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Rep. Watts: Ashcroft 'Eminently Qualified' to Uphold Law of United States

Aired January 18, 2001 - 1:50 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: We are also following the story on Capitol Hill, the process for John Ashcroft to be the nation's attorney general. You've heard people from all over give the pros and cons about the man, Ashcroft.

We are going to hear now from one of the people who testified today, Congressman J. C. Watts of Oklahoma.

Congressman, thank you for joining us.

And tell us, why were you one of the ones to testify? And what was the message that you wanted to send about this man?

REP. J. C. WATTS (R), OKLAHOMA: Well, first of all, Natalie, I was asked to come. And I'm delighted to have been able to testify on behalf of my good friend John Ashcroft.

I think that John Ashcroft is eminently qualified to uphold the law and the constitution in the state of Oklahoma -- I mean, in the state of -- I mean, the United States.

His track record in Missouri, I think his track record as a senator, I think, has been good. And he deserves that opportunity.

ALLEN: There's a lot of groups that don't like his track record at all, one of them, Planned Parenthood.

And we heard their leader speak today about how activism has been such a important part of her life. And she believes it's been an important part of John Ashcroft's life, in his opposition to a woman's right. And she said, how does one carry out a job and all of a sudden, turn off the years of activism?

How would he be able to do that in your view?

WATTS: Because John Ashcroft loves the law. And it's his -- it would be his responsibility, as the attorney general, to uphold the law that we currently have.

If you don't like the law, it's a responsibility of the congress of the United States to change that law, or to alter that law in some way. But John Ashcroft is not a legislator, or would not be a legislator as attorney general. It is his responsibility, Natalie, again, to uphold the law in the constitution that's currently on the books.

ALLEN: Many people have come before this committee and said, however, that his record has been one in part of exclusivity. If confirmed -- and that is expected -- does this hurt George W. Bush's message, in any way, to have someone in such a high position that there was so much controversy around when Bush's message has been one of inclusivity?

WATTS: Natalie, no, I don't think that it will hurt President- elect Bush's effort to carry out his agenda.

I think we have to understand, when we go through these confirmation processes, some people consider themselves hunting dogs, as opposed to say things and try to broody up the candidate or the nominee and try to make them look bad, or try to make them look racist or anti-woman or anti-whatever.

And that's unfortunate about the process. And you know, Republicans do it, Democrats do it. It's an unfortunate process.

But I think we have to keep our eye on the prize. We have to stay focused on the qualifications, the quality, and the integrity of the nominee.

And I think that's what the Senate Judiciary Committee, I think that's what they will do. I think that's what the full Senate would do -- will do. And I think that Senator Ashcroft will be confirmed as the next attorney general of the United States.

ALLEN: Representative Watts, thank you for talking with us.

WATTS: Thank you.

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