Elizabeth Dole, by calling for stricter gun control earlier this
week, made great headway in her presidential campaign among people who
would never vote for her — or any other Republican — in a million
years. She earned the praise of Rosie O’Donnell, who said that Dole’s
statement “was a bold and courageous step, and I was so amazingly moved
by that.” New York Times’ columnist Maureen Dowd said Dole “was the only
one in this mediocre mob who had the courage to stand up to the NRA,
saying special interests should not dictate policy.”

Dole didn’t fare so well, however, among the constituency to whom she
needs to be appealing at this point in the campaign, i.e., the
Republicans. At the New Hampshire GOP’s Primary Kickoff dinner on
Sunday, she drew an angry reaction by endorsing a host of restrictive
gun-control measures. New Hampshire Republican consultant Dave Carney,
who ran Bob Dole’s ’96 New Hampshire effort, remarked: “I don’t know
where she’s going. Every time she opens her mouth, she seems to move a
little more to the left.”

Dole’s aides said she is trying to push the Republican Party in a
more inclusive direction and to expand its appeal with moderate voters.
Dole’s “inclusive” and “moderate” talk would be bad enough if it were
just a political strategy designed to expand her appeal and
electability. In fact, though, Dole is not merely trying to court
moderates — she is a moderate. This approach is hauntingly reminiscent
of another presidential candidate, who was obviously trying to distance
himself from his conservative predecessor and political benefactor at
the time, Ronald Reagan.

Vice President George Bush, when he promised “a kinder, gentler
America,” was not merely posturing for moderate votes, either. He was
revealing his moderate credentials that he was later to actualize when
he acquiesced to Democratic pressure to break his “no new taxes” pledge.
The following eight years of Bill Clinton should be lesson enough for
Republicans who think “moderation” is the way to expand the party’s

Lest we infer that the ordinarily gaffeless Dole uncharacteristically
misspoke in her comments, she dug in her heels Monday when offered an
opportunity for repentance, drawing further admiration and accolades
from the mainstream press. Not only did she not withdraw or even soften
her remarks, she took an unmistakable shot at the NRA, saying, “I don’t
think that any special interest group should dictate what our position
is going to be on particular issues.”

Since we have been told repeatedly that Dole hasn’t a spontaneous
bone in her political body, we must assume that her dig at the NRA was
calculated. Going after the NRA has symbolic meaning among liberals and
moderates. Dole is sending a message to some perceived constituency that
she is not to be lumped with those other reactionary bumpkins she’s
vying with for the GOP
nomination, including even George W.

Dole’s digs at the NRA are being viewed as incendiary by many Second
Amendment stalwarts because she is playing right into the liberal line
that the gun lobby has no meritorious arguments, just plenty of money to
buy Republican votes.

You won’t find many conservatives who believe that the moving force
behind vigorous Second Amendment advocacy is the dollar bill. Rather, we
champion the right to bear arms as essential to the preservation of our
liberties. An even more objectionable aspect of Dole’s comments is that
she has fallen into the seductive liberal trap of scapegoating guns for
the Columbine murders. Mainstream Republican conservatives reject the
notion that guns were the reason for the murders.

Now that Dole has interrupted her self-imposed silence on the issues,
she has revealed her true colors on two important ones: abortion and gun
control. In both cases, she has demonstrated herself to be out of step
with her party’s base. Of all times for her to alienate her party, the
pre-primary season is among the worst.

Establishment Republicans such as Dole are often very fine people,
but they are not suited to unite a victorious GOP coalition. Ironically,
their efforts to “moderate” the party’s position to expand its base do
just the opposite: By diluting the message they send conservatives
running for the hills or to third parties. If the GOP expects to remain
united and expand its base, it will have to remain the party of Lincoln
and Reagan, not Rockefeller and Romney.

To find out more about David Limbaugh, and read features by other
Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate
web page.

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