Jan 22, 2001
Words are cheap, especially in the mouths of Democrats
John Ashcroft, President Bush's choice for Attorney General, faced a more difficult confirmation hearing than any other of his cabinet nominees. Democrats pointed out that Ashcroft has long opposed the Roe vs Wade decision, the Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion. They also brought up his opposition to racial desegregation of schools and black voter registration efforts in his home state of Missouri when he was first the state's attorney general and then the governor there.
Several Democratic members of the Senate Judiciary Committee expressed doubts that Ashcroft could be counted on to enforce laws related to abortion, civil rights and other matters in light of his outspoken opposition to these very same laws over the years.
Nevertheless, even before Ashcroft's confirmation hearing ended, a few Democratic Senators dropped their opposition to him and announced that they would vote for his confirmation as head of the Justice Department, since he is an "honorable" man, Republican leaders said that they would have the support of all 50 Republican members of the Senate.
Of course, Kennedy and a few Democrats hinted they might filibuster against Ashcroft's confirmation in the full Senate. But Orrin Hatch, the senior Republican member of the Judiciary Committee declared that if Democrats in the full Senate filibustered against Ashcroft's nomination, such a step would be "tantamount to outright warfare."
Eight years ago, the Republicans were ready to take that step. The Democrats then controlled the White House and both houses of Congress. Yet the Republicans made Clinton withdraw nominees they considered to be "too liberal."
The Democrats are now in a stronger position than the Republicans were then, with the Senate split evenly between themselves and the Republicans. Yet they are not willing to do what the Republicans did.
In other words, the Democrats are ready to say they are on the side of women who want to protect their right to abortion, on the side of black people who want to protect their right to vote and send their children to decent public schools.
But they aren't ready to act on it!