Republicans Finish Their Platform Work
By Juliet Eilperin
Republicans adopted a slimmed down, conservative-leaning platform last night in a unanimous vote, peppering it with provisions that meshed with Sen. John McCain's (R-Ariz.) political objectives.
GOP delegates devoted a significant amount of time to crafting an energy section that addresses environmental issues, such as global warming, in greater detail compared to past platforms.
While the platform does advocate expanded oil and gas drilling to meet the nation's energy needs, the 112-person platform committee agreed to omit language calling for drilling in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, a plank in the party's 2004 platform. McCain has voted both ways on the question of drilling in ANWR, but has said this year he believes it should remain off-limits to energy exploration.
Yesterday Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who co-chairs the platform committee, said the delegates sought to match the document's energy provisions with the presumptive GOP nominee's rhetoric.
"We are proud to have passed the most aggressive and innovative energy platform in Republican Party history," McCarthy said in a statement. "Increasing America's energy independence is an issue of critical importance to our nation, and it's an issue on which John McCain has demonstrated strong and continued leadership with his 'all of the above' approach."
The platform's energy section breaks with the past on several fronts: for the first time, the platform acknowledges that human activity has contributed to climate change.
"The same human activity that has brought freedom and opportunity to billions has also increased the amount of carbon in the atmosphere," the document reads. "Increased atmospheric carbon has a warming effect on the earth."
But the platform sidesteps the question of whether to cap carbon emissions on the federal level, an approach McCain endorses.
Aside from the energy section, the rest of the platform strictly adheres to traditional Republican positions. It calls for constitutional amendments banning abortion and gay marriage -- two reforms McCain opposes -- and opposes amnesty for illegal immigrants.
Above all, the platform asserts presidential authority. The document makes it clear that the president, not Congress, should determine how the war is waged in Iraq and Afghanistan. It also calls for an end to all "earmarks" -- provisions where lawmakers specify federal funding for specific projects.
Throughout the day the delegates discussed an endless string of amendments to the platform, most of which were aimed at making the document more conservative. Adrienne Wing, a delegate from Hawaii, tried to change the heading for a section on Social Security from "entitlement reform" to "benefit reform," on the grounds that Americans should not see Social Security as a basic right.
"If we really are sincere about changing -- not changing, improving -- Social Security," she said, interrupting herself, then Republicans need to "change the mindset" about such federal programs.
But other Republicans voted down Wing's proposal, arguing it could become a political liability if Democrats sought to exploit the issue. Tony O'Donnell, a delegate from Maryland, warned against triggering "unintended consequences for us in future elections.... This becomes our platform, not just McCain's platform."
McCain did weigh in on one, relatively obscure issue, by demanding delegates insert language pledging the party's commitment to maintaining a special U.S. envoy for Northern Ireland. Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) recently said he would review whether such an envoy was still necessary.
McCain spokesman Brian Rogers said the senator wanted the envoy commitment "enshrined in the 2008 Republican Platform" to underscore how strongly he feels about the issue.
"The special U.S. envoy was first appointed by President Clinton and has been critical to fostering peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland,'" Rogers said. "That Senator Obama would be willing to toss aside one of the signature diplomatic accomplishments of the Clinton administration and put the progress in Northern Ireland at risk is only further evidence that he is simply not ready to lead."
But Obama spokesman Tommy Vietor pointed out that McCain had frequently criticized Clinton's foreign policy during the mid-1990s, including the former president's decision to grant a visa to Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams. In a June 1996 Foreign Policy article, McCain wrote of Clinton, "With his credibility now substantially at risk in Northern Ireland, the President finds himself stuck in a conflict that has frustrated the best efforts of many a skilled statesman."
Now that the platform committee has approved the document, it will come before the full convention for a vote on Monday.
Posted at 10:18 PM ET on Aug 27, 2008
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