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Kelly Wallace: Ashcroft pick pleases conservatives

wallace
Kelly Wallace  

White House Correspondent Kelly Wallace recaps the Friday developments from Austin, Texas, on President-elect George W. Bush's selection of John Ashcroft for attorney general.

Q: Why are social conservatives so pleased with the pick of Ashcroft?

WALLACE: Ashcroft is an outgoing senator of Missouri and a former two-term governor in the state. He's also a former attorney general in the state.

What's important to note is that he's a conservative Republican. Conservatives should be very happy about this choice. He is an opponent of abortion rights; a supporter of a ban on so-called 'late-term abortions'; he opposes background checks for gun shows, he's also opposed to prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Conservatives have been publicly criticizing the president-elect in recent days, charging that too many of his nominees for his Cabinet were moderates. They were certainly hoping he would put some conservatives in his top team. And on Friday, they got it.

Sen. Ashcroft was widely criticized during the re-election campaign for his role in defeating the nominee for a federal judgeship, an African-American and Missouri Supreme Court justice. The justice was someone who was appointed to the state high court by late Democratic Missouri Gov. Mel Carnahan.

Mr. Bush was asked about Ashcroft's role in defeating this nomination and Bush said he believes Ashcroft will enforce the civil rights laws and reach out to people of all backgrounds, including African-Americans. Bush said Ashcroft is a good and decent man who has a good heart.

Q: What's the overall analysis so far of the Bush Cabinet?

WALLACE: So far, it appears to be a moderate Cabinet with a couple of picks that would please conservatives.

You have the nomination of Ret. Gen. Colin Powell for secretary of state. He is someone who supports abortion rights and affirmative action. (New Jersey Gov. Christie Whitman was nominated) as the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. Economic conservatives like her because she is a big advocate of tax cuts, but social conservatives are not at all pleased with her because she is a strong and vocal supporter of abortion rights.

So, we are getting many moderates on the Cabinet. But with the selection of outgoing Sen. Ashcroft for attorney general, Mr. Bush is sending a message that he is going to include some people in his top team who conservatives like.

Q: Is it likely Bush will include any Democrats in the Cabinet?

WALLACE: What we're hearing from Vice President-elect Dick Cheney and Bush aides is that there will in fact be a Democrat in the Bush Cabinet.

Bush aides dispute reports that they are having any difficulty attracting a Democrat. But so far, not one Democrat has been named or announced as a nominee.

Q: For Ashcroft, the nomination gives him a renewed beginning in public life following the recent election in which his opponent, Missouri Gov. Mel Carnahan, died in a tragic accident before the election. How did the selection of Ashcroft come about?

WALLACE: It was an unprecedented election situation. You had Ashcroft, a Republican senator, in essence running against a dead man. He ran against the late Democratic governor of Missouri, Mel Carnahan. The governor died in a plane crash just a few weeks before the election.

Ashcroft narrowly lost the election and so Carnahan's widow, Jean, was appointed to his position and she will be in the U.S. Senate. So, it was a very unusual situation for Sen. Ashcroft.

Just two days ago, Ashcroft was traveling across Missouri, thanking supporters who he had worked since he had been in the Senate in 1995. Then, it was learned he came to Austin on Thursday to meet with President-elect Bush.

By Friday morning, we had the announcement of Ashcroft being named attorney general.

 

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Friday, December 22, 2000


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