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Jewish World Review Jan. 12, 2001/ 17 Teves, 5761


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The Black and the Red -- THERE'S NO OTHER WAY to spin it: George W. Bush suffered a black eye as a result of the sloppy withdrawal of Linda Chavez.

Although this fine woman would've made an excellent labor secretary-and not only for her enlightened views about the economic folly of minimum-wage hikes and her tough positions on crooked union bosses-her nomination was flawed. Both Bush and Chavez are to blame. Tapping an outspoken opponent of racial quotas for a Cabinet position makes sense in a conservative administration; but in retrospect, the choice of Chavez, a syndicated columnist with a long paper trail of opinions that would inevitably be taken out of context, wasn't so smart. Sure, the transition period was truncated by Al Gore's attempt to litigate his way into the White House, but that's no excuse for the Bush team.

As for Chavez, she apparently lied to Bush about her association with Marta Mercado. What was she thinking? Given the continuing intervention of Clinton loyalists-George Stephanopoulos' role in this mess ought to be investigated by his employer, ABC News-did Chavez really think she could slip by the FBI? Hadn't she heard that Louis Freeh was reappointed by the President-Elect? She may feel betrayed by Bush's lack of support, but her vague answers about Mercado left him no choice but to cut the losses and move on. In addition, Chavez's "We Are the World" press conference on Tuesday, however well-intended, was too gooey and self-serving.

Adding insult to injury, Bush was forced to endure giddy words of praise from The New York Times on Jan. 10. The paper's lead editorial read: "Mr. Bush's response was swift, decisive and correct on the merits. Neither he nor the nation can start a new administration with a labor secretary who may have skirted basic wage and immigration laws in her own home." Had the matter not already been resolved, the Times' disingenuous praise might've been enough to make Bush stick with Chavez just for the sport of it.

But he didn't have that luxury, and black eyes do heal.

What's essential now is for Bush's new nominee for labor secretary-Elaine Chao-to send a message to the fringe left wing that she won't be cowed by its histrionics. A swift kick in the balls to AFL-CIO President John Sweeney will send him the vital message that Bill Clinton won't be around much longer to protect his interests.

David Keene, chairman of the American Conservative Union, gave a succinct summary of today's political climate to Times reporters Alison Mitchell and Robin Toner on Jan. 10. He said: "Everybody in the country on both sides knows this campaign hasn't ended. There's no honeymoon for Bush, no letup by the Democrats; it's just total political war."

Republican leaders and activists finally appear ready for the attacks against John Ashcroft, Gale Norton and Tommy Thompson. GOP Majority Leader Trent Lott-possibly the recipient of a spine transplant-led the offensive against the organized group of feminists, blacks, abortion advocates, gays, environmentalists, global warmers and probably a few PETA strays as well, on Jan. 10. Claiming that Ashcroft has the support of all 50 GOP senators-although the dotty Arlen Specter is a wildcard-Lott said: "A concerted effort to 'Bork' John Ashcroft would not be well received... The very idea that [Ashcroft] would not support the law that is on the books is ridiculous. George W. Bush was elected president. He is a conservative and he is entitled to have a Cabinet of his choosing."

Although some Democratic senators, such as New Jersey's oily Robert Torricelli, have backed off their December statements of support of Ashcroft, apparently the victim of shakedowns from the likes of Jesse Jackson and Sweeney, Wisconsin's Russ Feingold is more independent. He's called Ashcroft "a respected public servant with a fine legal mind to be attorney general of the United States... We have often disagreed, but always in an atmosphere of trust and mutual desire to do the right thing for the American people."


It's just a hunch, but I believe that lame-duck Clinton's installation of Soft-Money Prince Terry McAuliffe as chairman of the Democratic National Committee, a choice that is anathema to the campaign finance reformer Feingold, might've pushed him away from his skittish brethren. And the former Missouri legislator might even pick up the vote of recent widow Jean Carnahan, who's replaced him in the U.S. Senate.

Carnahan, whose late husband Mel despised Ashcroft, told Fox News on Jan. 9: "I've never felt [Ashcroft] was racially biased. I don't know what was in his heart that caused him to vote the way he did over the Ronnie White issue, but I'm not convinced it was racial."

The liberal media, it goes without saying, is noisy as ever in its bias. Gene Lyons, Clinton toady and pen pal of Sidney Blumenthal, wrote in the Jan. 10 Arkansas Democrat-Gazette: "So Democrats are supposed to make nice because Bush owes one to the Fruitcake Right? Look, Ashcroft may be a fine husband and father, a devoted churchgoer, a congenial colleague and an exemplary pet owner... [W]e don't know or care. Nor are we buying [Ted] Olson's warning that there's no 'constitutional justification for opposing a Cabinet nominee on the basis of deeply felt religious convictions...shared by millions of Americans.'

"Millions more find those deeply felt convictions somewhere between laughable and offensive. Had Bush announced he'd appoint an Ashcroft in October, Al Gore would have won the presidency in a walk."

Could be. And if Gore had pledged he'd appoint, say, Alan Dershowitz or Mario Cuomo to a Cabinet position, Bush could've begun his transition on Nov. 8.

Here's another pip, from Michael Barnes, the former Maryland congressman who's now with Handgun Control: "Mr. Ashcroft apparently believes in the so-called insurrectionist interpretation of the Second Amendment. This is the same extremist theory subscribed to by Timothy McVeigh and so-called militia groups."

That's on par with an Oct. 21, 1999, press release from Rep. Maxine Waters: "I know a racist when I see one. Sen. Ashcroft acts like a racist, walks like a racist, and talks like a racist."


The Washington Post's Richard Cohen, a little more devious than the simpleton Waters, argued in his Jan. 11 column that Ashcroft is not a racist. In fact, he denounced the Congresswoman from Los Angeles, writing, "Leaving aside the question of what it means to walk like a racist, for just plain meanness and demagoguery the statement is breathtaking. But Waters is typical of certain black politicians-and their non-black allies-who casually yell racism when, in fact, other factors are operative."

Cohen doesn't believe Ashcroft is a racist. But in claiming that he's insensitive to gays, a gun nut and an anti-abortion zealot, Cohen ultimately sides with Waters. He concludes: "It's clear also that [Ashcroft] represents positions that the American people do not support and that in no way can be claimed to have triumphed in the election. He should not have been nominated and he should not be confirmed-not because of what he's not but because of what he is. That's bad enough."

Finally, the New York Post's Jack Newfield, biographer of wiretapper Bobby Kennedy, wrote about Ashcroft on Jan. 9: "Speak up, Hillary! Stop interviewing ghostwriters and start reading Ashcroft's record. Wake up, Corzine! Stop counting your stock options. The Justice Department is the last place in America where a hater should be harbored."

Where's the first place, Jack? In the pampered editorial departments of the nation's most widely circulated newspapers?

JWR contributor "Mugger" -- aka Russ Smith -- is the editor-in-chief and CEO of New York Press ( Send your comments to him by clicking here.

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