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GOP Platform Softens At The Edges

The draft GOP platform adopts a somewhat softer and more conciliatory tone than previous Republican platforms, but hews closely to the party's conservative fundamentals on taxes, abortion, defense and more.

While the platform is a party document, it is clear that presumptive GOP presidential nominee George W. Bush has placed his stamp on the draft, which is more positive and optimistic than previous efforts.

While the 1996 platform was packed with biting, sometimes dour attacks on President Clinton, the new platform mentions Mr. Clinton and Al Gore only once or twice in passing.

Click here for details of
the Republican Party platform.

"Government does have a role to play, but as a partner, not a rival, to the armies of compassion," states the draft.

The GOP's platform committee worked on a draft that drops the party's call for making English the nation's official language and proposes a stronger federal role in education and the environment than Republican policy has called for in the past. The draft also scales back criticism of the Endangered Species Act, celebrates advances in wetland restoration and air and water quality, and asserts "There should be a strong federal role in environmental protection."

On the other hand, the draft leaves unchanged the party's uncompromising stand against abortion rights. It also maintains the position that homosexuality is incompatible with military service.

In a related development, Bush killed a presidential primary reform proposal called the "Delaware plan." The plan had been approved by the Republican National Committee on Thursday, but Bush had the party's rules committee kill the proposal on Friday. The plan would have lengthened the primary season and was intended to make the process more democratic.

As expected, an effort to drop or soften the party's strong anti-abortion plank ended in failure.

GOP Abortion Foes Win

Click here for Susan Walsh's blow-by-blow account of the GOP abortion battle.

As in the past, the draft gives no ground to abortion-rights advocates, asserting as before that "the unborn child has a right to life which cannot be infringed," and proposing to ban abortion through a constitutional amendment and legislation.

Bush believes abortion should remain legal in cases of rape, incest or to save the life of the woman - exceptions not specified in the platform - but he chose not to challenge the party's social conservatives on the issue.

In an interview with CBS News Correspondent Bob Fuss, Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson, chairman of the platform committee, said Bush decided it "wasn't worth the fight" to change the abortion lanuage. He said it will stay as it is and he hopes the other parts of the platform will satisfy those unhappy with it.

Thompson says he hopes to avoid fights at the platform committee because it "hurts the party" and he wants Republicans to be like a "big happy family." But pro-abortion rights supporters say they will be making an effort to change the language, no matter how futile.

Other than the abortion plank, the draft is compatible with Bush's policies on deep tax cuts, partial privatization of Social Security and other major areas.

In a section billed in advance by platform leaders as an example of the "compassionate conservatism" promoted by Bush, the document supports large increases in spending on behalf of women's health, in particular, and medical research in general.

Such research is "one of the few areas in which government investment yields tangible results," the draft says.

But overall, "we will promote a health care system that supports, not supplants, the private sector."

The draft proposes pulling out of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty with the required six months notice if Russia does not agree to change it to permit a "robust" national defense system.

On immigration, the draft drops language from the 1996 platform that sought to forbid giving social services to illegal immigrants and said even legal immigrants should not depend on taxpayers for help.

Instead of favoring making English the official language, the new platform would consider English "our common language." It encourages "respect for other languages and cultures throughout our society."

Gone, too, is the zeal to close half a dozen federal departments - the draft does not propose shutting any and a portrayal of the federal government as not just intrusive, but practically villainous.

Even so, the draft sits upon the conservative foundation that less government is best.

It presents as the "central values of our party and our country" a reduced role for government, more personal liberty, "economic freedom," reliance on the market and decentralized decision-making.

"In recent years, America seemed to move away from some of the qualities that make her great, but we are now relearning some important lessons," it says.

Thompson said he thinks Bush "is going to feel very comfortable with the platform. I don't think anybody can embrace it in total."

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