WaPo in 2009: GOPers 'Obstruct' Obama AG Pick; WaPo in 2001: Ashcroft 'Contentious' Pick

Reportedly few Republicans see reason to ultimately vote against confirming Obama's attorney general designee and the GOP Senate minority has only put a one-week delay on his confirmation hearings, but the Washington Post was insistent in its January 22 headline that that Republican senators were set on "Obstruct[ing] Eric Holder's "Path to [the] Justice Dept."

This is markedly different from the Post's take in 2001 when Democratic senators objected to whom the Post called the "highly contentious" John Ashcroft. The January 16, 2001 edition of the Post described the Ashcroft hearings as the "first test of Bush's strength on [Capitol] Hill." (excerpt via Nexis, emphasis mine):

Supporters and opponents of John D. Ashcroft mobilized constituencies and honed strategies yesterday in last-minute preparations for the opening today of confirmation hearings over his highly contentious nomination as attorney general.

Senate Democrats planned to attack Ashcroft by focusing on his stances on abortion and race, and raising questions about whether the former Missouri senator would enforce laws he has opposed on gun control, school desegregation and other emotionally charged issues.

Democrats also plan to drill Ashcroft about statements he has made about the Civil War in support of the Confederacy, and his declaration during a commencement address at Bob Jones University in 1999 that "We have no king but Jesus." He also will be asked how much latitude he will have to pursue his own agenda without White House interference and whether he improperly used government employees in his 1984 campaign for Missouri governor.

In a show of support for the nominee, transition officials for President-elect Bush launched a public relations offensive yesterday, inviting television cameras to a confirmation practice session, releasing letters backing him and e-mailing pro-Ashcroft talking points to Republican activists.

Bush allies argued to senators and their staffs that nominees traditionally have been judged on their fitness to serve, not on ideology.

Of course, the objections to Holder have centered largely on fitness to serve, not ideology, and the Post knows it. From today's article by Post staffers Shailagh Murray and Carrie Johnson (emphasis mine):

Republicans put new obstacles in the path of Eric H. Holder Jr.'s quest to become attorney general, raising concerns that he would prosecute intelligence agents who engaged in potentially illegal interrogation techniques and postponing consideration of his nomination. 

[...]

...The Senate Judiciary Committee decided yesterday morning to delay a vote to send Holder's nomination to the full Senate while lawmakers attended the morning National Prayer Service with Obama. The hearing was rescheduled for yesterday, but Republicans then requested a one-week delay on the nomination that Democrats were required to grant under committee rules. 

Holder has generated more controversy than any other Obama nominee and was sharply questioned in an appearance before the committee last week. Many senators, including some Democrats, said they were troubled by his role in the pardon of fugitive financier Marc Rich in the final days of the Clinton administration.

Led by the ranking Republican on the committee, Sen. Arlen Specter (Pa.), GOP lawmakers also said they had more questions for Holder about whether he would favor prosecuting Bush administration officials for their involvement in warrantless wiretapping and harsh detainee interrogation practices. Cornyn said he would press for Holder to take a stand on the Military Commissions Act, which the Texas Republican described as providing interrogators with immunity from prosecution if they believed they were acting legally.

The primary concern of the Republican minority in Holder's case is how he would run the Justice Department. Will he allow unnecessary, potentially politically motivated prosecutions of public servants for their actions on behalf of the United States in the Global War on Terrorism? But for some reason, to the Post, the big picture is not so much that Obama's naming Holder for AG that is "contentious," or that it's Obama's "first test" on Capitol Hill, but that it's rascally Republicans who are throwing up "obstacles" on what should be Obama's political honeymoon.

Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd is the Managing Editor for NewsBusters