A time to be heard

Sacramento area counter-inauguration activists will be heading en masse to San Francisco for Jan. 20 events. Call events coordinators at the International Action Committee at (415) 821-6545 for more information.George W. Bush lost the popular election by more than 500,000 votes, and there is good reason to believe he also should have lost the state of Florida and the Electoral College. Given the dubious nature of his election, it’s not surprising that many would want to protest his inauguration. Now, Bush has provided even more incentive to protest, offering Cabinet nominations that seem calculated to test the tolerance of all but the most right-wing observers.

At first glance, Bush’s Cabinet nominations might seem the product of the kind of bipartisan, gender-balanced, centrist approach that Bush promised as a candidate. In addition to the standard six white males, the nominees also include four women, and the ethnic categories include two African-Americans, two Latinos, one Asian-American (who is a Democrat), and one Arab-American. But looking beyond these skin-deep concessions, it’s clear that Bush has proposed two of the most extreme candidates in memory for the powerful positions of attorney general and secretary of the interior.

Attorney general nominee Richard Ashcroft is fanatically pro-gun and anti-abortion, and there is significant doubt as to how he would enforce laws regarding gun ownership and protecting abortion clinics. And civil rights? Ashcroft is on record praising the Confederacy in a right-wing journal that defends slavery and white nationalism, and was a key figure in the fight against the appointment of Missouri’s first African-American supreme court justice. Small wonder that 90 percent of African-Americans in Missouri voted for the late Mel Carnahan on Nov. 7, opting to elect a dead man rather than Ashcroft.

Interior secretary candidate Gale Norton is equally troubling. Norton worked for James Watt, Ronald Reagan’s interior secretary, lobbying to open Alaskan wilderness to oil drilling. As Colorado attorney general, she was known for weak enforcement of environmental laws and orchestrated the state’s legal battle to defend an unconstitutional law prohibiting civil rights protections for gays. There is every reason to believe she would bring the same anti-regulation, pro-development stance toward federal lands that proved disastrous under Watt.

Clearly, in nominating these two extremists, Bush has thrown down the gauntlet. That’s why it’s so important for everyone who cares about reproductive freedom, civil rights and the environment to make their voices heard now. We urge readers to check www.thenation.com/special/counterinauguration.mhtml for information on how to join in the Inauguration Day protests that will be taking place in Sacramento and across the country on Jan. 20. Let’s show Bush that these nominations simply cannot stand.