Trivia question: In the history of presidential campaigns, who was the first major candidate who was both a member of a labor union and married to a union member?
The answer, according to Democratic presidential challenger Bill Bradley, is . . . Bill Bradley. During his days as a forward on the New York Knicks, Bradley was a member of the professional basketball players union. His wife, college professor Ernestine Schlant, is a member of the American Federation of Teachers.
Bradley made the boast twice in his speech yesterday to the International Brotherhood of Painters and Allied Trades in Washington. More than 1,000 unionists gave Bradley a standing ovation as he entered the hall, then clapped and chanted his name as he left. In between, Bradley promised that as president he would push harsher sanctions for companies that violate labor laws, including punitive damages for firing union organizers and ineligibility for federal contracts.
"If you want to help working families," Bradley said, "you have to start with the unions."
IBPAT president Michael E. Monroe praised Bradley's candor and said he was the first candidate ever to turn down a contribution from the union's political action committee. He seemed to suggest that members ought to vote for Bradley in a secret straw poll held yesterday. The poll results were to be forwarded to the AFL-CIO to aid in deciding whether Bradley gets labor's endorsement over Vice President Gore.
Now, back to today's brain teaser.
Almost certainly, the Bradleys are not the first husband-wife unionists. Ronald and Nancy Reagan met when they were both movie stars (who can forget her performances in "Hellcats of the Navy" and "Donovan's Brain"?), and movie stars are generally obligated to join the Screen Actors Guild. In fact, Ronald Reagan, who ran the SAG, used to boast that he was the first union president to reach the White House.
Where McCain Stands Today on Abortion
Arizona Sen. John McCain continued to clarify his position on abortion this week, declaring his "unequivocal support" for overturning Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion.
The GOP presidential candidate, who has a long antiabortion record, surprised some conservatives when he suggested in recent interviews that "in the short term, or even the long term," he would not support overturning the decision. He also said that immediate repeal would lead women to seek "illegal and dangerous operations," one of the key contentions of abortion rights supporters.
Shortly after, McCain issued a statement that he has always opposed Roe v. Wade and "as president, I would work toward its repeal." But apparently, that was not enough.
He has now written a letter to the National Right to Life Committee saying, "I share our common goal of reducing the staggering number of abortions currently performed in this country and overturning the Roe v. Wade decision. I truly hope this clarifies any ambiguity on my position."
It did not. "We don't find his latest statement satisfactory," said NRLC official Douglas Johnson. Among other things, Johnson said, McCain didn't explain how or when he would seek to overturn Roe v. Wade.
McCain aides said that he would immediately begin pressing for nullification of Roe v. Wade while working simultaneously to reduce the number of abortions through adoption, counseling and other means. They also suggested that the NRLC is taking such a hard-line position out of personal pique. The group vigorously opposes McCain's campaign finance reform efforts. Johnson called that argument "a diversionary tactic on the part of McCain."
Staff writer Terry M. Neal contributed to this report.