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Wright to Right: Behave Civilly to Gorbachev

November 18, 1987|United Press International

WASHINGTON — House Speaker Jim Wright (D-Tex.) today urged conservatives to behave in a civilized manner when Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev addresses a joint session of Congress Dec. 9.

Gorbachev will be the first Soviet leader and the first communist leader to address such a joint session, which will take place during the Soviet leader's summit with President Reagan that begins Dec. 7.

Asked about plans by congressional conservatives to protest the Soviet leader's speech and to stage a walkout, Wright said, "I really can't imagine that kind of thing."

Cites 'Tradition of Civility'

"I just can't conceive, when it comes down to it, that any members of the House would behave in a boorish way," Wright said. "Any calculated rudeness or incivility to any guest would certainly breach the traditions of this democracy and of this chamber.

"I just believe that there is a tradition of civility that we have a responsibility to uphold in this country. It behooves those of us in Congress to treat our guest with respect. If we're not prepared to do that, then we ought to absent ourselves from the chamber."

He urged conservatives to "maintain enough self-control and restraint" and asked all members to create "an atmosphere of civility" during the Soviet leader's address.

Despite the uproar on Capitol Hill, Nancy Reagan has extended to her Soviet counterpart an invitation to tea and a tour of the White House.

Mrs. Reagan personally invited Raisa Gorbachev to take the tour Dec. 8 and spend some "private time" together during the summit.

Conservatives Livid

Elaine Crispen, the First Lady's press secretary, said Mrs. Reagan sent a letter to Mrs. Gorbachev inviting her for a tour not only of the state rooms, but the family quarters as well, and to have tea.

Conservatives in Congress are livid that Gorbachev, whom they call the world's biggest tyrant, would be invited to speak at the same lectern used by presidents and other leaders of the free world.

"I am going to do everything I possibly can within my power to prevent the world's most powerful communist leader from standing at that lectern and addressing this house," Rep. Robert K. Dornan (R-Santa Monica), one of the House's most vocal anti-communists, said on the House floor. "I beg you, Mr. Speaker, do not let that communist come into this chamber."

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