GOP Aide Quits Over Foley Memo : Bush ‘Disgusted,’ Atwater Apologizes and Author Resigns
A Republican national party official resigned today under fire, which included a condemnation from a “disgusted” President Bush, for writing a biting memo comparing new House Speaker Thomas F. Foley’s “closet liberal” record with that of a homosexual congressman.
Bush called Lee Atwater, chairman of the Republican National Committee, to complain about the incident and Atwater apologized to Foley, said White House Press Secretary Marlin Fitzwater.
“We consider the matter closed,” he added.
Within an hour of Atwater’s apology, Mark Goodin, the author of the memo that equated Foley’s voting record with that of Rep. Barney Frank, an acknowledged homosexual, resigned as RNC communications director.
Goodin was a press assistant in Bush’s 1988 presidential campaign.
Fitzwater said Bush, who had a 90-minute lunch today with Foley and House Republican leader Robert H. Michel, had no advance knowledge of the Goodin memo.
‘A Mistake Obviously’
“He was disgusted by this entire incident,” the spokesman said. He said the memo seeking to discredit Foley (D-Wash.) violated the spirit of bipartisan cooperation that Bush has advocated since taking office.
“The issue is closed,” Foley said outside the White House.
Michel (R-Ill.) told reporters: “There wasn’t all the kind of oversight there probably should have been” at the RNC. “It was a mistake obviously from the national committee’s point of view.”
Michel said he did not know if Goodin had been asked to resign. Asked what advice he gave Atwater, he said: “I just said, ‘There’s got to be some remedy for what took place, and Lee, it’s your shot. Do whatever you think is appropriate.”’
Fitzwater said the circulation of the GOP memo on Foley was “to be deplored.” However, he said the President retains confidence in Atwater, his former campaign chairman whom he handpicked for the party post. Atwater oversaw a 1988 presidential campaign against Massachusetts Gov. Michael S. Dukakis that was criticized for its negative tone.
“I deeply regret my decision on the Foley memorandum,” Goodin said in a resignation letter to Atwater. But he added: “At no time did I ever intend to damage anyone’s reputation. . . . The purpose of the memorandum has been misconstrued. And in that regard, I have no one to blame but myself.”
‘Good Cop, Bad Cop’
Michel, who had expressed dismay over the attack Tuesday, called Bush today to voice concern and the President was angry about the document, a Michel aide said.
One Democratic leader, Rep. Tony Coelho of California, said Bush should get involved and see that those responsible for the document are fired if Republicans want to persuade Democrats of their sincerity.
“They’re playing good cop, bad cop,” Coelho said before the resignation was announced. “Here’s a guy sent in by Bush to do the dirty deeds and he calls and apologizes after the fact. If they’re really upset about these tactics, all they have to do is fire somebody.”
In the statement circulated Monday, the committee said Foley is anything but the political moderate some have portrayed him as being. The document was headlined “Tom Foley. Out of the Liberal Closet” and said Foley’s voting record was as liberal as that of Frank (D-Mass.).
Frank accused the GOP of spreading “extraordinarily scurrilous” rumors about Foley. He said Tuesday that the Republicans had smeared the Speaker with “a sleazy headline.”
Frank implied to reporters that he thought the RNC’s decision to focus on him was a not-so-subtle effort to portray Foley as gay.
“They put my name on it,” Frank said. “It was despicable. They could have picked other liberals and put someone else in the headline.” Frank said he might reveal the identity of gay congressional Republicans if the attacks on Democrats continue.