WASHINGTON — Republicans today commended GOP National Chairman Lee Atwater for his aggressive leadership and said he had been subjected to "unremitting attacks" from Democrats.
Members of the Republican National Committee adopted a resolution commending Atwater's leadership.
In debate on the resolution, Jack London, the GOP national committeeman from Arizona, praised what he called Atwater's courage and asked, "Why do you think the Democrats want to get rid of him?"
'Promote This Party'
Atwater pledged that "every ounce of energy I have is going to be dedicated to doing the best job I can to promote this party."
Atwater made no mention of the controversial memo sent out from the Republican National Committee office earlier this month attacking the voting record of House Speaker Thomas S. Foley. The resolution also made no direct mention of the memo.
Most committee members and state GOP chairmen interviewed as they opened the two-day meeting predicted that Atwater will ride out the controversy generated by the memo that compared the new House Speaker's voting record to that of Rep. Barney Frank.
Critics of the memo say it was unfair because it was headed "Tom Foley: Out of the Liberal Closet" and Frank, a Massachusetts Democrat, is an acknowledged homosexual.
An Atwater aide, Mark Goodin, resigned after saying he had approved the memo. Democrats have called on President Bush to fire Atwater, but the President said he accepts the chairman's statement that the memo was written and mailed without his knowledge.
Atwater today repeated his call for the election of a Cuban-American to succeed the late Rep. Claude Pepper (D-Fla.), a stance termed inflammatory by a Democratic state senator.
Atwater said at a meeting of the Cuban-American National Foundation in Washington on Tuesday that he gave priority to the election of a Cuban-American to Pepper's seat.
"I'm saying it again because I believe it," Atwater told the GOP committee today. "I believe there is a place in the U.S. Congress for a Cuban-American, and if the Democrats don't like that, fine. . . . They can keep attacking me and keep attacking me and keep attacking me."
On Thursday, a Democratic state senator, Jack Gordon, withdrew from the race to succeed Pepper and attacked Atwater's call for the election of a Cuban-American.
"No statement would more inflame a city that has more tension and antagonism than it can possibly deal with right now," Gordon said, calling Atwater's statement "outrageous" and "irresponsible."