San Diego Union-Tribune



Feinstein will vote against Ashcroft
  She joins Boxer and a few others 

Finlay Lewis 
An Associated Press report was used in this story. 

WASHINGTON -- Sen. Dianne Feinstein said yesterday she will vote against John Ashcroft's nomination for attorney general because his "ultra right-wing views" cast doubt on his willingness to enforce laws that clash with his political beliefs.

"Taken as a whole, Sen. Ashcroft's positions and statements, in my view, do not unite America," Feinstein said during a Senate Judiciary Committee session. "Rather, they divide America."

She joins California's other Democratic senator, Barbara Boxer, and a few other senators who have announced their opposition to the former Republican senator from Missouri.

Democrats on the committee delayed a vote on Ashcroft's nomination until next week so they can get more detailed information about him.

Senate Republican leaders are confident all 50 GOP senators and at least a couple of Democrats will back their former colleague, virtually assuring approval. Tom Daschle of South Dakota, the Democratic floor leader, told President Bush as much during a meeting at the White House yesterday.

"You will not be denied your choice on nominees," Daschle told Bush.

Feinstein said she appreciated Ashcroft's tough stance on law enforcement issues, but "his view on certain other issues -- civil rights and desegregation, a woman's right to choose, guns, gun safety -- makes him an enormously divisive and polarizing figure."

Several critics yesterday focused on Ashcroft's efforts to block the nomination of James Hormel as ambassador to Luxembourg because Hormel is homosexual.

Ashcroft testified last week that his opposition to Hormel was "based on the totality of the record."

That assertion is disputed by critics, who dusted off 1998 news accounts that quoted Ashcroft, then a Foreign Relations Committee member, as objecting to Hormel's "gay lifestyle."

Yesterday Hormel, who ultimately became the nation's first openly gay ambassador, challenged Ashcroft's fitness to serve as attorney general.

"I don't believe he would be capable or willing to represent the broad spectrum of American citizens," said Hormel, a San Francisco businessman and heir to the Hormel Meat Co.

Hormel planned to join AFL-CIO President John Sweeney and representatives of civil liberties and women's groups today at a Capitol Hill news conference. Groups backing Ashcroft are conducting their own campaign, which includes a petition signed by at least 170,000 supporters.