When will McCain be Cushioned by Conservatives?

Numerous conservatives throughout the country have called me to say that while they may have supported candidates other than John McCain for the Republican nomination, they would now like to campaign for the Arizonan — if for no other reason than the thought of “President Obama” or “President Clinton 44” gives them nightmares!

The stumbling block for them is that John McCain, so far, is not sending out signals that he welcomes conservatives who were not with him from the start. In his recent trip to the Middle East, the certain GOP nominee was accompanied by Sens. Lindsay Graham (R.-SC) and Joseph Lieberman (Independent-Democrat-Conn.) — not exactly figures who generate passion on the right. In addition, in putting his stamp on the fall campaign, McCain tapped Carly Fiona, former CEO of Hewlett Packard, and New Jersey industrialist Lewis Eisenberg to run the Republican Party’s “Victory ‘08” effort to generate support for the entire party ticket. Fiona has not contributed to Republican federal candidates or committees in eight years, according to nationally syndicated columnist Robert Novak, and Eisenberg’s support of pro-abortion Republicans aroused vigorous opposition from pro-life GOPers when the Bush White House selected the New Jerseyan to be finance chairman of the Republican National Committee.

Now, the McCain high command may have gone a step farther in putting figures hostile to conservatives in key positions. Most recently, “Team McCain” named Bobbie Kilberg, an early member of the far-left National Women’s Political Caucus and longtime nemesis of cultural conservatives, to oversee the party’s national convention in St. Paul later this year.
Since she became one of the earliest members of the NWPC when it was founded in 1971 (its founder ironically, Ms. Magazine’s Gloria Steinem, who most recently made headlines by belittling McCain’s heroic background as a Vietnam POW), Virginia Republican Kilberg has had a history of making enemies on the right through five Republican Administrations. Moreover, as an unsuccessful candidate for the GOP nomination for lieutenant governor of Virginia in 1993, Kilberg launched spirited attacks against eventual nominee and staunch conservative Mike Farris that may have contributed to his narrow defeat that fall.

As HUMAN EVENTS reported fifteen years ago (June 18, 1993), “The NWPC quickly established itself as a major voice not only for feminism and gay and lesbian rights, but for such Big Government programs as Walter Mondale’s federalized child care bill. Its leaders included some of the most obnoxious radicals in America, among them [the late New York Rep.] Bella Abzug.”

When I asked Kilberg in 1993 about her membership in the NWPC, she told me that she had joined when it was founded in 1971, but that she “left the National Women’s Political Caucus, as they well know, in 1974.” She also insisted that she joined “at the urging of the gentlemen who were then in the Republican leadership, i.e. [then-Republican National Chairmen] Bob Dole and George Bush among others, because the caucus was being founded for the purpose of encouraging women of both parties to run for office, and it was supposed to be a process organization that would encourage women to run for office. . . “

Kilberg went on to tell me she got out in 1974 when the NWPC “took a veer in a leftward direction that I did not appove of.” But if she did, she must have done so in a whisper — the organization continued to list her as a member of its National Advisory Board at least as late in 1980, not only on letterheads but in special booklets.

At the time we spoke in 1993, Kilberg admitted she had attended the 20th anniversary banquet of the NWPC in 1991, but that she did so at the specific request of then-President George H.W. Bush (on whose White House staff she served) to read a statement on his behalf.

While serving on the elder Bush’s staff as deputy assistant to the President for public liaison, Kilberg infuriated cultural conservatives by inviting leaders of gay rights groups to the signing of the National Hate Crimes Statistics Act in 1990. Although a case could be made that staffer Kilberg was simply doing her job by inviting those who would be most positively impacted by the measure, her list of invitees included groups with a record of hostility toward Republican candidates, among them the Human Rights Campaign Fund and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. One who had complained about the invitees and Kilberg herself was fellow staffer Doug Wead, the Bush Administration’s liaison to conservatives who was later fired by White House Chief o Staff John Sununu. Kilberg said she issued the controversial invitations but that she did so on direct orders from President Bush himself. She did not deny she pushed for the sacking of Wead.

To many conservatives, the association of the name “Kilberg” with the term “Republican convention” sets off bells and whistles. In 1975, Kilberg was the leader of a movement to “McGovernize” the rules governing national conventions. She championed a scheme of party liberals to impose an elaborate quota system — based on race and sex — that would govern participation in presidential nominating conventions. If the scheme sounds familiar, it is beause it is the same formula for delegate selection George McGovern’s commission imposed on the Democratic Party back in 1972. The fight for quotas ended when the plan was soundly beaten by the full RNC. When President Ford soon afterward named Kilberg to a top White House position, conservatives voiced opposition.

In fairness to Bobbie Kilberg, it can be argued that John McCain is naming her to a spot that has nothing to do with issues or ideology and is almost exclusively an administrative office. Swell — but could he not have looked a bit harder and found someone who can administer and is conservative?