Barbara Bush

NEW YORK (WOMENSENEWS)–The Bush-Cheney campaign laid out its appeal to female voters on the first day of the Republican National Convention Monday by boasting of the President Bush’s character, his appointments of women to high positions and his decisions to wage war in Afghanistan and Iraq.

But the centerpiece “W Stands for Women” event, featuring a number of women related to President Bush and Vice President Cheney, addressed few domestic issues and glossed over the administration’s opposition to abortion.

“I believe that President Bush has done and is doing more to empower women all across this world and here in our very own country than other American president has,” said the vice president’s daughter, Liz Cheney. “Today there are 50 million people in Iraq and Afghanistan who live in freedom who used to live in tyranny and half of these people are women.”

Although many of the women who filled the ballroom at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York said they were pro-choice, they added that they supported Bush for other reasons, particularly national and global security.

“I think in the long run, we are very proud of what George Bush has done to help liberate women around the world and to help give them freedom of choice,” said Stephanie Sue Parker of New York, the campaign manager for a candidate for the state assembly. Parker, who is pro-choice, said the abortion issue “isn’t a heated discussion at all” in the New York Republican Party.

“You have to take a look at the big picture,” said Brook Townley, a chiropractor from Fargo, N.D., who said she supports Bush because he has provided tax breaks to small businesses. “Who morally, ethically, is the best candidate?”

About a thousand women, many waving “W Stands for Women” placards, attended the event and subsequent workshops to learn how they could help rally women to vote for Bush. Polls indicate that the majority of undecided voters are women and the largest group of eligible voters who did not cast ballots in 2000 was single women.

Both Bush and Democratic nominee John Kerry are reaching out to women, who traditionally vote in greater percentages than men. Kerry’s campaign is stressing his support for abortion rights, stem-cell research, the environment, health insurance and low- and middle-income Americans.

Every Issue Is a Women’s Issue

The Bush-Cheney campaign, in a briefing paper obtained by Women’s eNews Monday, emphasized issues of concern to both men and women. “Every issue facing the nation is also a women’s issue and women share the same concerns as all citizens regarding the safety and security of our nation, the economy, health care, education and a wide range of public policy issues,” the paper said.

It contended Bush has helped women by cutting taxes, by providing job training and by promoting marriage, among other things.

Bush’s sister, Doro Bush Koch, added that thanks to her brother and the U.S. military, “millions of women who were once oppressed now live in freedom.”

Koch added that “this president has more women in leadership positions than any other president in American history.” She listed three cabinet members and three high-ranking advisers, including National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice.

Former First Lady Barbara Bush, the president’s mother, gave a lengthy and humorous address that poked fun at her husband, praised First Lady Laura Bush and lamented–on behalf of young, single women–that her grandson, George P. Bush, was no longer single.

She mentioned no substantive women’s issues, but instead spoke of a mother’s anguish upon hearing her son criticized.

“With George W. Bush, what you see is what you get,” she said. “You can be sure when he tells you something today, he won’t be telling another person something else tomorrow.

“Please get out and do your best,” she implored supporters in the room. “This man is a good man.”

Lynne Cheney, the vice president’s wife, also spoke more about character than about issues.

“We live in times of peril,” she said. “And it is such a comfort to all of us to have these good men who are so solid, so stable, so strong leading our country.”

Protests Throughout the Weekend

Not everyone sees the Bush administration as women-friendly. Tens of thousands of protestors made their voices heard in the days leading up to the convention. The issues ranged from reproductive freedom to world peace to AIDS funding and, though there were several hundred arrests, the demonstrations were largely peaceful.

On Saturday a pro-choice march sponsored by the Planned Parenthood of New York City, NARAL Pro-Choice New York and the National Organization for Women/New York, among others, drew as many as 25,000 demonstrators, according to organizers. The youthful-looking crowd of men and women–many carrying signs with statements such as “I Love Pro-Choice New York,” and “Abort Bush B4 the Second Term,”–braved the scorching heat and marched across the Brooklyn Bridge to City Hall Park.

In the rally’s kickoff speech, Planned Parenthood president Gloria Feldt used the Brooklyn Bridge as a metaphor for the task facing pro-choice Americans. “We’ve got to build a bridge that will carry us over injustice, ideology and extremism,” she said. She later told Women’s eNews that the responsibility largely falls on the shoulders of America’s young people, who need to march “to protect the future of their rights.”

The event was New York’s largest pro-choice march in more than three decades, according to Joan Malin, chief executive officer of Planned Parenthood of New York City. Though many marchers carried signs and led chants opposing Bush, the speakers largely emphasized the need to energize pro-choice voters.

As Peggy Kerry, sister of Democratic nominee John Kerry, told a cheering crowd: “We must vote because the issue of choice depends on it.”

Jodi Enda is Women’s eNews’ Washington bureau chief.
— With on-site reporting by Cynthia L. Cooper and Robin Hindery.

Women’s eNews welcomes your comments. E-mail us at [email protected].