After three days of controversy and indecision, Colorado Democrats have decided to go ahead with plans to hear Sen. James Abourezk, (D-S.D.) at their annual Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinner Saturday.
But many he will stick to the traditional role assigned to such speakers - excoriating the evils of the Republicans - and avoid mentioning the Middle East.
Abourezk was invited to address the $15-a-plate dinner about two weeks ago after attempts to recruit Vice President Mondale or a Cabinet officer failed.
The senator has a generally liberal record and was assumed to be in tune with the thinking of the state party organization, which is meeting just before the dinner.
But shortly after his invitation, some Jewish voters, labor leaders, and others who are strong supporters of Israel began to complain that Abourezk was "pro-Arab." State Democratic Chairman Monte Pascoe said he "hadn't been aware of Abourezk's Middle East views when the senator was invited. Abourezk, who is of Lebanese extraction, supporters the existence of a Palestinian "homeland," a view that President Carter says he shares.
Denver labor leaders, who generally support the Jewish state, pressed the issue over the last weekend. John Mrozek, head of the Denver Area Labor Federation, and Teamsters union leader Don Sutton, among others, threatened to cancel their tickets.
Monday a member of the party's arrangements committee, Betty Crist, moved to rescind the Abourezk invitation and apologize to those who may have been offended by the invitation. That motion was tabled after one member suggested Abourzek might "get a cold or break a leg" and gracefully decline the invitation, thus letting the local party off the hook.
But Abourezk was quoted in the Denver Post's Tuesday editions as saying he was determined to give the talk unless specifically asked not to. Originally, he said, he planned to limit his remarks "to the kind of things you say at Democratic dinners."
But because of what he called "the vindictive action" of thos objecting his presence, he said he was considering discussing the Middle East "not only to clarify my position but also to let people know what the problem is in the Middle East."
Tuesday night the arrangements committee decided to leave Pascoe with two eptions - canceling the dinner (one of the major events of the Democrats' year) or have Abourezk debate a pro-Israel speaker.
Abourezk agreed to the debate.
But Wednesday morning, Pascoe announced the dinner would go ahead - with Abourezk as its speaker and no debate. The party chairman said it was difficult to find a pro-Israel speaker of stature on such short notice.