THEY REPEATEDLY call themselves conservative, as if to do so is
magic. But the label masks stark differences on immigration, trade,
abortion and more by the top Republican presidential candidates.
As they go national in the crush of primaries through March,
Pat Buchanan, Bob Dole and Lamar Alexander will be preaching some
similar ideas: a busted-up federal bureaucracy, the transfer of
powers to states and, somehow, lower taxes.
But some rhetoric will sound more in harmony than it is. What
they wish would happen with families, schools and morals sets them
Buchanan, the upstart winner in New Hampshire, is uniquely
ferocious in attacking the trade agreements Alexander supports and
that Dole, as Senate majority leader, had a large hand in bringing
Alexander, who had a moderate record as Tennessee governor,
stands alone against further curbs on legal immigration, against
federal abortion restrictions, and for some environmental programs.
Dole has a public service record so long, varied and nuanced he
can draw on aspects useful to him - while leaving himself open to
Here are positions of the GOP trio on some issues dividing them:
Alexander - Says states have the right to restrict abortion,
and should do so. But "the federal government should not be
involved at all - should not condone, encourage, fund or prohibit
Buchanan - Favors constitutional amendment against abortion and
has not specified exceptions for rape or incest. He'd stop federal
Dole - Supports constitutional amendment to restrict abortion
with exceptions for rape, incest and life of the mother, but has
been unclear on how hard he would push it.
Alexander - Proposes $1 billion "GI Bill for kids" so poor and
middle-income parents can send children to public, private or
religious schools of their choice. Led Education Department during
Bush administration. He now would close it.
Buchanan - Favors school-choice vouchers but only if no
government strings are attached. Would abolish Goals 2000, which
ties a portion of federal school aid to national standards.
Dole - Favors school-choice vouchers, says schools must teach
Western tradition and U.S. achievement. Voted for creation of
Education Department and later against it.
Dole - Says Medicare should continue to be federal
responsibility but Medicaid should go to states. Played key role in
Social Security reforms that taxed a portion of benefits for high
income recipients, scaled back cost of living increases, and put
system on sounder footing.
Alexander - Would give states responsibility and block grants
for Medicaid and Medicare.
Buchanan - Has criticized congressional Republicans for trying
to weaken Medicare. Rules out raising Social Security payroll