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The Soul of the GOP24:06

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Republican presidential candidate, Sen. John McCain, and his vice-presidential running mate Alaska Gov Sarah Palin on Friday, Aug. 29, 2008 in Dayton, Ohio. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
Republican presidential candidate, Sen. John McCain, and his vice-presidential running mate Alaska Gov Sarah Palin on Friday, Aug. 29, 2008 in Dayton, Ohio. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

The levees held. Good news for the people of New Orleans.

And it’s Day Two of the Republican National Convention here in St Paul, September 2nd.

It was on this day in 1901, at the Minnesota State Fair, that Teddy Roosevelt spoke his famous phrase "speak softly and carry a big stick."

John McCain loves Teddy Roosevelt. But Republicans didn’t always. And they haven’t always loved John McCain. Now, he’s out front. But the party’s still wrestling over what it means to be a good Republican now.

This hour, On Point: From St. Paul and the GOP convention, we’re asking what it means to be Republican in the age of John McCain.

You can join the conversation. Republicans, are you happy with your party’s direction in the years of George Bush? What would you hope for the party in an era of President McCain? What does, what should, the GOP stand for now? Tell us what you think.Guests:

Joining us from Philadelphia, where she's traveling with the McCain campaign, is Jill Zuckman, national political correspondent for the Chicago Tribune.

And joining us here at the Xcel Center in St. Paul are:

Whit Ayres, Republican pollster and president of Ayres, McHenry & Associates.

Phyllis Schlafly, conservative Republican pioneer and leader in the pro-life movement since 1972, when she started a national volunteer organization now called Eagle Forum. She's the author of some 20 books, including “The Supremacists: The Tyranny of Judges and How to Stop It" (2004).

Ross Douthat, a senior editor at The Atlantic Monthly, where he writes a widely read blog, and co-author of “Grand New Party: How Republicans Can Win the Working Class and Save the American Dream.” (You can read an excerpt here.)

And with us from Hanover, New Hampshire, is our own On Point news analyst, Jack Beatty.

UPDATE 9/2/08, 12:55 P.M. EDT

We've received many comments — both online (see below) and offline — about Phyllis Schlafly's remarks this morning regarding Governor Sarah Palin, her youngest child, and the topic of abortion. The following is a transcript of the portion of the broadcast in which Ms. Schlafly made the controversial remarks:

CALLER CAROLINE: …I would like to ask her: If Sarah Palin were a Democratic candidate with a tiny special needs child at home and a 17-year-old daughter that’s expecting a baby that’s unwed, how the Republican Party of family values would view the fact that the mother went to work just a few days after the special needs baby was born. So that’s what’s happening with the Republican Party, and I would like her to comment…

TOM ASHBROOK: …We’ll put it to her. Are you a Republican, Democrat, independent, what?

CAROLINE: Former Republican, due to this, exactly what we’re describing.

ASHBROOK: Phyllis Schafly, what do you say…?

PHYLLIS SCHLAFLY: If Sarah Palin were a Democrat, she would have aborted the baby. That’s the difference between the Republicans and the Democrats. And Sarah Palin demonstrated that she is pro-life in contra to all of the Democrats. And we think it’s absolutely wonderful that she is so different. She is obviously a woman who has it all together. And she doesn’t have this idea that women are victims, and crying around about sexism like Hillary Clinton does…

A number of listeners have complained that Tom did not immediately challenge Schlafly about this remark. Tom did bring a caller into the conversation later in the hour who specifically challenged Schlafly on the abortion comments. Here's the transcript:

ASHBROOK: Mark, we hear your anger. What's it about, exactly? ...

CALLER MARK: To say that a Democrat would have aborted a child because she had Down Syndrome, is about as mean a thing as I think someone could say. And that, that is so --

SCHLAFLY: Well, the figures are 91 percent, of Down Syndrome babies being aborted.

ASHBROOK: Across the entire population. Of course it could be Republicans, it could be Democrats... [CROSSTALK]

SCHLAFLY: Could be.

ASHBROOK: It would suggest a lot of Republicans. Mark, what party are you in?

MARK: You know what, I've been an Independent all my life, but I have been strongly Democratic for the last seven years....

ASHBROOK: Phyllis, brickbats there. Not the first you've seen come your way...

SCHLAFLY: Well, I don't know what his real problem is...

ASHBROOK: Well, he doesn't like your comment about abortion.

SCHLAFLY: ...The Democratic Party is absolutely for abortion.

ASHBROOK: Abortion rights.

SCHLAFLY: Barack Obama...

ASHBROOK: Abortion rights.

SCHLAFLY: Well, I don't know...

ASHBROOK: They said they want to make abortion "safe, legal, and rare" for many years...

SCHLAFLY: They dropped that from their platform. Barack Obama is even against the ban on partial-birth abortion. He was even against the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act. He's the most pro-abortion candidate we've ever had. And the Democratic Party is wholly in hock to the pro-abortion movement in this country.

UPDATE 9/3/08 2:03 P.M. EDT

In this morning's show on McCain and the religious right, Tom addressed the comments by Phyllis Schlafly — calling them "broad, brutal, and wrong" — and brought on two guests, parents of a Down syndrome child who are Democrats and members of First Baptist Church in Newton, Mass. The audio is available on this page (the segment begins about 20 minutes into the show).

This program aired on September 2, 2008.

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