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Ashcroft and His Critic Face Off in Confirmation HearingAired January 16, 2001 - 5:20 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN ASHCROFT, ATTORNEY GENERAL NOMINEE: When I swear to uphold the law, I will keep my oath, so help me God.
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JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: Attorney General-nominee John Ashcroft confronts his critics, head on, on day one of his confirmation hearing.
BERNARD SHAW, CNN ANCHOR: Also ahead: an update on President Clinton's health after the removal of a skin cancer.
ANNOUNCER: From Washington, this is INSIDE POLITICS with Bernard Shaw and Judy Woodruff.
SHAW: Thank you for joining us.
One Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee greeted John Ashcroft by saying, "Welcome to the pit." It was one of many acknowledgements that Ashcroft's nomination as attorney general is the No. 1 issue of contention, as the divided Senate weighs President- elect Bush's Cabinet choices. Our Chris Black has been following the questioning, and Ashcroft's lines of defense -- Chris.
CHRIS BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Bernie, George W. Bush won't take office for four more days, but the philosophical battle between the new Republican White House and Democrats on Capitol Hill is already joined. The hearing began today with a confirmation hearing for John Ashcroft's nomination as attorney general. And the former senator, who was defeated in November in his bid for reelection, was immediately put on the hot seat.
The senator, though, tried to address some of the issues that have been raised by his opponents; he started with the issue of abortion. Senator Ashcroft is strongly opposed to legal abortion, including in cases of rape and incest. But he told his former colleagues that he understands there's a big difference between his philosophical position on the issue and his duty as attorney general.
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ASHCROFT: I believe Roe v. Wade, as an original matter, was wrongly decided. I am personally opposed to abortion. But as I have explained this afternoon, I well understand that the role of attorney general is to enforce the law as it is, not as I would have it. I accept Roe and Casey as the settled law of the land. If confirmed as attorney general, I will follow the law in this area and in all other areas.
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BLACK: The issue the Democrats repeatedly raised is whether this passionate, conservative, deeply religious man can separate his personal views and his personal beliefs from his responsibility to be even handed in the administration and enforcement of the law. In a very dramatic close to his opening statement, he raised his hands and he made a pledge to his former colleagues.
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ASHCROFT: As a man of faith, I take my word and my integrity seriously. So, when I swear to uphold the law, I will keep my oath, so help me God.
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BLACK: The hearing began with great civility as is the custom up here on Capitol Hill, particularly in the Senate. But Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, the liberal lion here in the Senate, didn't waste any time getting to the point. During his question-and- answer session with Senator Ashcroft, they got into a rather tense exchange over Senator Ashcroft's role, when he was attorney general in the state of Missouri and when he was governor, in the desegregation of the St. Louis public schools. Let's listen:
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SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: 1982. We again note that the state and the city board. My question is: how costly was this going to be, Senator Ashcroft, before you were going to say, that those kids going in lousy schools, that you were going to do something about it?
ASHCROFT: In all of the cases where the court made an order, I followed the order; both as attorney general and as governor.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLACK: Republicans focused today on Senator Ashcroft's experience: 30 years as a public servant, in both Missouri and here in Washington. They said he was eminently qualified for the job, and said that George W. Bush should have his choice as attorney general. But the battle is not over yet. They've quit for the day. They'll be back first thing tomorrow morning. Senator Ashcroft will once again be on the hot seat by himself, answering the questions from his former colleagues on this committee, which he did serve on up until just a month ago.
On Thursday, there will be panelists, including Ronnie White, the judge from Missouri whom Senator Ashcroft, when he was in the Senate, blocked from being put on the federal bench -- Bernie.
SHAW: Chris, is Ashcroft's nomination, in any way, in jeopardy?
BLACK: Well, it's hard to say. If the vote was today, Bernie, he would win. Republicans, so far, indicate that they are going to support him, unless something comes out of these hearings. These hearings are critically important; it is very possible that the hearings will change the political dynamic. It hasn't happened yet. But again, they've just begun, much of today was spent in opening statements in which all the senators on the committee got to, sort of, put in their two cents worth in, and Senator Ashcroft was able to make his opening statement.
But the real exchange will come tomorrow, and then when the panelists begin to make their presentations on Thursday, then we'll have a better handle on it.
SHAW: Chris Black -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: Today, Ashcroft urged senators, literally, to "pummel" him with questions. And the Democrats certainly did. But you might say they tried to proceed with some caution. Our Bill Schneider joins us to explain why -- Bill.
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Judy, Democrats would like to defeat John Ashcroft because of his views on the issues. The problem is, you're not supposed to do that with Cabinet nominees.
SCHNEIDER (voice-over): When a Cabinet nominee is up for confirmation, ideology is not supposed to be an issue. For many Democrats, however, John Ashcroft's views are precisely the issue. They're anathema to liberals. Does being a staunch opponent of abortion and affirmative action and gun control make Ashcroft unfit to serve? Democrats have to make a more subtle argument.
SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D), VERMONT: I think there is such a potential for his views to be divisive, and President-elect Bush has said he wants to be a uniter, not a divider.
SCHNEIDER: Is divisiveness disqualifying? President Clinton's attorney general has been pretty divisive. In any case, Ashcroft has an answer for his critics.
ASHCROFT: It's my job, will be my job upon confirmation as attorney general, to support the views of the president, and I would want to reflect his views in this respect.
SCHNEIDER: Some Democrats see a precedent in the Senate's rejection of Robert Bork for the Supreme Court in 1987. Bork was defeated because of his views. But there's a difference between a judge and a Cabinet member. A federal judge serves for life, in an independent branch of government. A Cabinet secretary serves at the discretion of the president. He's part of the administration. The test of a Cabinet member's fitness to serve is supposed to be character, not ideology.
Democrats have to look for evidence of moral or ethical improprieties in Ashcroft's past. Or evidence of bigotry. Or evidence that Ashcroft will refuse to enforce laws he disagrees with. But the Bush team seems prepared.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: John's a man of enormous integrity.
ASHCROFT: President-elect Bush, you have my word that I will administer the Department of Justice with integrity. I will advise your administration with integrity, and I will enforce the laws of the United States of America with integrity.
SCHNEIDER: What we're seeing in Washington is ideological conflict disguised as personal conflict. You discredit your opponents personally. The Republican's did it when they impeached President Clinton. Now the Democrats are trying to do it with John Ashcroft -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: All right, Bill Schneider, thank you very much.
Well, in the hours before Ashcroft's confirmation hearing, a number of his political friends and foes went before the cameras to press their cases. About 150 supporters, mostly African-Americans and Latinos, greeted Ashcroft when he arrived on Capitol Hill. It was a visual rebuttal against those who have questioned Ashcroft's support for minorities. And a group calling itself Americans for Ashcroft held a news conference to defend his nomination.
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BARBARA OLSON, AMERICANS FOR ASHCROFT: If you look at Senator Ashcroft's background, you know that this man comes to the nomination with more abilities and more qualifications, and certainly more character and integrity, than we have had in a long time in the Department of Justice.
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WOODRUFF: On the other side: Representatives of several women's groups banded together to charge that Ashcroft's record makes him unqualified to be attorney general.
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KATHY RODGERS, DIRECTOR, NOW LEGAL DEFENSE FUND: He has spent the last 25 years of his public career trying to impede the progress this nation is struggling so hard to achieve: equal opportunity for all women, blacks and immigrants, not just some white people on the outer fringe of conservatism.
(END VIDEO CLIP) WOODRUFF: The women's groups also criticize Bush's nominee for secretary of health and human services: Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson.
When we come back, Bernie will talk about this and more with CNN senior analyst Jeff Greenfield.
SHAW: Now let's turn to CNN senior analyst Jeff Greenfield.
Jeff, in your mind, how clear are the lines of questioning?
JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN SENIOR ANALYST: Oh, I think there are -- you can't get much clearer, Bernie. There is a lot of Kabuki theater in these confirmation hearings, in general, when they get to this level of political division.
The Democrats -- or at least most of them -- have been armed by the interest groups opposed to Ashcroft with the most -- what they see as the most damaging stuff in his past about where he has stood, about positions he has taken. And they are going after him to say: You are outside the mainstream. You are not just a conservative. And, by the way, the standard you used on sub-Cabinet appointees is: You can criticize them for their views.
The Republicans -- you know, they alternate from one side of the aisle to the other on these hearings -- are all designed, so far, to shore up Senator Ashcroft -- that is, to say: Isn't the true that you supported a lot of civil rights? Isn't the true? We've already heard two Republicans make the point that, as attorney general of Missouri, he went along with orders that were on the side of abortion-rights people, even though he was personally was opposed to it, and rejected demands, say, to list hospital abortions.
So that is what happens at the -- at hearings like this. I mean, it's -- the idea -- the interesting thing, Bernie, will be: Somewhere in the next few days, are we going to hear, on other side, a senator who seems genuinely undecided and genuinely interested in getting answers, as opposed to making debating points? We will see.
SHAW: Do Ashcroft opponents have to be careful in their approach?
GREENFIELD: I think they do. Bill Schneider is quite right, I think, in noting that, generally speaking, the rules of about a Cabinet nominee are: Look, he's the president's man or woman. If the president wants that person in -- it's not a lifetime appointment -- you got to, you know, let him have his person.
So what they have to do is not simply say: I don't think that you were right about this or that position. They have to be careful to say: We are opposing you on grounds of mainstream vs. out of the mainstream. And they also have to be careful, I think, about how they use the race issue. I think the attempt to say that John Ashcroft is a racist as opposed to having views that are outside the mainstream is very dangerous. That word is loaded with dynamite, and I think the idea that Senator Ashcroft say look, as governor I appointed all these minorities to positions. I voted to confirm all of these Bill Clinton minority appointees is a pretty effective counter-argument against that explosive charge.
SHAW: And what care do you suppose John Ashcroft must take -- how must he comport himself?
GREENFIELD: Well, you know, I was thinking back to the Bork hearings, which I grant you are not on point because a Supreme Court judge is subject always to a tougher standard. But one of the things that really hurt Robert Bork was his demeanor. People felt he was a little -- fairly or not by the way, people felt he was a little arrogant.
At one point he was asked, what do want to -- what is the Supreme Court nomination mean to you? And he said it would be an intellectual feast and in the subsequent appointments, like with Clarence Thomas, the then-Bush White House took the appointment -- took the appointee and put him through a political test; made sure that his appearance before the committee was both deferential, was expansive, was inclusive.
You already saw that, I think, today at the end of John Ashcroft's written testimony when he put his hand up to swear. I mean, everybody understood that that was a moment for the evening newscast and the sound bytes. So, he has to be careful in his demeanor to be calm, to be moderate, if you will, and the biggest mistake you can make, although as former senator I can't believe he would, is to get personally angry or indignant at a senator. They don't like that.
SHAW: And lastly, for President-elect Bush, symbolically, how important is this confirmation process for this man and for his incoming administration?
GREENFIELD: Actually, I think it's not just symbolic; it's real and it's one of the reasons why I think the odds so heavily favor the Ashcroft nomination. If you are a Republican senator, do you want as your first vote in the new Bush administration to vote down a nominee in whom he has placed such confidence?
I think -- I don't think it's a disaster, but certainly I think that an early rejection of the most controversial Cabinet nominee would suggest that George Bush doesn't have his own party united behind him. My suspicion, as of now, is that he clearly does and it's why, I think, the opponents have such a high road -- or rather a high mountain to climb. If they can't find something that really raises questions about Ashcroft's character, I don't see how they're going to defeat this nomination.
SHAW: Jeff Greenfield, thank you.
And still ahead, our John King looks at President Clinton's record by the numbers.
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JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A president's legacy, of course, is shaped by much more than statistics, but there is no ignoring some.
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SHAW: We'll also have details on President Clinton's cancer scare. "INSIDE POLITICS" will be right back.
MARK LEFF, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On a cold March 4th, 1841, aging war hero General William Henry Harrison spoke on the Capitol steps for more than one hour and 40 minutes, a record, so long that he paused near the end to take the oath of office.
Old Tippecanoe, as he was called, wasn't wearing a hat or coat, and died a month later. Vice President John Tyler succeeded him, giving the nation two presidents from one campaign slogan: Tippecanoe and Tyler, too.
Civil War hero General Ulysses Grant's 1869 inaugural speech was interrupted when his young daughter Nell ran up to hold his hand. Nell had her White House wedding during Grant's second term, but the marriage didn't last.
1885's bachelor President Grover Cleveland, who also married in the White House, had a short voter honeymoon. His second inaugural was interrupted by President Benjamin Harrison. Four years later, Cleveland beat Harrison and took the oath again in 1893, the only president to serve two non-consecutive terms.
Mark Leff, CNN.
WOODRUFF: Back to today, the White House says that a lesion removed from President Clinton's back has tested positive for skin cancer. The lesion was removed last Friday during a routine physical. For the latest, let's go to CNN's Major Garrett, who's standing by at the White House.
Major, what can you tell us?
MAJOR GARRETT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Judy. Well, as you said, this is a skin cancer scare, but as the White House likes to say, a very low-grade one. The president did have that exam on Friday, the lesion was removed, a biopsy was performed, and the White House said today that that biopsy revealed what it calls a "superficial basal cell skin cancer," which means it's a concentrated skin cancer right in one area, described as the middle part of the lower back of the president. All of it was removed. There is no skin cancer in the surrounding area. But just to make sure, the president agreed and the doctors advised to have the area around this lesion scraped and burned. That's a rather standard operating procedure that dermatologists undertake to deal with this type of skin cancer.
Now, the president has been advised that this particular area of his back is now at a higher risk of developing another one of these basal skin cancer lesions and he's asked to come back for another exam in 4 to 6 months. And if everything is clear then, then to have regular checkups on this area every year thereafter.
But as the White House says, all the skin cancer removed. It's a very low-grade skin cancer: 800,000 to 1 million Americans suffer from it every year and are treated in exactly the same way. The White House says if there's going to be a cancer scare here, this would be the kind they prefer -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: And Major, once again, this was just part of a routine physical exam as he closes out his presidency?
GARRETT: Sort of an exit exam, you might call it, Judy.
WOODRUFF: All right, Major Garrett, thanks very much -- Bernie.
SHAW: The numbers are in from the final job approval poll for President Clinton, and 66 percent of the respondents say they approve of the way he's handling his job as president. That means he will leave office with a higher approval rating that any other president since the poll's inception more than a half-century ago.
Former President Reagan had the next highest approval rating on leaving office at 63 percent, followed by Dwight Eisenhower at 59 percent.
Our John King now continues his week-long look at the Clinton legacy, today examining the president's love of certain numbers.
WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: ... by this figure.
JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): There is a reason he knows them by heart, recites them at every opportunity: By the numbers, it is a remarkable record.
CLINTON: Eight years ago, when I came here, 10 million Americans were out of work. The deficit was $290 billion and rising. The debt of the country had quadrupled in the previous 12 years, imposing a crushing burden on our children.
KING: A president's legacy, of course, is shaped by much more than statistics, but there is no ignoring some. A record 115 months of economic growth at an average annual rate of 4 percent, 22 million new jobs since the beginning of 1993, the lowest unemployment rate in 30 years, the lowest crime rate in 26 years, and the smallest welfare roles in 32 years.
JOHN PODESTA, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: The people who had been left out and not heard to much from over the previous 12 years found a voice and found a leader in this president, and I think that's what he'll be noted for.
KING: And there's more. From a federal budget deficit of $290 back in 1993 to a projected surplus of 237 billion now. The Dow Jones industrial average has more than tripled.
It is true, as critics often note, that the economic recovery started before Mr. Clinton took office. Also true: that Mr. Clinton's first instinct was more spending, not just deficit reduction.
CLINTON: To create jobs and guarantee a strong recovery, I call on Congress to enact an immediate of job investments of over $30 billion.
KING: Congress said no, dealing the new president an embarrassing early defeat. Advice from Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan began to sink in, and top economic adviser Robert Rubin provided an echo: focus on the deficit -- Wall Street will cheer, and Main Street will benefit.
It is worth remembering that the first Clinton budget passed by the narrowest of margins, the vice president's tie-breaking vote.
AL GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Senate being equally divided, the vice president votes yes.
KING: Eight years and one remarkable boom later, and Mr. Clinton was still reveling in reminding Republicans they had predicted disaster.
CLINTON: Their leaders said our plan would increase the deficit, kill jobs and give us a one-way ticket to a recession. Time has not been kind to their predictions.
KING: It was Ross Perot who put the country's long-term debt in the middle of the political debate, but President Clinton who believes he deserves credit for putting the country on a path to pay it all off.
CLINTON: This health care security card...
KING: Not all the statistics are favorable. He promised health care for all, but nearly 43 million Americans have no health insurance, up from 38.6 million in 1993. A cold winter and a power crisis in California: reminders that the United States relies on international sources for 28 percent of its energy needs, up from 25 percent in 1993.
But any statistical assessment of then and now is striking. There is talk of a slowdown, some say a possible recession, but no longer, as there was at the beginning of the 1990s, any talk of a United States in decline. DAVID GERGEN, FORMER CLINTON WHITE HOUSE ADVISER: We're probably the most influential, powerful country since the days of ancient Rome, and I think the 1990s will be remembered as one of the brightest decades of the 20th century. Now Bill Clinton doesn't deserve all the credit for that, but he was one of the architects and he was a principle architect.
KING: Mr. Clinton views this as a promise kept. Remember, he first ran for president promising to focus like a laser beam on the economy.
CLINTON: Let's bring this economy back, and we can solve a lot of our other problems!
KING: So it is no surprise as he prepares to leave office and the debate over his legacy begins in earnest that Mr. Clinton takes comfort in the numbers.
John King, CNN, the White House.
SHAW: There is much more ahead on INSIDE POLITICS.
WOODRUFF: Coming up, security along the inaugural parade route. Protesters and police already are clashing over that issue.
SHAW: And later: bouquets for Bush.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, MARCH 4, 1933)
FRANKLIN DELANO ROOSEVELT, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself. Nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror, which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.
In every dark hour of our national life, a leadership of frankness and of vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves, which is essential to victory. And I am convinced that you will again give that support to leadership in these critical days.
SHAW: Not everyone coming to Washington for Saturday's inauguration is a fan of President-elect Bush. Thousands of protesters say they will be here on hand, including anti-death penalty groups and civil rights activists. One big problem, they say, is how they are already being received.
CNN's Kate Snow has details.
KATE SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At federal court in Washington, protesters filed suit, saying police and security officials are trampling their First Amendment rights.
BRIAN BECKER, PROTEST ORGANIZER: The security set up by the government, by the police agencies is constitutionally invalid.
SNOW: Employing lawyers is a new tactic for these enemies of corporate globalization. The International Action Center says even though it's obtained permits, access to the parade route and the protesters message will be blocked by bleachers. And they complain about unprecedented security checkpoints around the parade route perimeter.
LARRY HOLMES: These checkpoints -- what's up with that? There's no criteria. Who are they going to stop? What are they going to ask for? ID? Are they going to target some people: young people, African-Americans from out of town, people who live in the District?
SNOW: Law enforcement agencies say their only interest is protecting public safety.
CHIEF CHARLES RAMSEY, WASHINGTON METROPOLITAN POLICE: People have a right in this country to protest. That is what makes the United States the great country that it is. And our job is to protect their right to protest. But at the same time, the new president of the United States and those who that support him have a right to have a parade.
SNOW: But officials also acknowledge dealing with protesters has become an increasingly difficult game. Protests in Seattle in 1999 put police across the country on notice and led to controversial changes in tactics. In Washington last spring, police shut down a meeting center for anti-globalization protesters, citing fire-code violations. On the day before the scheduled protests, they arrested 600 people, clearing the streets.
ZACHARY WOLFE, PROTESTERS' LAWYER: Really, since Seattle, every major demonstration that has been announced in this country has seen increasing levels of police reaction.
SNOW (on camera): Police insist they're not overreacting to inaugural protest plans. But demonstrators planning to fill this plaza along Pennsylvania Avenue say they would rather have a court decide.
Kate Snow, CNN, Washington.
WOODRUFF: President-elect George W. Bush's inaugural moment will be marked by flowers, thousands of them. In all, about 150,000 roses, tulips, orchids and other flowers will be on display as centerpieces, podium pieces and stage arrangements. Some 100 professional floral designers from across the country are volunteering their time. Before it's all over Saturday, it's estimated that more than 5,000 hours of work will be put into that lovely project.
The fight over John Ashcroft's confirmation has just started. We will look at how it's going and hear from some of the participates when INSIDE POLITICS continues. Also ahead: What will President George W. Bush do about international terrorism?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, April 12, 1945)
ANNOUNCER: Over the White House of Washington, the flag flies at half-staff as a grief-stricken nation mourns the death of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, president of the United States. Inside, in the historic Cabinet Room, Vice President Harry S. Truman takes the oath of office as 32nd president, administered by Chief Justice Harlan Fiske Stone. Mrs. Truman is at his side. President Truman asks the full Roosevelt Cabinet to remain in office, expressing his intention to carry on American polices as formulated by the Roosevelt administration.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
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LEAHY: ... will be the truth, the whole truth...
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SHAW: John Ashcroft swears to enforce the nation's laws: no ands, ifs or buts.
WOODRUFF: Is that likely to calm the controversy over his nomination as attorney general?
ANNOUNCER: From Washington, this is INSIDE POLITICS, with Bernard Shaw and Judy Woodruff.
WOODRUFF: John Ashcroft's confirmation hearing resumes at 10:00 a.m. tomorrow morning, after an opening session that, in many ways, lived up to expectations. Democrats zeroed in on Ashcroft's conservative views and whether they would interfere with his ability to enforce the nation's laws as attorney general. Ashcroft, in turn, defended his record and his nomination with the help of Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Here now, excerpts from the hearing.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you swear or affirm that the testimony that you are about to give before the committee will be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?
ASHCROFT: I do. (END VIDEO CLIP)
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ASHCROFT: The attorney general is the people's council. The attorney general must lead a professional, nonpartisan Justice Department that is uncompromisingly fair defined by integrity, and dedicated to upholding the rule of law. I pledge to you that if I am confirmed as attorney general, I will serve as the attorney general of all the people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
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LEAHY: What assurances can you give us that you would serve as the chief enforcement officer of this country with the kind of balanced view that you acknowledge is necessary for a top official in the Department of Justice, the balanced view that you said others must have before you would vote for their confirmation?
ASHCROFT: I would like to just have a chance to go back to that list, the litany of things.
LEAHY: Of course.
ASHCROFT: And positions you attributed to me. You said I opposed voluntary desegregation of the schools. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
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SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R), UTAH: Is there anything in your religious beliefs that would impair you from faithfully and fully fulfilling your responsibilities as attorney general of the United States?
ASHCROFT: Well, I don't believe it's appropriate to have a test based on one's religion for a job. I think article V of the Constitution makes that clear. In examining my understanding and my commitment and my faith heritage, I'd have to say that my faith heritage compels me to enforce the law and abide by the law, rather than to violate the law. And if in some measures, somehow I were to encounter a situation where the two came into conflict so that I could not respond to this faith heritage which requires me to enforce the law, then I would have to resign. I do not believe that to be the case.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WOODRUFF: CNN's Chris Black has been covering the Ashcroft hearing. She rejoins us, now, from Capitol Hill.
Chris, is it too early to ask whether or not the Democrats drew any blood this afternoon? BLACK: Well, they certainly began to make their points, Judy. It's a little bit too soon. What they did is, they sort of showed the road map of where they are going to go, showed what questions they're going to ask. What was very interesting today was hearing people like Russ Feingold, a very liberal Democrat on the committee, who's worked very closely with John Ashcroft on the past on issues like racial profiling, and to see the personal dilemma that he spelled out. He said I like this guy, I work well with this guy. But even he was not totally convinced that John Ashcroft can separate his personal views, which he holds quite passionately and deeply, from his responsibilities to be an even handed enforcer of the law.
WOODRUFF: Chris, Ashcroft seemed, at least to me, remarkably subdued in much of the questioning, and his response. And at several points he was simply reading from decisions that he had made as attorney general of the state of Missouri. Do you think that that is going to be the demeanor he adopts pretty much for the balance of these hearings?
BLACK: Well, usually it's a smart thing for nominees, especially when they're undergoing this kind of intense scrutiny and intense questioning to keep cool as much as they can. Remember, these committee members know John Ashcroft very, very well. He not only served on the committee, he was the subcommittee chairman. So they know exactly how conservative he is. And he knows them personally, and it's -- has a personal relationship with all these members including people he doesn't agree with and hasn't agreed with.
It was interesting today to see Senator Kit Bond, who is not on the committee, who tends to be a little more volatile than John Ashcroft, get angry enough with Ted Kennedy that he pointedly criticized the remarks that Kennedy made in his opening statement. That brought a little bit of a demurrer from Senator Pat Leahy, the chairman of the committee, who defended Kennedy's rights to say anything he wanted to in the opening statement, which is, of course, the right of all the senators.
WOODRUFF: And Chris, when Senator Leahy opened up the questioning of John Ashcroft, he started by quoting from Ashcroft's standard, so to speak, when the nomination of Bill Lann Lee to the Justice Department was up before the Senate, and what do we make of Ashcroft's response to that?
BLACK: Well, the interesting thing is that Pat Leahy has, even before this hearing, expressed concern that if the Democrats on this committee held him to the standard that he had held some Clinton administration nominees to, he wouldn't have a vote.
So, that was the point to him calling it so pointedly the Ashcroft standard. It's the beginning of a succession of decisions that Senator Ashcroft is going to have to defend. He's going to have to explain why if he thought it was enough to vote against a Bill Lann Lee or a David Satcher or whomever because he had philosophical differences, why it isn't a good enough reason for Democrats to hold that standard against him? And again, going back to something Russ Feingold said, Feingold said it was going to be very tough for Democrats not to behave the way Republicans, some Republicans, particularly the conservatives like Ashcroft, behaved against Clinton administration nominees during the eight years of the Clinton-Gore administration.
WOODRUFF: And we should clarify David Satcher, of course, was the nominee to be surgeon general...
BLACK: Surgeon general.
WOODRUFF: ... and went onto adopt that post. Just quickly, Chris, what do we look for tomorrow?
BLACK: More of the same. A little more intensity because now that the sort of opening statements have been done with, the committee members will really get an opportunity to almost cross-examine this witness.
Each senator gets 15 minutes. The Republicans will, of course, try to defend them as much as they can. They don't have sort of a set game plan. They're going to sort of react off what the Democrats are going to do. The Democrats have divvied up the labor. Ted Kennedy, today, we heard what he was going to do. Each committee member -- Chuck Schumer, for example will focus on gun laws.
So, they will go down the island; go through every single issue, and he will have to answer those questions.
WOODRUFF: All right, Chris Black at the Senate. Thanks very much.
And when we come back, Bernie will talk with two members of the Senate Judiciary Committee: Democrat Dick Durbin; Republican Jon Kyl. We'll be back.
SHAW: Now, we talk to two members of the Senate Judiciary Committee: Democrat Dick Durbin of Illinois and Republican Jon Kyl of Arizona.
Senator Kyl, with you first. In your judgment, what's the most important thing John Ashcroft said this day?
SEN JON KYL (R), ARIZONA: I'm not sure it's what he said, but by the way he acted. I noted, in Chris Black's piece, she -- or Judy, rather, said he was a bit subdued. I think that may surprise people. But John Ashcroft is not a volatile person.
He's a very careful, considerate kind of person. I think that's the way he'll approach this job. And if I could quickly correct something that Chris Black said: The Ashcroft standard is not as some Democrats would like to portray it or as she indicated it was. It's not a matter of differing ideologically with someone like Mr. Satcher or Bill Lann Lee, but rather whether or not they would enforce the law, or whether there may be some ethical problem in their background.
And with regard to Satcher, John Ashcroft believed that his activity was in violation of medical ethical standards, something has not been -- no one has accused John Ashcroft of -- and secondly, with respect to Bill Lann Lee, that he was unwilling to take the Supreme Court decision in Adarand and indicate he would apply it fairly the way the Supreme Court enunciated it. So it's not a matter of differing ideologically with these people.
John Ashcroft applied the same standard as anyone else. Namely, he didn't think that they would enforce the law the way they should or that there was an ethical issue.
SHAW: Senator Durbin, what's the most important thing said by the nominee today, in your judgment?
SEN. DICK DURBIN (D-IL), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Well, I thought it was an interesting presentation. Of course, he was back on the field of battle that he knows well, having served on the Judiciary Committee himself. And he knows most of the members personally, having served with them.
I thought he was poised. I thought he made a good presentation. But there were several questions that were raised. The Bill Lann Lee nomination, for example, I thought was really a terrible experience here in the Senate Judiciary Committee. I was here. Bill Lann Lee said under oath: I will uphold the Adarand decision. Senators like John Ashcroft said: We just don't believe you. Now, if that's going to be the standard, John Ashcroft doesn't want to be held to that standard.
He wants to be accepted as saying truthful things to us under oath and to be held accountable accordingly. And I just hope that we can have a little more candor tomorrow than we had today.
SHAW: Your reaction to what you just heard, Senator Kyl?
KYL: Well, Bernie, it's a difference of opinion between Dick Durbin and me. He didn't just say he would -- I'm talking about Bill Lann Lee now -- he didn't just say: I will uphold Adarand. He said: This is the way I interpret Adarand and that's what I will do.
His interpretation of Adarand was not what the Supreme Court said in the Adarand case. And, as it turns out, when Bill Lann Lee was nominated by President Clinton and served under an interim appointment, he ended up applying Adarand as he interpreted it, not the way the Supreme Court ruled -- and, as a matter of fact, has been chastised by at least one federal district judge for trying to go beyond Adarand. So John Ashcroft's judgment and mine and many others was -- has been vindicated with respect to Bill Lann Lee.
SHAW: Well, now, given what our viewers have just heard from both of you on this point, I have to ask you: In this case, is John Ashcroft's conservative ideology an asset or a liability -- Senator Durbin? DURBIN: Well, of course, we expected a conservative appointee from president-elect George W. Bush. But John Ashcroft is not just an ordinary conservative. During the course of his political career, he has taken positions on conservative issues, I think, a little further to the right than most United States senators. And that's why there's so many questions being asked.
Going back to the Bill Lann Lee thing, one of the things that continues to concern me is that John Ashcroft seems to draw those bright lines when it comes to questions involving affirmative action, what our laws are going to be in relation to minorities in this country. And these things, over and over, pop up during the course of his public career. And they're going to continue to be asked during this hearing.
SHAW: Mr. Kyl?
KYL: Nothing in John Ashcroft's record suggests that he would not apply the law precisely as it has been written or interpreted by the court. As he said over and over today: Where the law is settled, I will -- and I have, as the state attorney general of Missouri and as governor, applied the law, even though, in some cases, I wasn't crazy about the law.
And there were a recitation of opinions that he had issued as attorney general by Orrin Hatch, which -- which clearly were not necessarily in accordance with his personal views, but were the law as he understood it.
SHAW: Jon Kyl, in your judgment, are liberals using, invoking a double-standard in the way they are comporting themselves in these hearings?
KYL: I'm not going to accuse any of my colleagues of knowingly applying the wrong standard
SHAW: Well, I'm not asking you to make an accusation, Senator. I'm asking what you think.
KYL: No, I think this: I think that there are some very liberal special-interest groups which have put a lot of pressure on some of my Democratic colleagues. And one of the senators, Senator Feingold today, specifically alluded to it. And they're finding it very difficult to look at this objectively.
I understand that. But as Russ Feingold said, we've got to look at it objectively and even if we think that John Ashcroft might have erred in some of his votes in the past, we shouldn't be tempted to reject him just because of that.
SHAW: Your response, Senator Durbin?
DURBIN: Well, it's interesting to me that these groups are being characterized as extremist liberal groups: groups, for example, that support a woman's right to choose which, incidentally, a majority of the American people support; groups which support sensible gun control, which a majority of the American people support.
These are not extreme positions, and I've not felt the pressure from these groups. It was a decision by President George W. Bush to nominate a man who has a very, very conservative political background, and it is natural for us to have some concern that many of the very laws he's condemned during his public career will not be enforced as they should be.
That is the reason for this hearing; that's the reason why there is any kind of controversy behind it, and I hope that at the end of it, we'll satisfy ourselves that in this situation, either John Ashcroft will be a man to serve as attorney general or perhaps should not be.
SHAW: Democrat Dick Durbin of Illinois; Republican Jon Kyl of Arizona, two very distinguished members of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Gentlemen, thank you.
KYL: Thank you, Bernie.
SHAW: You're quite welcome -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: And from one high-profile, important post to another. President Clinton's CIA chief will remain in that post, at least for the time being. President-elect Bush has asked Director George Tenet to stay on for an undetermined period of time and Tenet has agreed.
Tenet has been in charge of the CIA for three and a half years. He has been credited with raising morale at the agency, which had been battered by staff cuts and espionage scandals before his arrival.
SHAW: In recent years, the Central Intelligence Agency has turned much of its attention to the fight against international terrorism.
As CNN national security correspondent David Ensor reports, the new administration will inherit many challenges.
DAVID ENSOR, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Osama bin Laden has been a persistent thorn in the side of the Clinton administration, but it may now fall to Mr. Bush to decide how to respond if, as appears likely, the evidence becomes persuasive that bin Laden's group bombed the USS Cole in Yemen.
L. PAUL BREMER, FORMER COUNTERTERRORISM AMBASSADOR: The administration doesn't have the option of doing nothing.
ENSOR: Cruise missiles might be part of the answer, but the last time, in 1998 in Afghanistan, they failed to hit Bin Laden and hitting a pharmaceutical plant in Sudan prompted charges its connection with the fugitive terrorist was unproven.
What about going after bin Laden himself with special forces? Tempting, perhaps. But easier said than done.
BREMER: It's not almost a commando raid, it's a military operation of some size, considering that he's got several hundred people guarding him.
ENSOR: Some experts argue going after the fundamentalist Taliban government that harbors bin Laden in Afghanistan might make more sense.
JULIE SIRRS, FORMER DIA ANALYST: Bin Laden helps the Taliban militarily in terms of money and men, and the Taliban give him shelter and the ability to plan future operations. So, really, they're just sort of two links in the same chain.
ENSOR: Also on the new president's plate concerning terrorism: A series of new reports saying major terrorist attacks inside the U.S. are inevitable and that biological or chemical weapons will some day be used here.
GOV. JAMES GILMORE (R-VA), CHAIRMAN, TERRORISM PANEL: And the United States must be ready for that attack.
ENSOR: The Gilmore panel recommended creating at the White House a powerful Cabinet-level counterterrorism director. But the Clinton administration's counterterrorism coordinator disagrees.
RICHARD CLARKE, WHITE HOUSE COUNTERTERRORISM COORDINATOR: I think the experience we've had indicates that we should not have a terrorism czar.
ENSOR (on camera): Terrorism, and how to structure the government's response to it, is not generally at the top of the list of any incoming administration's priorities, but events have a way of changing that. They will not be surprised, say U.S. officials, if combating terrorism ends up taking even more of President Bush's time than it has of President Clinton's.
David Ensor, CNN, Washington.
WOODRUFF: We have this report in to CNN, Laurent Kabila, president of the Democratic Republic of Congo, was shot and killed Tuesday by one of his own bodyguards. That information comes to CNN from a spokesman for the Dutch foreign ministry.
Earlier today, shots were fired around the home of Kabila amid reports of a possible coup attempt. Throughout the day, reports conflicted as to whether Kabila was hit. Once again, CNN confirming Congolese President Laurent Kabila is dead. He was shot today in the Congolese capital by one of his bodyguards.
The country is under a state of emergency, and this addendum to the story, the same sources talking to CNN say that Kabila's son, Joseph, was also killed -- Bernie. SHAW: We have been looking at President William Jefferson Clinton for eight years now. And over those years, his appearance has changed. Is he getting older or getting better? Jeanne Moos will try to help us decide when INSIDE POLITICS continues.
WOODRUFF: It has been eight years since William Jefferson Clinton took the first presidential oath. And if you look at the pictures from the 1993 inauguration today, you'll notice some changes. CNN's Jeanne Moos takes a look back.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Everybody loves before and afters. Before and after cosmetic surgery. Before and after posterior improvement. Before and after the presidency.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He looks much more distinguished in that second picture.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He looks smarter than he does here, intellectual. He's learned more from being a president.
MOOS: Presidential historian Douglas Brinkley thinks Bill Clinton has handled the stress of being president as well as anyone could.
DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: He is the official "Energizer bunny" of American politics, and he seems to go and go and go.
MOOS: But the woes of some presidents are written all over their face.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Carter aged before your very eyes.
MOOS: More visible to the eye, perhaps, than the camera. Carter, before and after.
BRINKLEY: Lyndon Johnson, in the White House, became extraordinarily haggard and disconnected.
MOOS: LBJ, before.
LYNDON BAINES JOHNSON, 36TH PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I will ask for your help.
MOOS: And after. Historians blame Vietnam. Nixon before. Nixon after. Think Watergate.
RICHARD M. NIXON, 37TH PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We'll see you again.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I've heard the presidency adds 10 years to your life. MOOS: Sort of like dog years?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. Yes.
MOOS: I wonder if that applies to White House dogs as well. Among the presidents who wore the strain well, Ronald Reagan -- before and after.
RONALD REAGAN, 40TH PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Not bad. Not bad at all.
MOOS: And if you need convincing that youth is not always preferable;
Even Helen Thomas, who has covered eight presidents, was taken aback by this 1979 photo of the Clintons. For years, it's been the most consistent seller at this Washington, D.C. card shop.
MOOS: What's it say?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't know.
MOOS: It says, "you've improved with age, too."
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Happy birthday!
MOOS: After eight years in office, after scandals that you'd think would leave scars, folks tend to think Bill Clinton is looking liberated.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And now I can pinch any woman I want, and you can't do a thing about it.
MOOS: That's why you think he looks so good now?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. He looks satisfied, confident, he looks like he's in control.
MOOS: His gray hair gone white is a hit with women. But that's not the only color mentioned.
MOOS: Why do you like this one better?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: His face is pink.
MOOS: Historian Douglas Brinkley sees a blue side to the pink president.
BRINKLEY: There's a melancholy look into the eyes and the face that clearly wasn't there eight years ago.
MOOS: Melancholy, maybe, but growing older with "amazing grace."
Jeanne Moos, CNN, Washington.
(END VIDEOTAPE) WOODRUFF: Changed in so many ways.
WOODRUFF: So many ways.
SHAW: As have we.
WOODRUFF: Absolutely. We all do, and we have.
That's all for this edition of INSIDE POLITICS, but, of course, you can go on-line all the time at CNN's allpolitics.com. AOL keyword, CNN.
SHAW: These programming notes: former Labor Secretary-nominee Linda Chavez will be a guest host tonight on "CROSSFIRE" at 7:30 p.m. Eastern. The guests, Senators Barbara Boxer and Arlen Specter, will discuss today's hearing for John Ashcroft.
At 9:00 p.m. Eastern, Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris will be the guest on "LARRY KING LIVE." I'm Bernard Shaw.
WOODRUFF: And I'm Judy Woodruff. The "MONEYLINE NEWS HOUR" is next.
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