In his Friday "Political Memo," "Firing Up the Faithful With Echoes of Culture War Rhetoric," the New York Times's conservative-beat reporter David Kirkpatrick, watching the Republican Convention, uniquely managed to hear echoes of the GOP's 1992 convention -- specifically what Kirkpatrick called the "belligerence" of Pat Buchanan's "cultural war" speech, widely cited in the media (though not necessarily at the time) as leading to the downfall of the Bush-Quayle re-election campaign. Yet Kirkpatrick's argument boils down to just one social issue -- abortion:
Rudolph W. Giuliani, a former mayor of New York, said Senator Barack Obama thought a small Alaska suburb was not "flashy enough" or "cosmopolitan enough," linking his campaign to "Hollywood celebrities." Mitt Romney, a former governor of Massachusetts, denounced the "Eastern elites" that he said dominated the television broadcasts and editorial pages.
Fred D. Thompson, a former Tennessee senator turned actor, mocked Mr. Obama for trying to deflect questions about the science and theology of abortion, promising the Republican convention audience that Senator John McCain would be "a president who doesn't think that the protection of the unborn or a newly born baby is above his pay grade."
And the selection of Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska as the Republican vice-presidential nominee put the abortion issue center stage: A committed Christian conservative, she has been a hero to the anti-abortion movement since she gave birth to a child with Down syndrome last spring.
The Republican National Convention this week in Minneapolis-St. Paul hardly measures up to the belligerence of Patrick J. Buchanan's 1992 call for a "cultural war," but some of the same refrains are playing in the background. "If you want to define your party, you have got to say who you are," Gary Bauer, a Christian conservative political advocate, said approvingly.
The echoes of culture war rhetoric are a notable change from the Republican conventions of 2000 and 2004, when many social conservatives like Mr. Bauer complained that President Bush's campaign had hidden them and their issues from the cameras. Mr. Bush, while known to oppose abortion rights, preferred to discuss the issue with gentle euphemisms to avoid turning off more moderate voters. During the debates over his Supreme Court nominations, the liberal activists on the other side chose to play down abortion and other social issues as well.
Kirkpatrick could have argued that the GOP is talking up abortion because their opponent Barack Obama is such a liberal extremist on the issue -- witness his failure to support bans on partial birth abortion or even to protect victims of botched abortions delivered alive -- facts the Times has been reluctant to acknowledge.