GOP Web Site Offers Americans Input On Platform

The Platform Committee for the Republican National Convention has launched a Web site to introduce participatory democracy to the platform-writing process. Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) says it is an offer to every American to have an input on the Republican platform.

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

And I'm Robert Siegel. Earlier this month, the Platform Committee for the Republican National Convention launched an interactive Web site, GOPplatform2008.com. It's an Internet town hall designed to bring some participatory democracy to the platform-writing process. One of the committee co-chairmen is Republican North Carolina Senator Richard Burr, who joins us from Capitol Hill. Welcome to the program, Senator.

Senator RICHARD BURR (Republican, North Carolina): Thank you. Great to be with you.

SIEGEL: Isn't this an open invitation to every single issue lobby in America to deluge you with the most extreme, ideologically pure position you could possibly imagine on the platform?

Sen. BURR: Well, in fact it is, but it's also on offer to every American to have input on the Republican platform. We believe that it was in our best interest to open it up to the entire country, and I think at the end of the day the transparency that we've brought for the first time to any party's platform process is going to be beneficial to the construction of ours.

SIEGEL: I've been reading some of the comments that have been posted on the Web site. This is from a writer, Kay, in Memphis, Tennessee, who writes, among other things: Winning elections, please, for goodness sake, get someone other than a white male on this page. I cannot believe there is hardly anyone on this page, and you're letting Obama stump us and not doing anything to fix this. Get someone who can see what's needed out there in charge. Surely someone other than white males exist in this party. What do you make of that?

Sen. BURR: Well, I can only say that I was asked by leadership, as was Kevin McCarthy, to chair the platform committee. I will assure you that the diversity that you find amongst the 112 delegates, amongst the sub-committee chairmen, is going to be a cross-section of America.

Unfortunately, I can't change my gender or race, and the reality is that we now have three white males in Chairman Duncan and the two co-chairs.

SIEGEL: I want to ask you how you're going to navigate some potentially tricky waters here on the platform, one of them the language the platform will have about abortion and embryonic stem-cell research.

Senator McCain favors embryonic stem-cell research. Many in the party, certainly many conservatives in the party, are very much against that. He has spoken of language admitting exceptions to the ban on abortion for cases of rape, incest and where pregnancy endangers the life of the mother, and that's also not in the platform, historically. How are you going to solve those problems, those tensions between candidate and party?

Sen. BURR: Well, first and foremost, this is the Republican platform. It's a document that hopefully defines for everybody in America what it is Republicans stand for. We consult with the McCain campaign as it relates to what issues they have interest in. We also, as you know, reach out to thousands, hundreds of thousands of Americans.

At the end of the day, this is a collective process of the 112 delegates that come in from across the country that will construct the final format of the platform and the content, and I think it's safe to say that there will be some areas that are more difficult than others, but these are problems that platform committees of the past have had. They've found ways to get through it. I'm confident at the end of the day we will have a document that's embraced by all, but most importantly, it will give the American people a much clearer picture of what it is Republicans stand for.

SIEGEL: Are you reading a lot of those comments online that you're getting...

Sen. BURR: We go through them for the purposes of understanding better where the American people that are responding are, but also I think it's absolutely essential that we understand how they term some of the positions that they inspire us to look at on the Web, and it's also our intentions to take some of those, whether they're video presentations or text presentations, and to actually play them at the platform committee.

SIEGEL: But what you're saying is, it's important to get the language of the people on these issues, if I hear you right.

Sen. BURR: I think that many times in Washington we think we know how to word something in a way that embraces that position, and usually when we do that, many people in America can't understand where the position is. So we want to listen to the American people and we may find a different way to say it, but without changing the position of the Republican Party.

SIEGEL: Senator Burr, thanks a lot for talking with us.

Sen. BURR: Great to be with you.

SIEGEL: Senator Richard Burr, Republican of North Carolina, a co-chairman of the Platform Committee for this year's Republican National Convention.

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