- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 3, 2001

Nobles: John Ashcroft, Christine Todd Whitman and Gale Norton, who won Senate confirmation to become, respectively, attorney general, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and secretary of the Interior Department.

While Mrs. Whitman easily passed over pebbles of political opposition, Mrs. Norton and Mr. Ashcroft each faced mountainous opposition.

Mr. Ashcroft was abused by liberal Senate Democrats and well-funded left-wing organizations whose charges ranged from insensitivity to bigotry to outright racism. Mrs. Norton also found herself at the receiving end of earthy insults and stones of stereotype.

Yet the opposition could not, and did not crack the character or integrity of either individual. Instead, the hearings had the unexpected effect of highlighting the many years each has devoted to public service. In the end such service helped both win confirmation, although the margin of victory wasn't necessarily as high as one would have liked.

Mr. Ashcroft, Mrs. Whitman and Mrs. Norton all face steep challenges in attempting to surmount the departmental politicization established in Bill Clinton's era. Their confirmation fights should give them all a pretty good idea of the political, as well as institutional, obstacles that lie ahead for each of them.

Knave: Former President Bill Clinton (again) for the dizzying arrogance he displayed in his monumental last-minute land-grab.

Closing the book on his environmental legacy of confiscator-in-chief, Bill Clinton used a few of his last precious hours in the White House to act with monumental arrogance by using the 1906 Antiquities Act to designate seven new national monuments, most of them in the Western states.

Mr. Clinton's monumental confiscations during his term cover a total of 5.6 million acres, leaving many legislators in Western states to wonder if their entire constituencies now consist of snail darters and spotted owls.

Mr. Clinton proudly proclaimed, "We've protected more land in the lower 48 states than any administration since that of Theodore Roosevelt" probably because other presidents have been far more sparing with their use of the Antiquities Act. Harry Truman and Lyndon Johnson each designated only one national monument, and John F. Kennedy matched Dwight D. Eisenhower's two designations.

While at least a few of Mr. Clinton's designations, such as those along the trail of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, share historical significance, they were established by a lame-duck president with exactly zero responsibility to the people most affected by his actions. Many of them did not even vote for him in the first place. As Montana Sen. Conrad Burns pointed out, "This action, which is against the will of Montanans around the upper Missouri, flies in the face of democracy. It's simply a bid by a lame-duck president to secure his legacy with special interest groups who want Montana to be a museum."

The power to designate national monuments should not serve as a stone to be cast at political opponents, but rather as a building block of the public trust. Through his actions of monumental arrogance, Mr. Clinton added to his already rocky legacy.

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