CBS: Is John Ashcroft a "Racist?"; Ashcroft's Ideology At Odds with the Law; Democratic Payback for How GOP Treated Clinton Nominees?
1) "Do you think that
John Ashcroft is a racist?" CBS's Bob Schieffer asked Senator
Barbara Boxer in a story prompted by her opposition. Schieffer relayed,
without any label, how "groups representing everything from civil
rights to consumer advocates" are against Ashcroft and are upset by
his Christmas card.
2) CBS News reporter John Roberts peppered Ari Fleischer
with questions from the left over Ashcroft: "As somebody who is
charged with executing the laws that are on the books, is it prudent for
their ideology to be at odds with some of those laws?" And Bush's
nominees have ruined the "spirit of reconciliation."
3) On CBS's The Early Show Jane Clayson wondered if
opposition to Chavez "was payback for what the Republicans did to
Clinton nominees eight years ago?" But eight years ago Republicans
near unanimously supported Clinton's most left wing nominees.
4) Don't dare criticize us! Filling in for Bryant Gumbel,
Russ Mitchell intoned: "Linda Chavez blasted the press yesterday,
does that serve the incoming Bush administration well?"
5) Newsweek rued how "accommodating the right has
long been a burden of the Bushes." U.S. News claimed that in naming
the "Bible-quoting Pentecostal Missouri Senator to be Attorney
General, Bush could not have awarded the far right a bigger prize."
Time's Jack White castigated "Ashcroft's horrendous record on
Nightly News led Wednesday night with, as Tom Brokaw put it, "tough
new opposition to John Ashcroft" while the CBS Evening News framed a
whole story around how one far left Senator, naturally unlabeled
ideologically, had announced her opposition to Ashcroft. CBS featured
"an exclusive interview" with Senator Barbara Boxer, as Dan
Rather stressed how she's voting no "over, among other things,
questions of race."
CBS's Bob Schieffer proceeded to relay, without
any ideological label, how "more than 200 groups representing
everything from civil rights to consumer advocates said they'll work
together to kill the nomination." Schieffer even picked up on their
disgust with an Ashcroft Christmas card.
The details: On the NBC Nightly News, David Gregory
reported "a growing number of Senate Democrats" are going
against Ashcroft while he listed five possible GOP defectors: Chafee,
Jeffords, DeWine, Snowe and Specter. After soundbites from NARAL's Kate
Michelman and Bush spokesman Ari Fleischer, Gregory previewed the coming
witness at Ashcroft's confirmation hearing next week will be Ronnie
White, the Missouri Supreme Court justice whose nomination to the federal
bench Ashcroft blocked, prompting charges of racism. In response, Capitol
Hill sources say Ashcroft's Republican supporters plan to call the
relatives of crime victims to make the case that White was too soft on
criminals whose cases he reviewed, creating the prospect of a contentious
hearing within the hearing."
Unlike NBC, CBS didn't bother with the views of
anyone but Ashcroft bashers as the January 10 CBS Evening News turned one
Senator's unsurprising announcement into a platform for her partisan
Dan Rather intoned, as
transcribed by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth: "In Washington, Team Bush
is gearing up for the confirmation battle facing Attorney General nominee
John Ashcroft. Bob Schieffer has an exclusive interview for you with one
Senator who plans to vote 'no' on Ashcroft over, among other things,
questions of race. Bob."
"Dan, this afternoon California Senator Barbara Boxer became the
first Democrat to say on the record that she will vote against John
Ashcroft, and she urged President-elect Bush to withdraw his nomination
for Attorney General. She told Bush in a letter she had never seen such
widespread opposition among her constituents to any nominee, and she told
me one of her major concerns is the way Ashcroft blocked the appointment
of African-American Judge Ronnie White to the federal bench claiming he
was soft on crime."
"I hate to use a charged term, but it's my heart talking here. I
really think it was a political lynching that happened there in the United
Schieffer to Boxer:
"Senator, let me ask you this. Do you think that John Ashcroft is a
racist and that's why he blocked the Ronnie White nomination?"
Boxer: "I never
use that word against anyone. I can only judge John Ashcroft by his
actions, and what I am telling you is that he engineered a humiliating
defeat for Ronnie White."
Schieffer moved beyond Boxer as he continued to
avoid applying any liberal labels: "White serves on the Missouri
Supreme Court, and we've learned he will testify next week during
Ashcroft's confirmation hearing, a session that may be even more
bruising than expected. Ashcroft wasn't talking as he scurried through
the Capitol trying to round up support, but Boxer's opposition came just
24 hours after more than 200 groups representing everything from civil
rights to consumer advocates said they'll work together to kill the
nomination. And today in an effort to show Ashcroft's views are not
mainstream, opponents circulated an old Ashcroft Christmas card in which
he listed a visit to Bob Jones University, the school that once banned
inter-racial dating, as one of his highlights of 1999. No one is writing
off Ashcroft. Nearly all the Republicans are believed ready to support
him, but the only thing being taken for granted now by either side is that
the fight ahead is going to be nasty."
Nastiness fueled by this kind of network story which
gives credence, without any evidence, to efforts to discredit Ashcroft as
Boxer wasn't elected to the Senate until November
1992, but as a House member she was clearly opposed to the confirmation of
Clarence Thomas and 48 Democratic Senators voted against him. Does that
one vote against one black judicial nominee make them all racists too?
Roberts, gullible promoter of a bizarre new liberal attack strategy. As an
attack line against John Ashcroft liberals have come up with the odd new
theory that since a conservative may have opposed laws which are now in
effect, he or she cannot enforce them and so is unqualified for the job.
Of course, the same could be said about liberals who opposed legislation
backed by conservatives.
But instead of dismissing the ludicrous argument,
CBS News White House reporter John Roberts took it quite seriously during
Ari Fleischer's daily transition briefing, peppering him about how can
Ashcroft enforce laws with which he supposedly does not agree. He
demanded: "As somebody who is charged with executing the laws that
are on the books, is it prudent for their ideology to be at odds with some
of those laws?"
Here are the questions Roberts posed in one exchange
during Fleischer's daily 1pm ET briefing, along with excerpts of
Fleischer's answers, starting with Roberts putting the burden on Bush
for ruining the "spirit of reconciliation and unity." (I should
note that C-SPAN's camera did not show the reporters asking questions,
so I'm basing my identification of Roberts on recognizing his voice and
that Fleischer earlier referred to him as "John.")
-- Roberts: "Ari, back to this idea of
partisanship, some people who have worked on both sides of the fence in
government have said that with the political ideology of some of the
nominees that President-elect Bush put forward, any spirit of
reconciliation and unity that he hoped to engender was dead before it ever
"Well, I would refer you to some of the selections that were made by
President Clinton that were approved by
the Republican Senate. He appointed several liberals to Cabinet posts, and
they were approved, because again, the Senate, in a long-standing
bipartisan way, provides the president with latitude in the selection of
-- Roberts: "But what if that political
ideology is at odds with laws that are currently in existence?"
"Well, the purpose of ideology is to advocate positions that you
would want to see put into place. The purpose
of serving in the Cabinet is to carry the agenda for the president-elect
and to enforce the laws that are on the books unless
and until those laws get changed. And if those laws get changed, then of
course you enforce the new laws."
-- Roberts: "Sure, I could understand that as a
legislator, your political ideology would fit well into your job
description, but as somebody who is charged with executing the laws that
are on the books, is it prudent for their ideology to be at odds with some
of those laws?"
think it's the job of every Cabinet secretary, whether they're a Democrat
or a Republican, to advocate laws and
submit them to the Congress with the concurrence of the president. That's
part of our executive branch of government. The point, though, is while
you serve in that job, your position should be to enforce the laws. But
there's no shortage of ideology from the Democrats or from the Republicans
from those who serve in Cabinet posts. Their mission is to make proposals
to the Congress that serve the ideological cause in which they believe.
And that's for the Congress to determine."
-- Roberts: "Well, let me take that question
one step further then. Should some of these groups that have come out in
opposition of Senator Ashcroft be concerned that he will not enforce the
laws that are currently on the books?"
I see no reason for them to have such concerns. He has said, and the
President-elect has said, that his mission
will be to enforce the laws, and he shall."
-- At this point another reporter, whose voice I did
not recognize, returned to the very same theme with which Roberts began:
"On Senator Ashcroft, when you're saying -- talking specifically
about the need to change the tone. How did President-elect Bush believe
nominating such a strong conservative -- one of the most conservative
members of the Senate, almost certain to be a lightning rod for liberal
opposition -- how did he believe that would help contribute to changing
the tone in Washington?"
Maybe reporters could consider changing their
hostile tone toward conservatives.
question of the morning on Wednesday, CBS The Early Show co-host Jane
Clayson to Linda Chavez: "Do you think this is in some ways payback
for what the Republicans did to Clinton nominees eight years ago?"
What exactly did Republicans do to Clinton nominees
eight years ago? Democrats controlled the Senate and Zoe Baird was done in
mostly by liberals disturbed by her corporate law career. Clinton
nominated several far left liberals, but unlike with Ashcroft Chavez and
Norton, few, if any, Republicans opposed any of them.
Labor Secretary nominee Robert Reich and Interior
nominee Bruce Babbitt were not opposed by any Republican Senator; just two
Republican Senators voted no on HHS nominee Donna Shalala and only one GOP
Senator voted against Commerce nominee Ron Brown. And, as MRC
Communications Director Liz Swasey determined, the Senate Judiciary
Committee voted unanimously to approve Janet Reno as AG with the Senate
confirming her 98-0.
dare criticize us! Russ Mitchell, filling in for Bryant Gumbel on CBS's
The Early Show, to political analysts Fred Barnes and Bob Beckel on
Wednesday morning as noticed by MRC analyst Brian Boyd: "Linda Chavez
blasted the press yesterday, does that serve the incoming Bush
Barnes suggested it doesn't make much of a
difference while Bob Beckel warned the national press in DC are far
tougher than reporters in Austin.
Make that much tougher on anything conservative.
weekly news magazines treated Ashcroft in last week's issues, as
detailed by the MRC's Tim Graham in the MRC's MagazineWatch: The news
magazines found the new Bush cabinet picks to be a mix of acceptable
pragmatists and questionable conservatives. Unlike many TV reporters, some
writers find "liberal" groups will fight conservative picks, but
they also added Ashcroft's pick warmed the "far right."
Here's the text of the MagazineWatch
article about the January 8 editions of Time, Newsweek and U.S. News:
The news magazines found the new Bush cabinet picks to be a mix of
acceptable pragmatists and questionable conservatives. Ever snarky,
Newsweek's "Conventional Wisdom" kept up the bashing one-liners
on the new administration. Bush drew a sideways arrow: "New theme
song for antique cabinet: 'Don't Stop Thinking About Yesterday.'"
Dick Cheney's arrow was up: "Old: Gore most-active No. 2 guy ever.
New: W. will be most-active No. 2 guy ever." So was John Ashcroft
("After losing to dead man, right-winger rises from dead to be
AG-designate") and Donald Rumsfeld ("Bush retreat won't do? Try
a used Ford. New use for surplus: unworkable missile defense.").
Clinton attracted an up arrow for tossing a "Hail Mary in [the] Holy
Newsweek's Evan Thomas and John Barry found Bush wants loyalty first
and foremost, and theorized that "the establishment, or at least the
Bush-Ford wing of it, is back." Still, "Bush's cabinet is more
conservative than moderate. Liberal-interest groups will bitterly oppose
the nominations of Ashcroft and [Interior Secretary pick Gail]
Norton." But they explained that "accommodating the right has
long been a burden of the Bushes." Thomas
and Barry presented Norton as particularly scary to the greens.
"Norton worked with Jim Watt at the Mountain States Legal Foundation
in 1979 and then followed Watt to Washington to work in the Interior
Department from 1985 to 1987." (Readers might mistakenly conclude
that Watt came to Washington in 1985, when in fact he was appointed in
1981 and was dumped by 1985.) Norton foes disputed the media caricature:
"'There's all this talk about James Watt in a skirt,' says Pam
Eaton, a regional director of the Wilderness Society based in Colorado,
Norton's home state. 'No, no. She's not going to make outrageous
statements and blunders. She's going to
do it in a way that's much more friendly.'" Thomas and Barry warned
"To environmentalists, Norton's amiability makes her that much more
dangerous," since she'll "pose" as an environmentalist and
"move to exploit the wilderness for oil and gas."
In U.S. News, reporter Kenneth Walsh declared that "Bush is also
eager to placate the right as he considers whether to quickly roll back a
number of unilateral decisions by President Clinton that circumvented
Congress....Conservatives are also pressuring Bush to reverse
eight years of Democratic policymaking in other ways, such as taking
hard-line positions on everything from rescinding tough new emission
standards on trucks to discouraging abortion and opposing affirmative
action through the Justice Department under Ashcroft."
He added the proposed tax cut, which regularly comes with "big"
adjectives or decade-long revenue estimates: "Most important,
conservatives insist that Bush must not retreat from his campaign pledge
to fight for a $1.3 trillion, across-the-board tax cut through 2010."
Walsh's colleague Chitra Ragavan pondered "Is Ashcroft
Unsinkable?" She suggested: "In picking the anti-abortion,
pro-death penalty, gospel-singing, piano-playing, Bible-quoting Pentecostal
Missouri Senator to be Attorney General, Bush could not have awarded the
far right a bigger prize." But Ragavan at least used two liberal
labels, noting conservatives found it
"especially painful to watch Reno place the Clinton activist, liberal
stamp on the biggest flashpoints straddling the ideological divide. Just
to name a few: affirmative action, abortion, guns, school prayer, and
drugs." She also noted Ashcroft would be fought by "liberal
advocacy groups such as the National Organization for Women and the League
for Conservation Voters."
Newsweek's Michael Isikoff and Bill Turque also acknowledge that "Ashcroft
faces a fight from the left." They begin by recalling Ashcroft
rallying South Carolina Republicans in 1998 by holding up sonograms and
pictures of his grandson to applause, pledging "Americans must
protect unborn children under the law." (Reporters shudder here.) The
reporters acknowledge that "Ashcroft's resume is hardly that of a
bomb-thrower....But he has always been a man of deeply held -- and deeply
conservative -- convictions. He opposes gun control and affirmative
action; he's long supported term limits, prayer in schools, and direct
funding of churches to fund
But wait, it gets worse, they wrote: "Ashcroft tacked even farther
to the right when he tested the waters for a 2000 presidential run [in
1998]. His exploratory campaign brought him close to the most ardently
conservative elements of the GOP, including [Pat] Robertson and
philanthropist Richard Mellon Scaife." While People for the American
Way and NARAL drew no direct labeling, Isikoff and Turque took exception
to Ashcroft's support from "the militant American
Life League, whose members picket abortion clinics. Last year the group
gave him a Courage and Integrity Award, an honor previously bestowed on
Pat Buchanan and Sen. Jesse Helms."
By comparison, Time magazine's coverage was mostly mellow. Michael
Duffy found Treasury Secretary designate Paul O'Neill wasn't one of those
undesirable ideologues: "There's no sign that O'Neill is an ardent
supply-sider. Zarb, the NASDAQ chief who also served with O'Neill in the
Nixon White House, said 'Paul's not an ideologue by any stretch of the
imagination.' But even those who know him well can only guess at O'Neill's
views on the big, trillion-dollar tax cut Bush campaigned on last
For Ashcroft-bashing, Time turned over a page to black columnist Jack
E. White, who began: "What was President-Elect George W. Bush
thinking when he selected John Ashcroft as his nominee for Attorney
General? That since he was designating three superbly qualified African
Americans for high-level positions....blacks would somehow overlook
Ashcroft's horrendous record on race?"
(A month ago, White beseeched Bush not to pick any conservative -- read
inauthentic -- blacks to his administration with the headline "No
Toms Need Apply.")
White then suggested Ashcroft was picked out of pity: "Or that it
was compassionately conservative for Bush to hire a man who had lost
re-election as Missouri's junior U.S. Senator to a dead man?...It
certainly couldn't have been that appointing Ashcroft would enhance
Bush's image as a uniter, not a divider. Ashcroft's positions on civil
rights issues are about as sensitive as a hammer blow to the head."
White called Ashcroft an "extremist" and found a
"leading GOP strategist to declare in large letters: "Every six
months...they will open their papers at the White House and say, 'What
the hell is he doing?'" White concluded: "This is one nomination
that, pardon the pun, should be consigned to the Ashcroft of
END Reprint of MagazineWatch article
Two other items in this MagazineWatch:
-- Newsweek and U.S.
News & World Report insisted there was still news from the Gore
campaign, as news outlets plan Florida recounts, and Clinton and Gore vie
for Bush-era Democratic dominance.
-- In that section
that could be called Feminist Corner, Newsweek "contributing
editor" Susan Faludi wrote on how commercialism threatens to ruin
feminism, which clashed a bit with Time's
Margaret Carlson touting Hillary's new $2.8 million dollar Washington
-- Brent Baker
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