San Diego Union-Tribune



Sen. Boxer takes aim at Ashcroft nomination
Foes, allies make themselves known 

Finlay Lewis 

WASHINGTON -- Sen. Barbara Boxer yesterday became the first senator to announce her opposition to attorney general nominee John Ashcroft as battle lines hardened over President-elect Bush's choice to head the Justice

Boxer said Bush's selection of the conservative former Missouri senator goes against the president-elect's pledge to govern as a "uniter, not a divider."

"This totally goes against everything (he) said," Boxer said in an interview. "I took him at his word about governing from center. It's a real stake in the heart of a lot of people who have worked all of their lives
for a lot of good things."

Boxer's move came as Ashcroft's opponents and supporters stepped up their efforts in advance of his confirmation hearing next week before the Senate
Judiciary Committee. Boxer is not a member of the committee.

Trent Lott, the Republican leader of the Senate, said yesterday that all 50 Republican senators are behind Ashcroft.

The hearing appears likely to pit liberal interest groups against Ashcroft's Republican backers and their Christian conservative allies. In a letter to Bush, Boxer urged him to withdraw the nomination, saying that the
Senate struggle could be brutal and divisive.

"There are solid reasons to expect that the people of this country will not be protected and served as they exercise their civil rights, human rights, consumer rights, their right to choose, their right to be free of gun
violence and their right to a clean environment," Boxer wrote.

In the interview, Boxer said she is particularly concerned about Ashcroft's 1999 role in defeating the nomination of a black Missouri Supreme Court judge for the federal judiciary.

Democrats say they plan to seek anti-Ashcroft testimony from the judge, Ronnie White, whom Ashcroft opposed for the federal bench on the grounds that some of his rulings were pro-criminal.

Yesterday, Ashcroft supporters said they were considering inviting crime victims -- or their family members -- to testify about the impact of White's disputed rulings on their lives.

Boxer noted that Democrats could respond by calling their own "victims" of Ashcroft's appointments and policies during his years as Missouri's governor and attorney general.

Meanwhile, Ashcroft visited Capitol Hill yesterday. After a 35-minute meeting with Ashcroft, Sen. Peter Fitzgerald, R-Ill., endorsed his former colleague.