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CAMPAIGN 2000

Buchanan Re-Declares His Own Cultural War

Campaign: Reform candidate decries 'rampant homosexuality' in statement of personal beliefs on social issues at start of divided convention.

August 11, 2000|MEGAN GARVEY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

LONG BEACH — Pat Buchanan issued a strident statement of personal belief Thursday, railing against "rampant homosexuality" and America's moral decline and saying that "cultural decadence [goes] hand in hand with the death of republics and the end of empires."

The statement was released hours before Buchanan and his rival for the nomination, John Hagelin, had been scheduled to address the convention delegates. Instead, dueling conventions got underway Thursday and plans were rearranged hastily. Buchanan released the statement because, he said, presidential candidates could not remain silent on social, cultural and moral issues.

"It is separate from and not to be included in the [Reform Party] platform or in the preamble, and it is not binding on anyone but me," he said, later amending his remarks to say that it would also be binding on his vice presidential running mate, whom he plans to announce today.

His statement, which was distributed but not read, made clear Buchanan's positions on many of the divisive social issues that the Reform Party has always chosen to ignore.

Among the pledges: an anti-abortion litmus test for Supreme Court appointments, no taxpayer-funded abortions or fetal tissue research, no women in combat, no gays in the military and no recognition of same-sex marriage.

Buchanan, however, also stated a commitment to condemn and punish anyone who commits violence against an individual based on sexual orientation. "Hatred of, or derision for, men and women for an orientation they did not choose is wrong," he wrote.

Buchanan's conservative social beliefs--and the hardball politics that he and his followers practiced during the Reform Party's primaries--are at the root of the bitter split of the party gathered here to select a presidential nominee.

The party founded on principles of fiscal conservatism by Texas billionaire Ross Perot once had seemed poised to become a third-party force in national politics. However, its best-known elected official, Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura, bolted the party in February, calling it "dysfunctional" and Buchanan an extremist.

Now, after days of rancor and shoving and shouted insults, what was to have been the first day of a single four-day event broke into two camps, each with the stated purpose of nominating the "real" Reform Party candidate. With that nomination comes $12.5 million in federal matching funds--money that now seems almost certain to be fought over in the courts.

On Thursday, the faction backing Hagelin and made up largely of loyalists to Perot filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission to bar Buchanan from receiving the campaign money. They charged that Buchanan committed election fraud in the mail-in primary, an allegation Buchanan hotly contests.

"We have meticulously followed the rules here," Buchanan said Thursday. "We have won this fair and square."

By the count of Bay Buchanan--the candidate's sister and campaign manager--he has 410 of the nearly 600 delegates. And Gerry Moan, the Reform Party chairman coming into the convention, has backed Buchanan. Moan's name is on the contract for the hall and he controls the checkbook for the convention. Buchanan also appears to have the support of far more people in attendance, with his "brigades" showing up in force and making the numbers of Hagelin shirt-wearers seem paltry.

A flow chart is needed to keep track of events leading up to the convention--or conventions, as it has turned out. So far, two men claim to be the party chairman, two executive committees say they are in charge and two candidates say they will file claims for the millions in federal funds.

Hagelin spoke to the anti-Buchanan faction Thursday night at a parallel convention organizers threw together in eight hours a few blocks from the main exhibit hall at the Long Beach Convention Center. Hagelin is a little-known physicist and Natural Law Party leader, whose name many Reformers, both pro and con, don't know how to pronounce. (It's HAY-glin.) He called for a moratorium on genetically engineered foods, a push for renewable energy sources and deep tax cuts.

Earlier in the day, at a news conference and rally of the anyone-but-Buchanan forces, Hagelin condemned the well-known social conservative pundit and former Nixon speech writer.

"We're going to show the American people what reform is about, and it's about more than keeping chopsticks out of America," he said, referring to a common Buchanan line on the stump. "This is no home for exclusion, for bigotry or intolerance."

The two conventions kicked off after negotiations broke down Wednesday night. Russ Verney, a party founder who has emerged as one of the most vocal Buchanan critics, said that at one point the factions were close to reaching common ground but talks fell apart when Buchanan negotiators brought in an attorney.

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