Pontificator: News and Commentary

Saturday, December 14, 2002 :::
Ashcroft's next.

Here's an extended excerpt from Senator Leahy's soon to be prescient comments:

"Ignorance Is His Defense – Southern Partisan and Bob Jones University. Senator Ashcroft’s record on the racially-charged issues of voting rights and desegregation make more worrisome his explanations for and associations with Southern Partisan magazine and Bob Jones University. In short, his explanation is ignorance.

Southern Partisan. In 1998, Senator Ashcroft gave an interview to the Southern Partisan, a magazine which has gained a reputation for espousing racist views due to its praise in past articles of such figures as former KKK leader David Duke and its defense of slave-holders. At the hearing, Senator Biden asked Senator Ashcroft about this interview and his association with this publication. Senator Ashcroft disavowed any knowledge about the publication or its reputation. He said, "On the magazine, frankly, I can’t say that I knew very much at all about the magazine. I’ve given magazine interviews to lots of people.... I don’t know if I’ve ever read the magazine or seen it." (1/17/01 Tr., p. 146). He told Senator Feingold that he thought the magazine was "a history journal." (Id., at 219).

Yet, it is difficult to square Senator Ashcroft’s quoted remarks in the Southern Partisan interview with his purported ignorance about the publication. He praised the magazine, saying "Your magazine also helps to set the record straight" on what he called "attacks the [historical] revisionists have brought against our founders." He added even more praise, saying, "You’ve got a heritage of doing that, of defending Southern patriots like Lee, Jackson and Davis." Southern Partisan, at 28 (2d Quarter, 1998). It is difficult to reconcile Senator Ashcroft’s testimony not to have known "very much at all" about the magazine with his own statements in the interview praising its "heritage." Indeed, he subsequently admitted that "I know they’ve been accused of being racist." (1/17/01 Tr., p. 152).

Putting that aside, however, I find it more troubling that despite the multiple opportunities he was given to distance himself from this magazine and evidence regret for giving the interview, he refused to do so. Instead, he responded with a platitude saying, "I condemn those things which are condemnable." (Id., at 147). We need more than platitudes from the next Attorney General. He made clear that what he mostly regretted is that this interview became an issue, saying: "And I regret that speaking to them is being used to imply that I agree with their views." (1/17/01 Tr., p. 146). Would it really hurt him to say, "I made a mistake. It’s an obnoxious publication and its positions are offensive"? It troubles me to see a public official going around applauding racially offensive institutions, and it troubles me even more to see him refusing to admit his mistakes and try to heal the offense.

Bob Jones University. The same claim of ignorance was Senator Ashcroft’s excuse for accepting a speaking engagement and an honorary degree from Bob Jones University. This school is not accredited. It did not admit African American students until 1971. Then, from 1971 to May 1975, the University accepted no applications from unmarried African American students, but did accept applications from African Americans "married within their race." Bob Jones University v. U.S., 461 U.S. 574 (1983). Even after it lost its tax exempt status in the mid-1970's, Bob Jones University maintained a ban on interracial dating. This policy changed on March 3, 2000, when Bob Jones announced on Larry King Live that the policy was dropped after an outcry over the visit to the University by then candidate, now President Bush.

The school, however, continues to discourage interracial dating. After announcing that the school would drop the interracial dating ban, Bob Jones told the student body at their daily chapel service the following day that they must tell their parents if they became involved in an interracial relationship and parents must send a letter to the dean of men or women approving the relationship before the university would allow it. Two days later, he announced that the school would drop the parental permission requirement but that students who wanted to engage in "serious dating relationships" against their parents’ approval would be referred to counseling by the university. That is mandatory special "counseling" for adults engaged in inter-racial dating – in the year 2001. That is a disgrace to our nation and all that we stand for.

As recently as March 2000, Bob Jones, the leader of the school, made clear on national TV that he views the Pope as the "anti-Christ" and both Catholicism and Mormonism as "cults." Senator Ashcroft claimed that he did not know about the school's beliefs at the time he spoke. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 3, 2000). Yet, when he spoke to the students at Bob Jones University, he appeared to condone the policies of the school from which they were graduating by thanking each of them "for preparing themselves in the way that you have."

His assertion of ignorance was once again met with some skepticism, as even the press pointed out that "he was attorney general [of Missouri] when the U.S. Supreme Court denied the university’s tax exempt status, and was governor when a state Supreme Court candidate ignited a controversy with pro-Bob Jones statements in 1992." (Id.). Specifically, in 1992, then Governor Ashcroft considered appointing Carl Esbeck to fill, at the time, the seventh and last open seat on the Missouri Supreme Court, but this proposed nomination proved controversial due to Esbeck’s criticism of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling that Bob Jones University was not entitled to tax-exempt status due to its discriminatory practices. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, August 6, 1992). Having seen the offense caused by his own efforts to appoint a judge who had been supportive of Bob Jones University in 1992, one might have expected Senator Ashcroft to be more sensitive, and more cautious about accepting an honorary degree from the same institution seven years later.

Again, as with the Southern Partisan interview, Senator Ashcroft has never apologized for accepting an honorary degree from this school or for associating with it. Instead, during his unsuccessful Senatorial campaign, in response to his opponent’s challenge to take this action, Senator Ashcroft "fired a puzzling return volley, saying he will give back all his degrees if Mr. Carnahan will return campaign contributions from pro-choice groups." (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 3, 2000). If Senator Ashcroft believes that support for Roe v. Wade is on a moral, legal, or political par with racial bigotry and the demonization of the Catholic and Mormon Churches, he is further out of the mainstream than I thought. If not, he missed a major opportunity to heal an offense for a great many Americans with an evasive and irrelevant response.

By contrast, after then candidate, now President Bush spoke at Bob Jones University in February 2000, he expressed regret for the appearance, in recognition of the "anti-Catholic and racially divisive views" associated with that school. Another Republican colleague, who also received an honorary degree from Bob Jones University, Rep. Asa Hutchinson, later took a public step to disassociate himself from the school, calling the school’s policies "indefensible." (New York Times, March 1, 2000).

Senator Ashcroft apparently has no regrets about accepting an honorary degree from Bob Jones University. On the contrary, Senator Ashcroft made clear in response to questions from both Senator Durbin and Senator Feinstein that he would consider a repeat visit to Bob Jones University as U.S. Attorney General. (1/17/01 Tr., pp. 237, 243). Senator Durbin asked, "you would not rule out, as attorney general of the United States, appearing at that same school?" Senator Ashcroft responded, "Well, let me just say this, I’ll speak at places where I believe I can unite people and move them in the right direction." (Id. at p. 237). Senator Feinstein asked "In six months, you receive an invitation from Bob Jones University. You now know about Bob Jones University. Do you accept that invitation?" Senator Ashcroft indicated that, "it depends on what the position of the university is; what the reason for the invitation is," but the short answer is "I don’t want to rule out that I would ever accept any invitation there." (Id., at p. 243)."

::: posted by Pontificator at 8:19 PM

Anyone who thinks Lott might actually step down should read the comments yesterday by Republican Senators, the only ones with the actual power to make Lott do anything. Looks like Lott isn't going anywhere. Not only is he a rascist (sorry, a nostalgic segregationist), but he's damn stubborn.
In light of this reality, the best comment yesterday comes from Congressman Clyburn:

"'I have maintained since this controversy began that I hoped Senator Lott would reform, not resign. The best way for him to demonstrate that he doesn't long for the days of segregation is through his actions. Walk the walk, don't talk the talk. In the next 60 days there will be a number of opportunities for him to do just that.' – Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., a Congressional Black Caucus leader."

::: posted by Pontificator at 10:49 AM

Tuesday, December 10, 2002 :::
If Trent Lott steps down as majority leader -- he's likely to be out of there, out of the Senate -- a full-fledged resignation. He's not going to suffer the humiliation on being just one of a hundred Senators, with his tail permanently affixed between his legs.

Which means -- special election! -- which means -- possible Democrat victory! -- which means a Lincoln Chafee switch would swing the pendulum back and. . .

elect Tom Daschle majority leader!!!


::: posted by Pontificator at 11:23 PM

The best thing about the blog-led Trent Lott firestrom is that it squashed Strom Thurmond on his way out. I was dreading having to watch the right wing media churn out sacharine truibutes to the South Carolina rascist as he turned 1000 (sorry, 100), and retired from the Senate. Thanks to Trent Lott, however, they've all been canceled!

::: posted by Pontificator at 10:53 PM

Monday, December 09, 2002 :::
With today's disappointing ruling in the GAO's lawsuit against Cheney, this is our last hope to uncover the no-doubt embarrasing secrets of Dick Cheney's energy task force.

Why is Cheney trying so hard to keep his energy task force a secret? My guess -- it has something to do with Saudia Arabia and the Bin Ladin family.

::: posted by Pontificator at 5:22 PM

Debka has an interesting post about the stealth weapons inspections being performed by allied special forces.

Here's a longish excerpt:

Thursday, December 5, the White House declared it already had “solid evidence” that Iraq does indeed have weapons of mass destruction. Where did that evidence come from?

"DEBKA-Net-Weekly (No. 88, Dec. 6) called on its military sources to divulge the secret, independent inspection project launched by the United States well before the UN Security Council sent its inspectors to Iraq. . . .

This project is in the hands of a special multinational task force made up of special elite units and armed with combat helicopters and aircraft, spy-planes and satellites. Unlike the Blix outfit, which is based in Baghdad, the alternative investigators are fanned out across the country. One well-placed source disclosed: “Our men in the field know where 90 percent of Saddam’s missiles and unconventional weapons systems are located, even the mobile ones that are moved from place to place every hour. We are keeping them under tight, on-site observation because when the war begins we want to be there before Saddam orders his men to hit the triggers.”

According to our sources, this highly sensitive, elaborate and secret inspection project has been going for more than three months. Its success could pre-determine the course of the war before it begins. Its members are drawn from the United States, Britain, Jordan and Turkey and possibly Israel. They operate under the Special Forces command at Al Udeid in Qatar and its sub-command in the Jordanian base of Mafraq.

For the purpose of the search, Iraq has been divided into 16 squares, each the province of an elite unit for a set period. The Talil air base complex in north Iraq, for instance, with its air fields, missile bases and air defense batteries, was assigned for the first three weeks of December to US special forces.

When these units end their tour of duty, they return to base and are replaced.

All the units on this mission are briefed down to the last detail on the unconventional weapons in their zone, their precise locations and the names of the Iraqi officers and men assigned to each site. They keep watch around the clock over the comings and goings inside those sites and are on the ready at all times to move in and seize the facility if ordered to do so.

Conscious of those watchful eyes, the Iraqis have made almost all their weapons systems mobile and shift them perpetually. Each of these elite units is afforded broad autonomy of action. They may call up reinforcements as needed, or air assistance from their home base. The Turkish northern Iraqi observation unit, for example, is in the care of the south Turkish military command. Any urgent medical aid requirement will therefore be supplied by the Turkish air force.

However, when aerial bombardment is called for to prevent the movement of weapons from one square to another, or air cover is required in the frequent cases of the special units coming under artillery or tank gun fire, the request for aerial assistance is routed through the US headquarters in Qatar or Jordan and US and UK warplanes scramble to raid Iraqi military targets.

Most of the dozens of “Western” or “allied” air sorties against Iraqi ground targets that are reported every few days are connected, DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s military sources can reveal, with Iraq’s maneuvers for concealing its weapons of mass destruction.

DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s sources say that this invisible arms inspection project has a dual purpose: it locks suspected weapons of mass destruction in position under close observation; it harvests the data inaccessible to the UN inspection teams and holds it ready for the Bush administration whenever it is called for.

The White House is therefore able to call on General Tommy Franks, commander of the Iraqi sector, to produce the evidence needed to prove Iraq’s mountainous declaration false. All the general needs do is to order the elite unit guarding any one of the 16 squares to seize a weapons system, possibly with its Iraqi crew.

Since no one has any notion of how Saddam Hussein will react to this denouement, all American and allied forces in the Middle East and the Gulf were put on a high state of preparedness as of Wednesday, December 4. General Franks’ arrival at the Qatari rear base of Al Udeid on Friday, December 6, was timed accordingly.

The story going around the Gulf, according to DEBKAfile’s sources, is that in the week since the UN inspection team started work, it has been well penetrated by Iraqi agents.The most disturbing aspect of this - and the reason for the sharp responses coming from the White House - is that the spies have managed to fit "electronic jackets" on the UN measuring instruments, which throw them off and make them emit false data. The technical assistants, some from Arab countries, are also thoroughly infiltrated by Iraqi intelligence."

::: posted by Pontificator at 2:21 PM

Sunday, December 08, 2002 :::
No question about it. the right-wingers are losing. Oh yeah, and this.

Also, did anyone see Daschle on Wolf Blitzer's show today? Apparently, he's got a press conference scheduled for tomorrow morning. He was unsually mysterious about it's content, but said it was definitely about the Senate.

Could it be, could it be, a Chafee-McCain double switch?

Will John McCain be the world's most powerful person this time tomorrow?

::: posted by Pontificator at 10:04 PM

A Google search ranks Pontificator # 1 for the following search: "Rush" + "Boil on your Butt."

Pontificator has hit the big time!!!

Now -- here is an instruction for all of you in blogger-land to follow. Rush will no longer be known as "Rush." He will now be exclusively referred to as "Butt Boil."

By this time next week, a Google search for "Rush" + "Butt Boil" should be turning up millions of hits!

Butt Boil.

(Everyone's got to have a mission, right?)

::: posted by Pontificator at 1:31 PM


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