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Jewish World Review Dec. 28, 2000/ 2 Teves, 5761

Larry Elder

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Cabinet fever: The left attacks Bush -- IS SEN. JOHN ASHCROFT, R-Mo., President-elect George W. Bush's choice for attorney general, an enemy of civil rights?

To paraphrase President Clinton, this depends on your definition of "civil rights." Webster's defines civil rights as "Those rights guaranteed to the individual by the Constitution; the right to vote, exemption from involuntary servitude, and equal treatment of all people with respect to the enjoyment of life, liberty, and property and to the protection of law."

About Ashcroft's selection, NAACP President Kweisi Mfume said, "It is outrageous for President-elect Bush to select someone who has consistently opposed civil rights and affirmative action to be responsible for enforcing the nation's laws. Ashcroft has one of the Senate's most negative voting records on civil rights. He received a grade of 'F' on each of the last three NAACP report cards because of his anti-progressive voting record, having voted to approve only three of 15 legislative issues supported by the NAACP and other civil rights groups."

For liberals, Ashcroft's biggest liability remains his pro-life ideology. When will liberals learn that well-intentioned people of honor and integrity believe that the "unborn" deserve preserving? When will liberals understand that "pro-choice" and "liberal" are not necessarily synonymous? On abortion, as with vouchers, busing, and the privatization of Social Security, the NAACP ignores the black rank and file. Polls consistently show blacks siding with pro-lifers. The Watkins Group, a black pro-life organization, says, "Our findings strongly indicate that black Americans are not supporters of abortion. When interviewed regarding the issue of abortion, black women overwhelmingly oppose abortion, and black men are even more vehement in their opposition."

Now, let's analyze the 12 "civil rights" issues that Ashcroft voted against. For ideological reasons, Ashcroft opposed the nominations to federal judgeships of non-conservatives Ronnie L. White, Marsha Berzon, and Richard A. Paez. Civil rights issues?

Ashcroft opposed a bill mandating that the federal government hire more teachers. Opponents believed, for ideological reasons, that the Constitution denies the federal government a role in education. Ashcroft opposed expanded hate crime legislation. Even some civil libertarians consider hate crime legislation unconstitutional, arguing that such laws punish thought, and make certain crime victims more important than others.

Ashcroft opposed a bill to address the "disproportionate number of minorities in the juvenile justice system." Perhaps Ashcroft felt that the disproportionate number of minorities in the juvenile justice system reflects a disproportionate number of minorities committing crimes. Ashcroft voted against expanding gun control legislation, specifically laws regarding gun show background checks.

Ashcroft also opposed the so-called "Patients' Bill of Rights," as well as a measure to "preserve" the Community Reinvestment Act. This reflects Ashcroft's ideological opposition to greater government involvement in health care and banking. He voted against a minimum wage increase -- laws, for what it's worth, that Nobel laureate economist Milton Friedman calls "one of the most, if not the most anti-black law on the statute books."

Finally, two of Ashcroft's votes on this legislative hit list pertain to the impeachment of President Clinton. A civil rights matter? How crazy does it get? In Los Angeles, the mostly Hispanic janitors went on strike. Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy came to town and sided with the janitors. At a rally, Kennedy, bullhorn-in-hand, yelled, "This is a civil rights issue."


The same anti-Ashcroft crowd claims to love "diversity." In 1992, they cheered when presidential candidate Clinton said, "I want an administration that looks like America." Clinton proceeded to pick a "diverse" cabinet, composed of not only white males, but females and racial minorities.

But look at Clinton's "power positions," those with clout and influence, such as attorney general, secretary of state, secretary of defense, chief of staff, press secretary, national security adviser, White House counsel, and chairman of the Board of Economic Advisers. Notice anything missing? In nearly eight years in office, Clinton failed to appoint a single black to any of the so-called power positions. Not one.

Compare Clinton's "diversity" with that of President-elect George W. Bush's announced administration choices. Bush nominated former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Colin Powell, a black, to the position of secretary of state. Bush tapped Condoleezza Rice, a black woman, to serve as national security adviser. Bush also selected Alberto Gonzales for the influential position of White House counsel.

For EPA head, President-elect Bush selected New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman. She is pro-choice. For chief of staff, Bush picked Andrew Lake, who is pro-life. Polls show that nearly half of Americans call themselves "pro-life." But can you name one pro-life appointment in Clinton's looks-like-America administration?

But never mind. For Bush selected that "vile" conservative, Missouri Sen. John Ashcroft for the position of attorney general. Under Sen. Kennedy's expanded, nouveau definition of "civil rights," Ashcroft's nomination becomes, voila, a "civil rights issue." It's gonna be a long four years.

JWR contributor Larry Elder is the author of the newly released, The Ten Things You Can't Say in America. (Proceeds from sales help fund JWR) Let him know what you think of his column by clicking here.

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© 2000, Creators Syndicate