INSIDE THE BELTWAY: Foolish acts of bigotry have marred both GOP campaigns. Is somebody asleep at the wheel?

As this is written, voters in three more states are voting to select GOP delegates, and the Republican Party is facing serious damage through its belated discovery that it (the party of Lincoln, amazingly) has harbored bigotry and prejudice for decades without much effort to cast it out.

As this is written, voters in three more states are voting to select GOP delegates, and the Republican Party is facing serious damage through its belated discovery that it (the party of Lincoln, amazingly) has harbored bigotry and prejudice for decades without much effort to cast it out.

As this is written, voters in three more states are voting to

select GOP delegates, and the Republican Party is facing serious damage

through its belated discovery that it (the party of Lincoln, amazingly)

has harbored bigotry and prejudice for decades without much effort to

cast it out.



A strong statement? Not really. After all, Democratic candidates never

go to Bob Jones University to seek votes and the support of its leaders;

Rev. Pat Robertson has never contributed his anti-black, anti-Catholic,

anti-Semitic sentiments to the support of a Democrat.



It has fallen to the lot of Sen. John McCain to rip off that scab and

open the old wound, but he has hardly kept much dignity for himself. The

message of tolerance doesn’t come easily, after all, from a candidate

whose profile in courage was also badly blurred in South Carolina and

Michigan.



While George W. Bush was basking in the approval of the racism and

anti-Catholicism of his hosts at Bob Jones U., McCain was telling us

there was nothing wrong with South Carolina’s flying the Confederate

flag over the state capitol. It meant ’heritage’ to him, he explained,

absurdly.



And now Governor Bush, in a deftly placed letter to New York’s Cardinal

John O’Connor, has apologized for not challenging the bigotry of Bob

Jones University while he was there or, for that matter, since. In the

letter, Bush called it a ’missed opportunity’ he regretted.



He also - and here’s where the tin PR ears of both campaigns can be seen

- chose in the letter to the Cardinal to attack McCain. (’Get a life,’

the prelate must have thought). Bush resented, he said, attempts to make

him seem anti-Catholic or to share anti-Catholic sentiments. His staff

regularly attacks McCain’s conduct in sponsoring phone calls in Michigan

citing the Bob Jones appearance as evidence of Bush’s own prejudice -

but why repeat it in the letter?



The fact that McCain first denied responsibility for the calls but then

admitted it when the polls were closed only added to the public

impression that McCain cared more for the smear than for the issue

itself.



This all points up two troubling PR matters. Where have the Republicans

been all this time that they’re only now seeing the dangers in WASP

exclusivity?



And who’s advising these guys? Even a belated letter to the Cardinal may

help Bush, but so would a letter to House leaders urging them to drop

the anti-Catholic bias and let the priest who was the choice of their

committee become the House chaplain. An admission and apology from

McCain for his far-less-than ’Straight Talk’ would also be appropriate

PR, anybody?



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