those concerns?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I certainly do. I'm a teacher at a Christian school in Norman, Oklahoma and I feel like the reason that our enrollment is increasing is just what you talk about. My son was on the Oklahoma City School Board for three years. He said that 3 percent of the Oklahoma City School Board's money was brought in from the federal government, but 90 percent of the work and of the paperwork was due to that money that came in, which was a minuscule amount considering the millions that they spent.

And I was there when Cheryl was being treated with less than respect and it wasn't just because she's my friend that it upset me, it was because he was allowing things like this to get respect. And then when it's something that has to do with education, no respect. On the GOP poll on the network, it would ask how many people wanted that abolished. I voted, yes, I wanted it abolished. It shows the results, said 75 percent of people that voted, and you have to be a Republican to get onto that.

I mean, is anybody listening? Is anybody listening? It was brought in by the NEA and it's still there and Bush is supporting it. I'm going to support him, I'll vote for him, but I don't understand their not listening to us. And I'm very disappointed in Tommy Thompson.

KING: You hear here on the floor some disappointment. This is George W. Bush's convention and everyone talking about a unified Republican Party, but still some disagreement, some grumbling here on the floor, many from conservative activists who believe that perhaps in the rush to appeal to moderate, suburban voters in the swing states that Governor Bush and the Platform Committee not addressing the concerns of the conservative activists who form the backbone of the Republican Party.

Back to you in the booth.

BLITZER: Thanks, John.

Oklahoma traditionally a Republican state in presidential contests. Massachusetts, however, traditionally a Democratic state in presidential contests.

Jeanne Meserve is standing by for some more reaction to this platform in Massachusetts -- Jeanne.

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, some disappointment here from this liberal perspective as well. I'm here with Rick Barros. He is a delegate here from Cotuit, Massachusetts, a lovely town on Cape Cod.

Some disappointment on your part in the abortion language in the platform. What did you want to see in there that is not?

RICK BARROS, MASSACHUSETTS DELEGATION: Well, we wanted a minority report that stated that the party welcomed differing opinions, that you could be pro-choice and still be welcome in the party.

MESERVE: Why did you want that?

BARROS: Well, because I think we need to send a message to America that this is a party of inclusion, and that, in fact, there are many Republicans, especially in my home state of Massachusetts, that are pro-choice.

MESERVE: Despite your difference with the platform and, in fact, with Governor Bush, are you going to vote for him.

BARROS: Yes. I mean, I don't have a litmus test on abortion and whether or not I'm going to support a candidate. I've supported pro- life candidates in the past, pro-choice candidates in the past. I just think that it would have been better for the general election and hewed closer to the governor's own position to at least include the exceptions for the health of the mother, rape or incest. And so, a little disappointed in that.

MESERVE: Rick Barros, thank you from some of the delegates here on the floor who support a pro-abortion rights stance a sense that this could hurt George Bush in the fall.

Back to the booth now -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks, Jeanne.

We're told that the vice presidential candidate, Dick Cheney, is going to be making an appearance on the floor of this convention in Philadelphia pretty soon. We are going to be following him if we can. In the meantime we are going to take a quick break. A lot more to talk about on this platform and other issues. And in our next hour we'll also be talking to George P. Bush, the nephew of the Republican candidate.

Stay with us.

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