Missouri Republican senator John Ashcroft has "provided as clear an
example of racial politics infecting the nomination process as one could
ever hope to see," writes Benjamin Wittes in today's Washington Post. He's
referring to the Senate rejecting Ronnie White's nomination to the federal
bench. He's also wrong.
Ashcroft indeed led the charge against White, pointing out that the
Missouri Supreme Court Justice wanted to grant a new trial to a convicted
murderer and rapist on the grounds that the judge presiding over the case
made a statement in a separate context that White considered racist. The
judge's statement is indefensible, as it contrasts "minorities such as
homosexuals, people who don't want to work, and people with a skin that's
any color but white" with "the hard-working taxpayers in this country."
Yet it had nothing to do with the trial of Brian Kinder, and was issued
before that trial even began. White thought the judge, Earl R. Blackwell,
should have recused himself from the case because Kinder is black (so is
White). But Blackwell didn't, and went on to conduct a trial that
everybody on the state Supreme Court considered fair--except for White.
There you have it: White wanted to overturn a murder and rape conviction
because he didn't like something the judge said, in a press release,
several days before the trial began. Nobody else on the state Supreme
Court agreed with him. And for refusing to take his side, the Washington
Post now believes John Ashcroft practices racial politics.
The Conference Committee for the Interior Appropriations bill has closed
committee negotiations over a House-Senate disagreement regarding funding
for the National Endowment for the Arts. While Senate conferees advanced a
$5 million increase for the NEA, the House sought to maintain level
funding. The committee deadlocked and is now in recess. House and Senate
leadership must now mediate the dispute. Senators who deserve to be
entered into NR's "Hall of Shame" for trying to boost NEA funding include
Republicans Slade Gorton (Wash.), Thad Cochran (Miss.), Bob Bennett
(Utah), Pete Domenici (NM), Conrad Burns (Mon.), Judd Gregg (NH), Ben
Nighthorse Campbell (Col.), and Ted Stevens (Alaska.)