Ravitch Leaves Bush Campaign Over Log Cabin Stance

By David J. Hoff — January 12, 2000 3 min read
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A prominent education adviser has left Gov. George W. Bush’s presidential campaign team because of the candidate’s unwillingness to meet with a group that represents gay Republicans.

Diane Ravitch

Diane Ravitch said she resigned because of the Texas governor’s statement in a Nov. 21 television interview indicating that he would not sit down with the Log Cabin Republicans, a Washington-based group that urges the GOP to address issues that concern the party’s gay and lesbian members.

“It was something I found to be intolerable,” Ms. Ravitch, a top education appointee in the administration of President George Bush, the governor’s father, said in an interview last week. “I believe in an inclusive approach to politics.”

Ms. Ravitch—now a research professor at New York University and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank—was one of a team of advisers that helped shape Gov. Bush’s education platform in a series of three speeches he has delivered since August.

She said she had urged the governor, for example, to call for increasing the educational content of the federal Head Start program for preschoolers. Mr. Bush did so and proposed moving administration of the program from the Department of Health and Human Services to the Education Department. (“Bush Zeroes In on Accountability For Federal K-12 Funds,” Sept. 8, 1999.)

“She contributed a lot,” said Eric A. Hanushek, the chairman of Gov. Bush’s education advisory group and a professor of economics and public policy at the University of Rochester. “She’s a very knowledgeable observer ... particularly in how federal programs can most effectively be developed and used.”

Scott McClellan, a spokesman for the Bush campaign, said the candidate, who is considered the frontrunner for this year’s Republican nomination, had not changed the stance he outlined in the interview on the NBC News program “Meet the Press.”

In a response to a question, Mr. Bush had said he would “probably not” meet with the Log Cabin Republicans. “I am someone who is a uniter, not a divider,” he said. “I don’t believe in group thought, pitting one group of people against another. And all that does is create kind of a huge political, you know, nightmare for people.” Mr. Bush added that he opposes gay marriages and adoptions by gay couples—two issues the Log Cabin Republicans support.

Sen. John McCain of Arizona, Mr. Bush’s chief rival for the Republican nomination, met with Log Cabin Republicans shortly before the Nov. 21 interview.

A spokesman for the group said the governor’s comments had surprised Log Cabin leaders. The 11,000-member group had worked behind the scenes with the Bush campaign and helped it shape policies to gain the support of its members, said Kevin Ivers, a spokesman for the Log Cabin Republicans.

Now, several people who have endorsed Mr. Bush or are organizing local and state campaigns are angry with him, Mr. Ivers said. “Diane’s decision reflects the fact that, for a lot of people, this has been a bitter disappointment,” Mr. Ivers said last week. “There are still a lot of people on the inside who are very upset about it.”

Ms. Ravitch is a well-regarded education historian whom the Bush administration lured from Teachers College, Columbia University, to become the Department of Education’s assistant secretary for educational research and improvement in 1991. She served until January 1993.

Independent Voice

She was registered to vote as a Democrat when she came to Washington, but has since declared herself an Independent. Ms. Ravitch, who has championed school choice and other issues favored by Republicans, said she had decided to support the two-term Texas governor in the 2000 race because of his willingness to overhaul federal education programs. “He seemed to be ready to look at them freshly and not just endorse the status quo,” she said last week.

But she added that she had decided to leave the campaign because she could not endorse Mr. Bush’s conservative stands on homosexuality.

“Just a few weeks earlier, he was urging Pat Buchanan to stay in the party,” Ms. Ravitch said, referring to the conservative commentator who left the GOP to seek the Reform Party’s presidential nomination. “I think the Log Cabin Republicans are more respectable than Pat Buchanan.”

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A version of this article appeared in the January 12, 2000 edition of Education Week as Ravitch Leaves Bush Campaign Over Log Cabin Stance


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