Bauer Joins GOP Fray
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, April 22, 1999; Page A6
NEWPORT, Ky., April 21 Conservative activist Gary Bauer announced today that he is a candidate for president, telling students at his former high school that the shootings in Colorado show that "something has gone wrong in this country."
Returning to this hardscrabble, working-class river town where he was born, Bauer promised voters a populism of the right. He attacked icons of liberalism and committed his administration to a full-scale assault on the mandarins of the financial, political and entertainment establishments he sees as corrupting America.
"This country can be better than it is today, and I intend to make it better," he told a crowd of 1,000 at Newport High School.
What happened Tuesday in Littleton, Colo., Bauer said, is a manifestation of what he called a "culture of death" that has grown out of the abortion rights movement, a philosophy of "if it feels good, do it," family breakdown and a barrage of movies and television shows that glorify killing and demean sexual morality.
"Despite the fact that all of the Founding Fathers knew that America could only make it if it had God's blessing, in spite of that, there is in America today a militant secularism," Bauer said.
The basic strategy of the Bauer campaign calls for him to edge out such Republican competitors as Patrick J. Buchanan, Dan Quayle and Malcolm S. "Steve" Forbes for the support of social conservatives in such early contests as the nonbinding votes in Alaska and Louisiana.
"We get a ticket into Iowa if we win Louisiana," said Jeffrey Bell, adviser to Bauer's campaign, referring to the likelihood that the Louisiana caucuses will be held Feb. 5, two days before the Iowa caucuses. "Basically we have to take ownership of abortion and other social issues, and that will win it for us in Louisiana," Bell said.
Today, Bauer, in his first bid for elective office, sought to firmly plant his flag on conservative terrain and boost his poll ratings, which are in the 1 percent to 3 percent range.
The 52-year-old former head of the Family Research Council and former aide in the Reagan administration touched almost every hot-button issue dear to the right.
"There are too many people in the elites of America, in Hollywood and on Wall Street and in Washington, D.C., too many people that have forgotten that our liberty comes from God, not from any man," Bauer said, using language more often heard from the pulpit than in politics. "In the America I want, all of these producers and directors, they would not be able to show their faces in public because you, the public, would be pointing to them and saying, 'Shame. Shame. Shame on what you have done to American culture.' "
Taking a page from the 1988 campaign of George Bush, who attacked Michael S. Dukakis's membership in the ACLU, Bauer denounced the ACLU for filing suit against the presence of the Ten Commandments on school walls: "We've got drive-by shootings, [aborted] babies in trash cans, out-of-wedlock births, the American family under fire, and the ACLU is wondering that some child in America may be reminded where their liberty comes from. I say to the ACLU, 'Pack it up.' "
The ultimate "symbol of the culture of death" that has produced the recent school shootings in a number of states across the country, Bauer said, is abortion. The Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision "really boils down to one simple, profound, evil idea. They said our unborn children have no rights. When they made that decision they unleashed on America an unbelievable event that would undermine who we are and what we believe."
From here, Bauer flew to Des Moines, a state where social and religious conservatives are a powerful force in the first binding caucuses in the presidential nomination process. These Iowa voters will determine which of the candidates wins what Republican strategists call the "conservative primary."
In this analysis, there are two GOP primaries taking place simultaneously. One is to become the favorite of centrists and moderates, and the competitors are Texas Gov. George W. Bush, Elizabeth Dole and former Tennessee governor Lamar Alexander. The other is to become the candidate of the right, and the current competitors include Bauer, Quayle, Forbes and Buchanan.
Thomas N. Edmonds, Bauer media consultant, said that in order to be credible and competitive, "We've got to win early."
© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company