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'I will keep my oath'

"'I will keep my oath'" Continued...

Issue: "China: Caesar’s seminary," Jan. 27, 2001

Carl Herbster, president of the American Association of Christian Schools, disagreed with that view of TeamBush: He said he was "amazed and thrilled at how interested they are in what we think." An early Bush supporter, Mr. Herbster now consults frequently with the transition team and said he is happy with the efforts made on Mr. Ashcroft's behalf. "The Republican National Committee, the Bush transition team-a lot of stuff is going on in support of this nomination. There was the Bush interview on NBC, where he went to the mat for Ashcroft. What else can you ask for? You can't win this in the media; it's all going on behind the scenes."

Mike Schwartz, vice president for government relations at Concerned Women for America, argued that Bush officials may need to learn "how things work in Washington. They're bright people and they'll be quick learners, but they were real slow in getting this nomination going."

TeamBush, hoping to decrease hard-edged criticism of opponents and be given some slack by them-no sign of that yet-worries about demonstrations on behalf of nominees. For example: As Mr. Ashcroft worked his way down the line of well-wishers along Delaware Avenue on Tuesday, a pastor suddenly blocked his way and began to pray loudly. As TV cameras swooped in, the pastor was quickly joined by dozens of other supporters, raising their hands and their voices against "the forces of evil" that opposed the nominee.

Clearly, calling the opposition "evil" was not the image TeamBush wanted splashed across the front page of the nation's newspapers. Though an aide tugged at his elbow, Mr. Ashcroft remained politely in place, his head bowed awkwardly, until the pastor said his "Amen." When the unscripted moment was finally over, Mr. Ashcroft murmured a thank-you and turned quickly to disappear into the Senate office building.

Inside, during the hearings, when asked by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) whether he would "enforce the laws of this land irrespective of your personal beliefs," Mr. Ashcroft replied: "I will. My primary personal belief is that the law is supreme, that I don't place myself above the law, that I shouldn't place myself above the law.... So it would violate my beliefs to do it."

One liberal senator after another voiced skepticism that Mr. Ashcroft could enforce laws with which he disagreed. The nominee insisted that the very beliefs questioned by the Democrats would hold him to the highest standards of conduct as the nation's chief law-enforcement official.

The hearings were front-loaded with hostile witnesses, culminating in the Thursday testimony of Ronnie White, a black Missouri judge whose nomination to the federal bench was blocked by Mr. Ashcroft. Critics charged that Mr. Ashcroft's opposition to the White nomination was motivated by racism, though Mr. Ashcroft himself pointed out that he had voted to confirm 24 out of President Clinton's 26 black judicial nominees.

Repeatedly, over three days of hearings, Mr. Ashcroft expressed that, "As a man of faith, I take my word and my integrity seriously. So when I swear to uphold the law, I will keep my oath, so help me God."

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