WASHINGTON — Republican presidential hopeful Jack Kemp, who has been strongly angling for the support of Christian evangelicals and other social conservatives, said in a television interview that local school boards should have the right to keep homosexual teachers out of the classroom but sidestepped questions about how far he would go in opposing abortions.
The New York congressman and former pro football quarterback, who has consistently been trailing in early polls, also told interviewer David Frost that he is "competitive" but: "If I lost the race, I wouldn't cry. . . . I might shed a tear or two, but I would feel I gave it my best shot. . . . I could take a loss and go on to another career and not miss a beat." Frost's interview is part of his "The Next President" series of talks with this year's presidential candidates. Transcripts were made available on Saturday.
Kemp has sought all year to position himself as the "conservative alternative" in the Republican race, the true heir to President Reagan. But, although Kemp has espoused a "progressive conservatism" built around supply-side economics, he often has appeared uncomfortable in discussing the social issues that bring many conservative voters to the polls.
In addition, Kemp has faced tough competition for conservative votes, with former TV minister Pat Robertson claiming the support of many evangelical Christians and former Delaware Gov. Pierre S. (Pete) du Pont IV garnering endorsements from some prominent conservatives.
Kemp continued his reticence on social issues. When asked to elaborate on his statement that he is a "born-again Christian," he said: "I'm not going to, I'm not going to talk about that moment. . . . I don't think it should be part of a political campaign."
When asked about his support for a constitutional amendment to prohibit abortions, Kemp said he would allow abortions needed to save a mother's life but refused to say whether he would extend the ban to cases of pregnancies caused by rape or incest.
As Frost pressed him on the issue, he complained, "You're getting down to every jot and every tittle of the law," and avoided saying where he stands. He finally told Frost to "get on to some issue" that he would prefer to discuss.
On the question of homosexual teachers, Kemp elaborated on a statement he made in an interview with the Los Angeles Times two years ago that while "I believe in civil liberties for homosexuals . . . I guess I'd have to say I'd draw the line at letting them teach in the schools."