©Telegraph of Nashua
MANCHESTER -- Carol Weiner is a pro-choice Republican who finds President Clinton "totally immoral." That left her with no acceptable choices in 1992, and she says she may not vote for president again in 1996.
"I spent 10 minutes in the voting booth (in 1992). My husband was saying hold your nose and vote, and I just couldn't," Weiner said Monday night after a Voters' Voice forum with Republican presidential candidate Patrick Buchanan at the Manchester School of Technology.
Abortion was the centerpiece of the forum, during which Weiner and several of the other nine panelists exchanged heated words with the candidate over his opposition to abortion.
"Where do you come off telling my daughters they can't have an abortion if they want one?" asked Jeff Brouillard, a 41-year-old engineer from Nashua. "That's not your right. If you don't want to have an abortion, don't have one.
"You can dislike it, and be morally against it, but you don't have a right to inflict your moral beliefs on my daughters."
Buchanan said government does that all the time.
"Every single law -- virtually -- imposes someone's values on someone else," he said. "How can you say we don't impose values?"
The panel was the fifth organized by the Voters' Voice project, which is jointly sponsored by The Telegraph, The Associated Press of New Hampshire, New Hampshire Public Radio and New Hampshire Public Television.
The project aims to give citizens a more direct role in the political process. The media play no role in the forums other than arranging them and then reporting what the citizens and candidates have to say.
Al Milchen, a 71-year-old Republican from Nashua, kept challenging Buchanan's understanding of when life begins scientifically, until Buchanan chided him for being "a little agitated."
"A fertilized egg is not capable of living outside the mother's body,'' Milchen insisted. "You're making a case for that fertilized egg as a human being, and it is not."
"I've never heard of a fertilized egg evolving into anything else but a human being," Buchanan replied. "I've never heard of that before -- it's never happened in history."
Debra Hagberg, 40, a bookkeeper from Goffstown, asked Buchanan what he would do to help economically struggling women "to feel that they could make a pro-life choice."
Buchanan first said Americans look to the federal government too much to solve their problems, but then said fathers should be responsible for providing for their children until they turn 18.
Pauline Vallee, a retired nurse from Bedford, spoke out in defense of Buchanan's anti-abortion stance and said she was impressed by him.
"He's saying the same things he said 10 or 15 years ago,'' Vallee said after the forum," so I'm sure he's not feeding me a line of baloney just to get elected."
For Ed Bryer, a Nashua insurance agent and veteran of the Korean War, Buchanan's opposition to sending American troops to Bosnia was welcome news.
"I really have to reach deep to just send our boys over there," Bryer said. "They're going to come back in bags."
Buchanan said people "diminish the word 'genocide'" by using it to refer to the Bosnian conflict. He noted that World War I began after the world jumped into a conflict in the Balkans.
"As long as we do Europe's work, they'll let us," Buchanan said.
David Englander, a 23-year-old teacher from Henniker, questioned Buchanan about the increase in low-wage jobs. He suggested the minimum wage should be boosted from $4.25 an hour to provide a better standard of living for all workers.
But Buchanan disagreed, saying that would lead to scores of layoffs and drive American companies to Mexico.
When Englander continued to press him, Buchanan said: "Why not take it up to $10 an hour? You and I agree that'd be a pretty good job. But we both agree, too, that's the end of millions of jobs."
Buchanan's call for a five-year moratorium on legal immigration bothered Willard Lucey, a 40-year-old engineer from Merrimack who said recent generations of his family were immigrants.
"I don't see where I have a right to close the door on the country," Lucey said. "I'm a little too close to the gate."
But Buchanan said the country needs to "Americanize and assimilate" the immigrants who already have come to the United States legally, in part by making English the country's official language.
The panel touched briefly on term limits and campaign finance reform. Buchanan found strong support for his backing of term limits on members of Congress and federal judges, as well as his call to overhaul campaign finance laws.
After arguing continually with Buchanan during the forum, Milchen said as it ended that he was surprised by the political commentator's pleasant personality.
"I expected from what I heard that you were going to come in here with a flamethrower," Milchen said. "You have that reputation."
"Nobody could live up to my reputation," Buchanan replied, laughing.
But once the forum ended -- and he was out of Buchanan's earshot -- Milchen was less gracious, accusing Buchanan of damaging the Republican Party by pushing it further to the right.
"The record says something quite different from the charming
personality," he said.