The Democrats invite you to rate the Republicans


WASHINGTON -- "If you can't say anything good about someone, sit right here by me."

That is what Alice Roosevelt Longworth had embroidered on a pillow that she kept in the sitting room of her Washington salon.

And I think it captures the true spirit of our nation's capital.

It is also a spirit, I am delighted to say, that is still with us, as demonstrated this week by a mailing from the Democratic National Committee.

The DNC has sent out tens of thousands of thumbnail sketches of the nine Republicans who have announced or are expected to announce for the presidency.

And you can imagine how impartial the Democrats are when it comes to Republicans.

Here are the highlights in alphabetical order:

Lamar Alexander: "So far, he has focused his campaign chiefly on elimination of the Education Department he once headed, limiting Medicare and other entitlements, opposing Henry Foster's nomination as Surgeon General, and advocating substantial funding for Star Wars. Alexander is also anti-choice. . . . "

Patrick Buchanan: "He has cited 'moral deterioration' and 'the ongoing cultural war' as his chief concerns. Buchanan is also anti-choice and supports school prayer. He has staked out conservative positions on arts funding, AIDS and gay rights issues."

Robert J. Dole: "While trying to sound less confrontational, Dole has now staked out positions opposing the assault weapons ban, affirmative action and arts funding."

Robert K. Dornan: " . . . the most extreme in the field of Republican Presidential candidates. Dornan has been one of Congress' most outspoken critics of gays and other minorities -- endorsing such initiatives as quarantining AIDS victims."

Phil Gramm: "He is chiefly seeking to focus on economic issues, and has pledged to balance the government's budget during his first term, which would require drastic cuts in all government programs. Gramm is also anti-choice, even in cases of rape or incest. Gramm has vowed to eliminate the Education Department and opposed the Brady Bill and assault weapons ban. In the past he wanted to end Social Security as we know it."

Alan L. Keyes: "His rhetoric is very similar to Buchanan's -- he too cites 'morality' and abortion as his chief concerns."

Richard G. Lugar: "While Lugar has extensive foreign policy experience, political insiders believe he is weak in the area of domestic policy.

. . . Lugar's campaign organization is not as well-organized as the other top contenders.

Arlen Specter: "Specter, a senator from Pennsylvania, is the least conservative on social issues of the candidates, although he voted against the Brady Bill. . . . Specter was criticized by women's groups in 1991 for his strong questioning of Anita Hill."

Pete Wilson: " . . . Wilson passed the largest state tax hike in history in 1991. Wilson is best known for spearheading Proposition 187 in his state, which, if upheld by the courts, will deny schooling and other services to the children of illegal aliens. Wilson is focusing his campaign on ending affirmative action, tough welfare reform and a Proposition 187-style legislative stance."

After you have digested all this -- and assuming you haven't decided to move to Canada -- the Democrats then invite you to answer questions like: "Do you believe the Republicans will try to exploit cultural and racial divisions within the nation?"

(Unlike the Democrats, that is, who can point to this mailing as a sign of their desire for healing and to bring people together.)

The mailing also invites you to send money to the DNC to make sure no Republican ever lives in the White House again.

(Climbing over the fence is another matter.)

A spokesman for the DNC told me the mailing was a "prospecting" piece, as in prospecting for gold. It is designed to raise money and was went to about 40,000 Democrats. If the mailing gets a good response, it will be sent out more widely.

I was also informed that the mailing was designed "to see what people are thinking" and that this feedback would be treated seriously by the DNC.

Which is why the mailing also asks: "Which candidate poses the toughest challenge to President Clinton?" Then it lists the nine Republicans.

The choice "Any of the above" was not included.

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