Bush's "gag rule" fires up pro-choicers

His move could lead to more trouble for the Ashcroft nomination; despite White House resistance, McCain presses campaign finance reform.

Published January 23, 2001 11:59AM (EST)

President George W. Bush didn't make many friends across the aisle during his first full working day at the White House. With a stroke of the pen, Bush reinstated the Reagan-era ban on U.S. funds being used by international family planning organizations that provide abortions or information about abortions. This move has reinvigorated concerns that Bush will pacify conservatives and ignore moderates during his presidency.

In addition, the president's action could complicate the confirmation of Attorney General-designate John Ashcroft. While Ashcroft appears to be headed for confirmation, Bush's decision to reinstate what abortion rights activists call the "global gag rule" could spur pro-choice organizations to redouble their efforts to stop Ashcroft, an avid pro-lifer.

New information about Ashcroft's record has also emerged to fuel the fervor of his ideological foes. In a 1997 speech to the conservative Heritage Foundation, Ashcroft decried "judicial tyranny," citing court decisions upholding desegregation, affirmative action and abortion rights as proof that the judicial branch is out of control.

Sen. John McCain has frequently said that the campaign finance system has gotten out of control, and he's aiming to fix it immediately, with or without Bush's help. In a Monday morning press conference, the Arizona Republican, flanked by congressional allies, announced that he would press for the Senate to move right away on the McCain-Feingold-Cochran campaign finance reform bill.

The legislation would ban soft money -- unregulated donations to political parties from unions, businesses and wealthy Americans. Though Bush has been vocal in his opposition to the bill, McCain said he had no intention of harming or embarrassing the president in pushing reform forward. Still, he believes the bill should be considered soon, before reform-shy senators and representatives figure out a way to thwart it. For campaign finance reform, "delay means death," McCain said.
-- Alicia Montgomery [6 a.m. PST, Jan. 23, 2001]

The personal touch

Over the weekend, an e-mail was sent to political reporters from someone calling himself "libguy9754"; it blasted members of the media for focusing their coverage on Bush's Inauguration instead of nationwide protests over the election results, prompting at least one spirited defense from a Fox News anchorman.

"Why have you not covered the grass roots anti-inaugural protests as much as the Bush-sponsored inaugural events in Washington DC?" the e-mail asked. "Why have you chosen instead to serve as a public relations arm for the Bush presidency?"

Fox News managing editor and chief Washington correspondent Brit Hume responded privately to the spam:

Actually, those inaugural festivities at the Capitol are sponsored by the joint congressional inaugural committee. Do you seriously think a news organization should ignore the swearing-in of a new president in favor of scattered protests around the country?

Besides, we knew that covering it the way we did would infuriate you personally and that was an added plus.

Best wishes, Brit Hume

Libguy9754 then forwarded Hume's response to his entire e-mail list, complaining, "Look at what your colleague wrote me," and alleging that Hume's response was evidence of a vast right-wing conspiracy. "This is the face of journalism today ... an arrogant right leaning group who think it's ok to toe the line for the government as long as it's a government run by Republicans," fumed libguy9754. -- Anthony York [2:35 p.m. PST, Jan. 22, 2001]

Cuervo ball

If the promises of bipartisanship are falling by the wayside early in the new Bush administration, tequila maker Jose Cuervo, "the ultimate party authority," wants to "look ahead toward bridging the gap left between the Republican and Democratic parties" by throwing a Caribbean summit for young, unattached members of the Gore and Bush clans.

"Jose Cuervo is extending an invitation to George P. Bush (President George W. Bush's nephew) and Kristin Gore (former Vice President Al Gore's daughter) to spend a weekend on Cuervo Nation, a remote eight-acre island oasis owned by Jose Cuervo Tequila, located in the British Virgin Islands, to show the world they can get along and are anxious to move forward," read the press release from UDV North America, the company that produces Jose Cuervo tequila.

"By inviting members of the Bush and Gore families, we at Jose Cuervo are hoping to demonstrate that, given the right atmosphere and a beautiful beach environment, we can bring anyone together -- even members of both candidates' families," Velvet Mickens, a director of marketing for UDV, is quoted as saying.

The invitations were sent to the press offices of Gore and Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. There has been no response from either party, but "we would hope that both would take us up on the offer," said Lara Hauptman of Jericho Communications. -- Kerry Lauerman [1:15 p.m. PST, Jan. 22, 2001]

Will this wind up on Democrats.com?

"I'm very proud to be part of any film [the Coen brothers] do, although they aren't really brothers. That's a lie. And while we're confessing, I'm the illegitimate love child of John Ashcroft. I want that out there."
-- Actor George Clooney, during his acceptance speech at the Golden Globe Awards, after winning the prize for best actor in a musical or comedy for Ethan and Joel Coen's "O Brother, Where Art Thou?"

By Salon Staff

MORE FROM Salon Staff

Related Topics ------------------------------------------