- The Washington Times - Friday, January 26, 2001

Democrats want Attorney General-nominee John Ashcroft to apologize in writing for an interview he gave to a "racist" magazine and to elaborate on his opposition to a homosexual diplomat.
Senators who are delaying Mr. Ashcroft's confirmation vote made those demands in a series of about 400 written questions to the former Missouri senator.
"Do you now believe that Southern Partisan magazine is racist and if so, would you like to take this opportunity to apologize for your association with it?" asked Sen. Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Meanwhile, Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle yesterday disputed a White House spokesman who said Mr. Daschle promised President Bush this week that Mr. Ashcroft will be confirmed.
"I don't make it a habit of quoting presidents when I meet with them, and I would hope that the administration would not make a habit of quoting me," said Mr. Daschle. "And if they do, I would hope that we would get it right. What I have said … is that we will not filibuster any nomination."
Told of Mr. Daschle's version of his conversation with the president, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said yesterday, "I would differ."
"One of the reasons the president thought he had such good meetings [with Mr. Daschle and other congressional leaders] was he did receive assurances that all his nominees would be confirmed," said Mr. Fleischer.
When Mr. Daschle's comments to the president became public knowledge on Wednesday, the New York Times reported that Mr. Daschle's office did not dispute them.
Mr. Ashcroft, 58, testified for two days before the Judiciary Committee last week. Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, Utah Republican and committee chairman, wanted to hold a vote on Wednesday, but Mr. Leahy delayed that action until next week so, he said, Mr. Ashcroft could complete answering the written questions.
Some conservative supporters of Mr. Ashcroft said yesterday that Democrats are deliberately stringing along his nomination while liberal groups try to dig up dirt on the nominee.
"The delay gives the liberal interest groups allied with some leading Senate Democrats more time to beat up on John Ashcroft and to continue their campaign of character assassination," said Ken Connor, president of American Renewal, a nonprofit arm of the Family Research Council. "These senators are holding John Ashcroft while their allies on the left pound on him."
Mr. Ashcroft gave an interview to Southern Partisan magazine a few years ago, and Democrats who call it a "racist" publication last week demanded that he repudiate it. The magazine reveres traditions of the antebellum South.
Mr. Leahy's spokesman, David Carle, said committee Democrats limited their face-to-face questioning of the nominee last week, making it "all the more important" for senators to pin down Mr. Ashcroft in writing on his proposed policies for the Justice Department.
During the delay this week, a former Missouri man surfaced with the claim that Mr. Ashcroft, then governor, asked him about his sexual orientation during a job interview in 1985.
Paul Offner, a health care expert now at Georgetown University who has donated $1,900 to Democratic candidates since 1995, said it was Mr. Ashcroft's first question in the interview. Asking that question was not against state law, but Mr. Ashcroft testified last week that he would never have posed it.
Mr. Fleischer said yesterday that Mr. Ashcroft does not remember meeting with Mr. Offner and that he "could not imagine asking such a question."
The head of Mr. Ashcroft's gubernatorial transition team and its director of executive recruitment Carl Koupal and Duncan Kincheloe said yesterday that they sat in on the 1985 interview and that Mr. Ashcroft never asked Mr. Offner about his sexual preference.
"I can say John Ashcroft did not ask that question of him or any other candidate we spoke to," Mr. Koupal told the Associated Press.
Mr. Ashcroft also got more criticism yesterday from James Hormel, U.S. ambassador to Luxembourg, whose nomination Mr. Ashcroft opposed in the Senate. Mr. Hormel is a homosexual; some Democrats have charged that Mr. Ashcroft opposed his nomination based on his sexual orientation.
Mr. Hormel said yesterday that he found Mr. Offner's accusations believable.
"It's consistent with what I know about John Ashcroft," Mr. Hormel said at a news conference called by a coalition of liberal groups called "Stop Ashcroft Now."
He added, "I can only conclude that Mr. Ashcroft chose to vote against me solely because I am a gay man."
Mr. Ashcroft said last week he opposed Mr. Hormel due to "the totality of his record," not his sexual orientation.
The Republican National Committee yesterday responded to Mr. Hormel's news conference by noting that some Catholics opposed his nomination because he would not disassociate himself from a group that ridiculed nuns.
At a confirmation hearing, Mr. Hormel had refused to condemn the "Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence," a San Francisco group of homosexual men who dress up as Catholic nuns. He had laughed at the drag queens while covering a homosexual pride parade for a San Francisco television station in 1996.
Sen. Tim Hutchinson, Arkansas Republican, wrote a letter to Mr. Ashcroft this week stating that Mr. Hutchinson had placed a "hold" on Mr. Hormel's nomination in 1999, but that Mr. Ashcroft had declined to do the same thing.
"I feel it is important to set the record straight that you were in no way involved in the effort to delay Mr. Hormel's consideration by the full Senate," wrote Mr. Hutchinson.
Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, Mississippi Republican, said yesterday that Mr. Ashcroft's nomination will be approved by the full Senate next week.
"John Ashcroft wrote a song, entitled 'Let the Eagle Soar,' and I think that song will apply to his confirmation," said Mr. Lott, who sang with Mr. Ashcroft in the "Singing Senators" group. "I think he will soar like an eagle."
A Cabinet nominee needs 51 votes in the Senate to be confirmed. Mr. Lott has said all 50 Republican senators will vote for Mr. Ashcroft, and four Democrats have also said they intend to vote for him.
Mr. Daschle said yesterday that he has discouraged Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, from waging a filibuster. But Mr. Daschle said he would not guarantee Mr. Ashcroft's confirmation.
"It doesn't mean that any one of my colleagues may not still make the effort," Mr. Daschle said. "I want to clarify, as emphatically as I can, I have no appreciation of how the vote will be on him."


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