A coalition of women’s groups on Tuesday pledged a noisy campaign against the confirmation of conservatives John Ashcroft and Tommy Thompson to President-elect George W. Bush’s cabinet.
At a news conference that was briefly interrupted by a lone Ashcroft supporter, representatives from nine women’s groups said they would work day and night to oppose Ashcroft’s nomination as attorney general and Wisconsin Gov. Thompson from becoming Bush’s health and human services secretary.
Ashcroft is appearing before a Senate committee hearing later on Tuesday to answer questions about his nomination while Thompson is scheduled to attend hearings later in the week.
National Organization for Women (NOW) President Patricia Ireland said Ashcroft and Thompson stood for some of the most regressive policies on the ultra-right conservatives’ agenda.
“NOW joins feminist and women’s organizations with millions of constituents all across the country in calling on U.S. Senators to reject the nominations of Ashcroft and Thompson,” said Ireland, who promised daily pickets outside the building where the hearings will take place.
The Feminist Majority Foundation’s Eleanor Smeal said both men had been targeted because of their extreme views on issues from abortion to gun control. “One is not better than the other,” Smeal said. “When it comes to women’s rights, these are people who could do a great deal of harm,” she added.
Conservative groups have mounted their own campaign in support of Ashcroft and Thompson, saying they are subject to political lynchings.
Andrea Lafferty, executive director of the Traditional Values Coalition, told reporters of Ashcroft: “Liberal senators and left-wing activist groups are conducting a campaign of lies and misinformation … They can’t win by telling the truth so they tell lies to defeat a man who has threatened their political power.”
Both Thompson and Ashcroft are strongly anti-abortion and predictably draw the ire of pro-choice activists.
Vicki Saporta of the National Abortion Federation said she feared Ashcroft would not uphold the law when it came to abortion issues.
“The dedicated men and women who work in reproductive health deserve nothing less than an attorney general who will enforce the laws of the land,” said Saporta.
The president of NOW’s Legal Defense and Education Fund, Kathy Rodgers, said aside from his stand on abortion, Thompson’s welfare policy was a cause for grave concern.
“We fear that the policies implemented in Wisconsin have failed to lift women out of poverty and, indeed, have condemned many to greater desperation,” said Rodgers.
Black women’s groups also weighed in against the nominees. Yvonne Scruggs-Leftwich of the Black Leadership Forum called Ashcroft the best example of what African-Americans meant when they referred to someone as a “good ole boy.”
“He’s a white male who has acted in bigoted or racist ways, when he assumed he could act out his private values in public without penalty,” said Scruggs Leftwich.
Civil rights groups oppose Ashcroft in part because of his successful opposition to the nomination of Ronnie White, the first black justice on the Missouri Supreme Court, to a federal district court seat.
Scruggs-Leftwich said Ashcroft had “trashed” White’s reputation and depicted him in racist terms in the interest of vindicating his own determination against a woman’s right to choose whether to have an abortion.