The crowded Institute of Politics (IOP) event, “Future of the Republican Party” focused on the ways the United States’ war on terrorism could transform the Republican party, then moved on to a host of possible changes in the Republican party’s platform.
All the panelists agreed the war provides a key opportunity for President George W. Bush to demonstrate his leadership ability.
Panelist William Kristol ’73, editor of the conservative political magazine, The Weekly Standard , said, “I think in October of 2004 there will be a consensus as to whether this administration was successful or not in the war on terrorism.”
Some of the panelists noted that while they supported expanding military action to Iraq, many other Republicans were not ready to take such action.
Most of the panelists said they believed Bush would need the support of both parties of Congress in a joint resolution before military action could proceed in Iraq, but specified that such a resolution would not be needed from the United Nations (U.N.).
“The U.N. votes against you, then they gleefully vote against you, and then they exuberantly vote against you,” said former Senator and IOP director Alan K. Simpson (R - WY).
Simpson later said the support of England, Russia, and Turkey would be key to expanding the war to Iraq.
Kristol said the ongoing war could result in a realignment of the political parties.
“There is more in common between Bush and Lieberman than between some Democrats, and between some Republicans,” he said.
Shifting topics, a minor debate broke out between Kristol and Juleanna G. Weiss, press secretary to Vice President Dick Cheney, over who would run for vice president on the next Republican ticket.
Weiss said she thought Cheney would run again. Simpson agreed, saying Cheney loves the political life. Kristol said that from what he had heard, Cheney would not be running again.
“Condy Rice would be a good nominee; that would really transform American politics,” Kristol added, drawing applause from the audience.
Stephen Goldsmith, a faculty director at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government said Bush has a chance to expand the Republican party’s base using his new breed of compassionate conservatism.
Kristol defined this compassionate conservatism as recognizing that government has a substantial role to play in people’s welfare, while still appreciating limited government.
Simpson received applause when he advocated that Republicans drop the stance against pro-choice views from their platform.
“I’m a conservative, but I’m pro-choice,” he said. “This is a highly sensitive personal issue.”
Kristol said Roe v. Wade will become a more peripheral issue for the Republican Party as national security and civil liberties come to the fore.
This change would make it easier for someone like former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, a pro-choice Republican, to run for national political office, Kristol said.
In the question session at the end of the forum, a student said that while he held conservative views, he was disenchanted with the current Republican leadership.
Kristol replied, “We could use some turnover in the Republican leadership.”