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D’Amato, Buchanan Debate Again Pulls Party Apart Public Disputes Underline Difficulties Facing Bob Dole

Mon., May 13, 1996, midnight

With a civil war raging within the Republican Party over abortion, the minimum wage and other issues, some of the principal combatants are resisting pressure to bury the hatchet and help pull the party together as they head toward this summer’s party convention.

Sen. Alfonse M. D’Amato, R-N.Y., a top ally of GOP presidential candidate Bob Dole, again on Sunday unleashed stinging criticism of Patrick J. Buchanan and other conservatives for hard-line rhetoric that he says has alienated voters.

Practically inviting Buchanan to leave the GOP, D’Amato compared Buchanan to a child who threatens to leave a baseball game if he cannot be pitcher. “If he can’t accept it … let him leave the game,” D’Amato said on NBC-TV’s “Meet the Press.”

Speaking earlier on the same show, Buchanan said he expects to stay a Republican rather than form a third party, but he threatened to challenge Dole’s choice for vice president if the presumptive Republican nominee selects an abortion-rights supporter.

The skirmish illustrates anew how hard it will be for Dole to bridge the divisions in his ranks, which seem to be getting wider rather than narrower as the convention nears.

Those divisions are now being aired in extraordinarily public disputes: D’Amato has accused House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., and other House GOP leaders of being out of touch with voters; several moderate House Republicans have pilloried their leaders for anti-union rhetoric; a noisy debate over the party’s anti-abortion position has raged; Dole put himself at odds with Buchanan and other conservatives by favoring extension of most-favored-nation trading status for China; and Republicans in Congress have been bitterly divided over proposals to raise the minimum wage.

“It does look like the final scene from ‘Hamlet,”’ Buchanan said Sunday.

Adding to the rhetorical fire, D’Amato on Sunday pressed his complaint that hard-edged oratory by conservative GOP leaders is responsible for much the party’s current troubles, making it vulnerable to charges of intolerance and obscuring its popular goals of smaller government and welfare reform.

“Our rhetoric has masked what we are attempting to do,” he said.

Although D’Amato is a senior official in Dole’s campaign, he insisted that his comments were not authorized by the majority leader.

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