IN turning the gavel over to Haley Barbour at the Republican National Committee's meeting in St. Louis over the weekend, departing chairman Richard Bond fired an unexpected but needed warning shot across his party's bow.
In a speech on Friday he said that the GOP should delete from its platform opposition to abortion. His overall message: Republicans must unify around the larger themes of peace, prosperity, and national defense, rather than "cling to zealotry masquerading as principle."
For the GOP, working its way through its first presidential defeat in 12 years and trying to soften the strong impression of intolerance left by its convention last August, the recommendation points in the proper direction. As we have noted before, to remain a strong competitor in the political process, the GOP must be able to appeal to the young voters, and especially young career women, who played a key role in last year's election, while still remaining an alternative.
The GOP is learning to improve the hard way - whether in the late Lee Atwater's regret over the harsh campaign tactics he used in 1988 or Mr. Bond's regret at being unable to keep Patrick Buchanan's speech from the prominent position it had at the convention. But if Bond's comments help stir the party to develop a positive, inclusive alternative to the Democrats, they will have been worth whatever discomfort they aroused.