By Kevin L. Groenhagen

from the May 22 issue of the Lawrence Business Ledger



   When it comes to David Miller, the Kansas media
often find it difficult to get the story right.
For example, after Bob Dole and Phil Gramm tied
for first place in the 1995 Iowa straw poll, The
Hutchinson News editorialized that Dole’s “failure
in Iowa sits squarely on the shoulders of David
Miller,” who was then chairman of the Kansas GOP.
This editorial concluded that the Kansas GOP
“should give David Miller the boot.”

   Apparently, The Hutchinson News missed Bob Dole’s
appearance on CBS’s Face the Nation. “We’re going
to save our resources for the main event next
February,” Dole told the moderator. By “main
event,” Dole was referring to the 1996 Iowa
caucuses. If Dole considered the Iowa straw poll
insignificant, why was Miller expected to, in the
words of The Hutchinson News, “communicate how
important this vote was for Dole”?

   Since Miller announced on May 5 that he would run
for governor, it looks as if the Kansas media have
been in a race to see who can print the most inane
comments regarding Miller and conservative
Republicans. Below are merely a few examples:

• “David Miller is going to devote the next three months of his life to the proposition that democracy doesn’t work.” - George Pyle, Salina Journal. According to Pyle, the “anti-abortion, anti-tax, pro-gun minority of Kansas Republicans [Miller] speaks for can be expected to go to the polls Aug. 4, while the more moderate majority that makes up the base of Gov. Bill Graves may forget to pencil the election into their busy schedules.” A 1996 Kansas City Star survey found that exactly 50 percent of Kansans believe abortion should be illegal except in cases of rape, incest and saving the life of the mother. According to this year’s Kansas Survey, “A proposed ban on partial-birth abortion was supported by seven out of ten” Kansans. The Kansas Survey also found that “Kansans want tax cuts.” And guns? In 1996 Lawrence Research found that 61 percent of Kansans favor a law allowing law-abiding citizens to carry a firearm for personal protection outside of their homes. Now, if a majority of all Kansans favor restrictions on abortion, want tax cuts, and believe law-abiding Kansans should be allowed to carry firearms, is it possible that “anti-abortion, anti-tax, pro-gun” Republicans make up a minority of the GOP? As Dan Rather would put it, that’s about as likely as a one-ended stick. • “Conservative Republicans believe that the term ‘conservative Republican’ is redundant. They say that Republican means conservative, that a Republican who says he is not conservative is not a Republican.” - Jim Hitch, Hays Daily News. I asked Hitch if he could name a conservative Republican who actually made such a statement. Speaker of the House Tim Shallenburger, R-Baxter Springs, was his response. During a recent interview with Shallenburger, Hitch claims that the Speaker “characterized moderate Republicans as fence straddlers and said that in reality, some of them may even be Democrats.” Some of them may even be Democrats? That’s quite a bit different from saying that a Republican who says he is not conservative is not a Republican. While Hitch’s example fell short of demonstrating his original assertion, we do have plenty of examples of moderates questioning the legitimacy of conservative Republicans. Sen. Dick Bond, R-Overland Park, himself said Miller could be elected governor if the “regular Republicans” don’t vote. “Right now there are the David Miller Republicans, and the rest of the Republicans,” writes the Topeka Capital-Journal’s Dick Snider. “That, after all, it why Miller is the chairman of Graves’ party,” notes George Pyle. (My emphasis) • “A more moderate GOP also would motivate disaffected GOP bigwigs to reopen their checkbooks for the party. Under social conservatives, official politicking has been a small-budget operation—though successful just the same because of the political zeal of social conservatives.” - Denney Clements, Wichita Eagle. Excuse me if I’m mistaken, but haven’t liberals such as Clements been pushing campaign-finance reform in order to limit the involvement of big wigs? • “Since Statehood, Kansans have elected governors, both Republican and Democratic, who try to run state programs efficiently while holding the line on taxes—and who leave moral improvement to the clergy,” - Denney Clements, Wichita Eagle. This isn’t quite true. “If we fail in building character, democracy will fail,” said Kansas Gov. Alf Landon. “And if democracy fails, free religion and a free church, as we know them, are gone too.” By “character,” the moderate Republican surely meant “the combined moral or ethical structure of a person or group.” Landon, who was not a member of the clergy, was essentially echoing Abraham Lincoln’s contention that “Democracy must be based not on ‘mere’ opinion but on ‘moral purpose.’” • “Graves has proved that he can compromise.” - Jim Hitch, Hays Daily News. Hitch assumes that compromise is a virtue. That’s not always the case. For example, the Missouri Compromise of 1820 stated that the number of free states and slave states must remain equal. Is a “moderate” amount of slavery virtuous? “Important principles may and must be inflexible,” Lincoln told an audience just days before his assassination. It was Lincoln’s inflexibility on the moral issue of slavery that led to the demise of that evil institution (and, regretfully, his own death).
The above are merely a few examples of how the mainstream media are distorting the truth about David Miller and other conservative Republicans. Sadly, as the Aug. 4 primary election grows nearer, their statements are likely to become even further removed from the truth.

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