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CNN Today

Interest Groups Voice Opposition to Gale Norton as Interior Secretary

Aired January 12, 2001 - 2:14 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Opposition growing today against the president-elect's choice for interior secretary. Environmentalists today portrayed Gale Norton as well outside the mainstream.

Let's get the latest on this firestorm from CNN's Jonathan Karl. He's in Washington -- Jonathan.

JONATHAN KARL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Natalie.

For today, it is Gale Norton, the nominee or nominee-designate for George W. Bush, that is in the spotlight, in crosshairs for environmental activist groups. Those groups came together: 18 of them held a press conference here in Washington announcing their unified opposition to the Norton nomination. They came together, said that she is outside of the mainstream, she is an extremist on environmental issues, is an anti-environmentalist.

They also announced that they would be launching an advertising campaign aimed at defeating her nomination, with ads running in several states where senators on the committee will be hearing her nomination, confirmation hearing taking place.

Now, what they're say essentially, again, is that she is simply outside the mainstream, not a fit choice to be secretary of interior.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GREG WETSTONE, NATURAL RESOURCES DEFENSE COUNCIL: Gale Norton has devoted her life to undermining the mission of the agency she has been nominated to lead, and we have every reason to believe that she would continue this crusade as the secretary of interior with disastrous consequences for our forests, parks, wildlife and public lands.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KARL: Now, the environmental groups have a long list of complaints about Gale Norton. But many of them come down to the fact that she has been a strong, some would say strident critic of environmental regulations, federal environmental regulations. And what they're saying is that she would be put in a position as secretary of interior of actually having to enforce laws that she vehemently disagrees with. Now, what her defenders say, what Republicans are saying and some Democrats that favor her nomination is that she is simply a free- market environmentalist who does not believe that the heavy hand of the federal government is the best way to protect our lands, but that she as the former attorney general of the state of Colorado -- somebody who has served in two different administrations -- is more than qualified to take the job of interior secretary.

As a matter of fact, Ari Fleischer, the spokesperson for George W. Bush, the press secretary, came out today, and for the second day in a row, strongly defended Norton's nomination.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ARI FLEISCHER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: What America needs and what President-elect Bush was looking for is someone who can reach to consensus with the stakeholders who want to work in a fashion that lends itself to consensus. And there are some stakeholders who don't want to. And that's been, unfortunately, regardless of party, the history of Western land and water issues. But you still get a lot of work done when you have people like Gale Norton onboard, and that's why he chose her.

There are going to be groups that just use inflammatory rhetoric, who are more interested in contributing to the problem than the solution.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KARL: And the bottom line is that up here on Capitol Hill, the feeling on both sides of the aisle, from Democrats and Republicans, is that Gale Norton will easily be confronted by the Senate. She may have a tough time in her confirmation hearing next week, face some tough questions, but in the end it's predicted here on both sides of the aisle that she will pass the committee that's hearing her confirmation and also that she will easily pass the full Senate.

They believe that where the real action is here in terms of controversial nominees is over with the John Ashcroft battle.

Natalie, back to you.

ALLEN: All right, Jonathan Karl in Washington.

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