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GOP Debate in New Hampshire

February 23, 1988

Context, say the scribes, is everything, particularly in the heat of political discourse. That's why Republicans are angry with one element of your coverage of the GOP candidates' debate on Feb. 14 in Goffstown, N.H.: The exchange between Rep. Jack Kemp and Vice President George Bush concerning "giving peace a chance" in Afghanistan.

During a discussion about the possible withdrawal of Soviet forces from Afghanistan, Kemp evinced serious reservations about the State Department's role in the matter. Bush said, "Wait and see. Don't fight progress when you see it. . . . Give peace a chance with your eyes wide open." Kemp replied, "You say give peace a chance. That's embarrassing. That is, to have a Republican talking about giving peace a chance."

Abruptly The Times' story shifted to another debate topic, thus leaving the wholly false impression that Kemp would want the GOP composed of belligerents with no interest in giving peace a chance anywhere with anybody.

In fact, if you had reported the exchange in a responsible fashion by reprinting the complete comments of both men, you would have informed your readers that Kemp's objection to Bush's comments was that they were a plagiarism of the trite phrase used by House Speaker Jim Wright to justify the Democrat Party's decision to cut aid to the Nicaraguan Contras.

In fact, what Kemp went on to say is that the GOP has been and remains the party of peace through strength. That's what Republicans stand for. But sadly, that's not the way The Times chose to print it.

Certainly there is nothing wrong with editorial analysis. But Republicans hope that it appears in the opinion pages, not in the context of distortion by omission in your paper's news columns.

REP. WILLIAM M. THOMAS

R-Bakersfield

Washington, D.C.

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