- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 17, 2001

'That's what they do'

Ari Fleischer, press secretary for the incoming Bush administration, was asked this provocative question yesterday during his daily press conference:
"Ari, during your years of experience on Capitol Hill, do you recall, and could you name, even one liberal nominee for Supreme Court or attorney general that was ever subjected to the bitter attacks experienced by Judges Clarence Thomas and Robert Bork and Senator Ashcroft, as magnified in intensity by the Democrat-dominated big media?"
Mr. Fleischer relied: "I'm pleased to answer the first half of that question. No, I really would be hard-pressed to say that that has happened in the past. And again, I think what you see here is liberal special-interest groups that are opposing President-elect Bush's choices because that's what they do they oppose. They did it to Justice [David H.] Souter, they have distorted they distorted his record, of course. And I think we're seeing that again."

Ashcroft and Reno

"It's beginning to feel like home week with all the old crowd People for the American Way, National Organization for Women, AFL-CIO, National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League and scores of other leftist groups and senators gathered round to bring down and pick the bones of another presidential nominee. It's enough to make a man nostalgic," former Judge Robert Bork writes concerning the nomination of ex-Sen. John Ashcroft to be attorney general.
Mr. Bork said he finds it particularly ironic that leftists question Mr. Ashcroft's willingness to enforce laws he may disagree with.
"Janet Reno is the poster girl for the liberal deformation and ignoring of plain law. One hears not a word of complaint from Democrats about that. Indeed, when Ms. Reno was nominated, it was known that she was pro-abortion, pro-gun control, and pro-affirmative action, yet no Republican questioned her willingness to enforce the law and that was a mistake. She has been the model of a political attorney general, not only flatly refusing to obey the statutory command to appoint an independent counsel to investigate the campaign-finance scandal implicating the president and vice president, but actually opposing in court the independent counsel she appointed," Mr. Bork said in an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal.
"If Mr. Ashcroft had anything of equal gravity on his record, he should not be confirmed. But it would have been refreshing if any of the leftish senators, such as Patrick Leahy, Tom Daschle and Chuck Schumer, who are questioning Mr. Ashcroft's qualifications, had said a single word about Ms. Reno's shameful performance in office."

Two for one

Feminist groups yesterday went for a rare media two-fer by holding a press conference to denounce President-elect George W. Bush's nominees for attorney general and secretary of Health and Human Services.
Missouri Sen. John Ashcroft and Wisconsin Gov. Tommy G. Thompson are "right-wing, anti-women's rights extremists," said Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority Foundation, flanked by leaders of groups such as the National Organization for Women and Black Leadership Forum.
"Based on their records," said Miss Smeal, "Ashcroft puts ideology over law and Thompson puts ideology over health policy… . In both cases, women lose big."
Wendy Wright of Concerned Women for America, which has been rebutting feminists' claims against Mr. Ashcroft, said yesterday's press conference appeared to be the first wholesale attack on Mr. Thompson, whose confirmation hearings begin tomorrow.
When Mr. Thompson's "name was first put forward, because he's pro-life, there was a knee-jerk reaction" from the feminists, but not much more, Miss Wright said.
Yesterday's media event looked like an attempt to get "a double bang out of one buck," said Miss Wright, adding that she had not heard any suggestion that the popular, four-term governor would not be confirmed as HHS secretary.

Reaching out

"The mainstream media are obsessed with the question: What should George W. Bush do to 'reach out' to the African-American community, given the controversies over the voting in Florida and how few blacks voted for him? What can he do to show that he's a uniter, not a divider, as he's promised he would be during the campaign?" New York Post columnist John Podhoretz writes.
"This is an impossible question, because Bush has already done more to 'reach out' to African-Americans than any Republican candidate before him," Mr. Podhoretz said.
"The honest, if sentimental, answer to the question is: He should do nothing more than be a good president. If the Republican Party stands for anything philosophically, it's that the individual in all his wonder and weakness is the paramount actor in the United States. By definition, a president elected on a GOP platform should not think of himself as working on behalf of any group, but rather must defend the rights of the individual from encroachment.
"The political, and unsentimental, answer to the question is: Bush should do nothing to 'reach out' because the task is fruitless and damaging."

Pandering to felons

President Clinton yesterday urged that criminals who have completed prison sentences should regain their right to vote without an executive pardon.

"I think it is time that we change, as a matter of national policy, the idea that you have to have a presidential pardon or a governor's pardon before you can get your vote back," Mr. Clinton told a U.S. Conference of Mayors meeting at the White House.

Mr. Clinton spoke as he mulled a round of pardons, which aides said was unlikely to be given before Friday. George W. Bush becomes president Saturday.

Pardons could include Whitewater partner Susan McDougal, who was jailed for refusing to testify against Mr. Clinton.

Others whose pardon could ignite a firestorm of anger include Leonard Peltier, who killed two FBI agents execution-style, and Jonathan Pollard, serving a life prison term for spying for Israel.

In his speech, Mr. Clinton noted that in Arkansas, voting rights are restored for convicts who serve their sentences, Reuters news agency reports.

The Miami Herald reported last month that at least 445 Florida felons voted Nov. 7, despite an effort to purge such voters from the rolls. Three-fourths were registered as Democrats.

PC jihad

"You think Attorney General-designate John Ashcroft is under the gun? Latin heart-throb Ricky Martin is being fired upon by liberal musicians and fans who think playing the Bush Inauguration is akin to betraying his people," the Wall Street Journal observes in an editorial.
"As 'Livin' La Vida Loca' co-writer Robin Draco Rosa told RollingStone.com recently, 'This is a betrayal of everything that every Puerto Rican should stand for.' Next thing you know, the PC jihad will be questioning Mr. Martin's ethnic identity, as they have with Linda Chavez and Colin Powell. After all, he does sing many of his songs both in English and Spanish another betrayal, no doubt."

Rest of the story

The Clintons are not using rent money from Secret Service agents to finance the mortgage on their house in New York, the New York Post reports.
New York Press columnist Alexander Cockburn, in an item quoted in this space Monday, said the government-financed rental payment for the Secret Service agents living on the grounds of the Clintons' Chappaqua home was equal to the monthly mortgage payment.
However, the Post reports that the mortgage payment on the $1.7 million property is believed to be $9,509 per month. The federal formula involving rental fees involving Secret Service agents comes to $1,100 but the Clintons have decided to forgo the payment, according to the Post.


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