WASHINGTON D.C., JANUARY 10—Jean Carnahan, widow of Mel Carnahan, the Missouri governor who even in death beat out John Ashcroft for the Senate, says she won’t rush to judgment on Ashcroft’s nomination to be Bush’s attorney general. Carnahan is serving in her husband’s place, so she may ultimately get to vote on whether the right-wing Ashcroft wins the nation’s top law enforcement job. “Ashcroft deserves a full and fair hearing so that senators can learn from him how he would perform the duties of the position that he has been nominated for,” she said in a statement.
Carnahan has drawn heat from Republicans over boxes of opposition research into Ashcroft that a former aide to her husband’s campaign gave to People for the American Way. (see also: Democrats Have the Goods to Sink John Ashcroft’s Nomination. Now the Question Is Whether They Have the Guts. by James Ridgeway) The aide, Marc Farinella, told the Associated Press that he and not Jean Carnahan distributed the material.
Left-wing protest against Ashcroft continues piling up. The National Abortion Federation has released a lengthy report on Ashcroft’s record, arguing that as both Missouri governor and senator Ashcroft opposed abortion as a matter of personal conviction and sought to push his views at every level of government. According to the federation, Ashcroft helped appoint a man to the Republican state committee who didn’t just oppose terminating pregnancies, but wanted the death penalty for abortion providers.
The Senate Judiciary Committee has announced it will begin hearings on Ashcroft next Tuesday, January 16, at 1:30 p.m. with the ranking Democrat, Patrick Leahy, as chair. The Dems will have just four short days to hold sway in the Senate, with Al Gore’s deciding vote as vice president giving them a majority in the chamber. It’s all over for the Dems next Saturday, when Bush is sworn in and the Republicans regain a one-vote majority.
Reflecting the even split in the full Senate, the Judiciary Committee is divided down the middle, with eight Republicans led by Orrin Hatch and eight Democrats led by Leahy. The anti-Ashcroft forces are focusing on the committee Dems: New York’s Chuck Schumer, Wisconsin’s Russ Feingold and Herb Kohl, New Jersey’s Bob Torricelli, Massachusetts’s Teddy Kennedy, California’s Diane Feinstein, and Delaware’s Joe Biden. So far, the Dems are saying they want to get all the facts and ask hard questions of the nominee before they make up their minds.
Ashcroft ran a vicious no-holds-barred campaign against Mel Carnahan that reports say polarized the state along racial lines. His conservative views against abortion—as well as the pill and IUDs—have mobilized women’s groups like NARAL and NOW against him. He also is opposed by the Leadership Council, an umbrella civil rights group that includes the NAACP, People for the American Way, gun control groups, and the Sierra Club.
With labor secretary nominee Linda Chavez now history, liberal Dems are training all their guns on Ashcroft. One report after another goes up on the Web sites of the opposition groups. Just yesterday, following a press conference highlighting the anti-Ashcroft coalition, the National Abortion Federation went live with its research into Ashcroft, hitting him particularly hard. “Ashcroft’s rhetoric on the subject of abortion,” the federation wrote, “matches that of some of the most violent members of the anti-choice movement.”