Friday, August 27, 2004

Updated August 27, 2004 at 1:00 am; revised slightly on Aug. 27 at 12:50 pm.

Can the Republican Party right itself? U. S. Senate Candidate Alan Keyes declines brief speaking role at Republican Convention. Will Racicot, Bush-Cheney Chairman, reverse course, accept the Rev. Jackson challenge and make Alan Keyes truly a part of the Republican program. Rev. Jackson may have lurched and stumbled accidentally into the truth. Will it make the Republican Party free?

Lynn Sweet tells us that she, “asked Marc Racicot, chairman of the Bush-Cheney re-election campaign, if Illinois GOP Senate candidate Alan Keyes should get a speaking slot at the convention. Wanting to sidestep the matter, he said, ‘I haven't made a recommendation yet.’ Obama keynoted the Democratic Convention in Boston last month.” Chicago Sun-Times, August, 26, 2004 [as referenced in]

Sweet tells us that putting Keyes on the dance card means bringing up at the GOP convention the sad situation Republicans face in Illinois, hardly a story line that helps President Bush.

Perhaps, Lynn, but if Keyes were to agree to restrain himself a bit and be a part of the program, as did virtually all of the speakers, including no doubt Barack Obama [notwithstanding the Obama campaign’s denial of same] and excluding perhaps Mr. Bill, at the Democratic Convention, Keyes could help add some moral toughness, passion and principle, not to mention color, to the Convention.

Also, it would give Keyes a much-needed boost in Illinois and perhaps be a way of telling the so-called State GOP leaders Edgar, Thompson and Topinka [sounds like a Loop law firm] to get with the program and get behind Alan Keyes.

So far, the national Republican Party, which seldom misses an opportunity to miss an opportunity, has stayed true to that history in their handling of the Keyes Convention role. According to Dan Proft, Deputy Campaign Manager of the Keyes for Senate Campaign and President of the Illinois Leader, the Republican Party offered Keyes a very brief and off-prime time speaking slot on Tuesday afternoon at the Convention, along with other Republican U. S. Senate candidates for open seats. Similar comments were made by Dan Allen, spokesman for the Republican National Senatorial Committee. See, Liam Ford's Chicago Tribune, August 26, 2004, Metro section, p.3 article.

Of course, such a non-prime time speaking opportunity would not do much for media exposure, for either Keyes or the Party, and Keyes has declined the offer. Going through the hoops dictated by that Convention TV appearance would take more time away from important networking and fundraising events by Keyes than it would benefit him, contended both Proft and Keyes' Campaign Manager [and former Jack Ryan Communications Director] Bill Pascoe. See, Liam Ford's Chicago Tribune, August 26, 2004, Metro Section, p.3 article. Indeed, both Keyes and Pascoe were already out in New York yesterday, working the Convention and will be doing so through next Thursday.

Remember, in a somewhat similar story to the treatment of Keyes, the Democrats almost screwed up by trying to toss Hillary in with a number of other female U. S. Senators, limiting her speaking role to that collective event at the Convention. A nice try by VP Candidate John Edwards, through his boss, Presidential Candidate John Kerry, to keep Hillary from the limelight just in case Kerry loses, resulting in Edwards and Hillary vying for the top Democrat spot in 2008.

In any case, the point is that the Democrats saw the error of their ways, especially in light of the offense to Hillary and her all important constituency, and presto, almost at the last minute, a more significant speaking role was created for Hillary--the opportunity to introduce the still and always Leader of the Democratic Party, her hubby-- President Clinton.

Now, obviously, by no means is Alan Keyes as important to the Republican Convention as Hillary was to the Democratic Convention. But, perception is to some extent reality and the treatment of Alan Keyes, as seen by the television audience, matters. Rev. Jesse Jackson, Jr. said on last Sunday’s WBBM’s AM 780 “At Issue,” program, “ he [President Bush] has a guy running for [the U. S.] Senate. Will he [Bush] support his Senate Candidate, will the Republican Party- were they just being cynical or sinister or were they adding to the bizarreness of it all, or are they serious about—for Mr. Keyes to take the risk he has taken and the heat he has taken, he deserves the support of his party.”

Well, Rev. Jackson has thrown down the gauntlet to President Bush and Marc Racicot, chairman of the Bush-Cheney re-election campaign. Are President Bush and Marc Racicot going to let Rev.Jackson’s challenge just hang there in the air and sail, ultimately over the plate, for strike three. Or, will they let Keyes knock it out of the park.

It doesn’t matter that Rev.Jackson was, himself, likely being insincere. The question remains--Will the Republicans concede that Rev. Jackson’s cynicism about the Keyes Senate effort is justified? Or, will Raciot reconsider and start building a true Republican Party in Illinois and a truly integrated National Republican Party?

Remember Mark, as Judge Easterbrook, a Reagan appointee to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals keeps reminding us, wisdom come lately is better than wisdom not come at all.

And, Alan Keyes has shown he can tone it down, without dumbing it down. He did so last week at the City Club of Chicago. He did so last Saturday when he taped my show, “Public Affairs,” which will air next week in the suburbs. Giving Alan Keyes not 15 seconds of fame, but five minutes to make a balanced, thoughtful statement of core Republican Platform positions on national TV in prime time would not only help Keyes’ Senate race. It, of course, helps President Bush by keeping Barack Obama in Illinois, where he can do less damage to Bush’s position in the battleground states.

Decision time for Raciot and Bush. Cynical or Sincere? What kind of a message does President Bush want to send to Illinois and America? Illinois and the whole country, if not the whole world, are watching.
Jeff Berkowitz, host and producer of “Public Affairs,” can be reached at