Diversity, division, de-lovely Washington

Posted: Jan 20, 2001 12:00 AM
There's a new kid in town. By the White House, the guy who makes a living selling photos of tourists standing next to life size photos of Bill and Hillary has two new pics: Dubya and Mrs. Dubya. (Figure he can hang onto Hillary's image, since she is now a senator.) Across town, GOP pollster Lance Tarrance told the Republican National Committee's Winter Conference on Wednesday, "We're going to have a lot more close elections." He cited statistics from elections following the 1876 Hayes/Tilden race, when Demo Samuel Tilden won the popular vote, but Repub Rutherford B. Hayes won the Electoral College. The next four straight presidential elections, he noted, were "excrutiatingly close." Tarrance expects the same for the next few elections as well. "Demography is destiny," he explained, and the country is split close to the center. Considering that the Republicans have to win the big middle, many observers wonder why President-elect George W. Bush chose staunch pro-lifer John Ashcroft to be his attorney general. Pollster Ed Goeas may have the answer to that. He told the RNC confab that some 6 million fewer white Christian conservatives voted in this election than are registered. Perhaps an Attorney General Ashcroft would give those not-quite voters a reason to brave the cold and vote in November 2004. On the other side, Ann Stone, head of Republicans for Choice, feels sunny about the incoming administration. On Thursday afternoon, she was distributing her group's applause for Bush's decision to designate the pro-choice Gale Norton as his interior secretary. Stone believes that the majority of the Bush Cabinet designees support abortion rights, although she was not sure of all of their positions. Many of the Bush/Cheney transition team members didn't know either, or were not inclined to share that information. (Some 16 spokespersons have worked as handlers for one or more of the 15 designees. The handler for the would-be agriculture and housing secretaries left a message telling me that because abortion has nothing to do with their duties, he -- now working on the taxpayer dime -- would not disclose their positions.) From what I could glean, at least four nominees -- Norton, would-be Secretary of State Colin Powell, likely transportation czar Norm Mineta and likely Environmental Protection Agency head Christie Whitman -- are pro-choice. Three -- Ashcroft; Tommy Thompson, who would head health and human services, and Don Evans, commerce secretary designee -- call themselves pro-life. The Bushies may not be thrilled about this, but the next time you hear someone say that this Cabinet lacks ideological diversity, ask how many Clinton Cabinet members that person can name who disagreed with Clinton on abortion. Henry A. Hough of the 60 Plus Association -- which he described as anti-AARP -- has been enjoying minor celebrity over the Ashcroft dispute. On Tuesday, he crashed a press conference put on by feminist organizations opposed to Ashcroft where he flashed a sign that read, "Don't Bork Ashcroft." Hough got his face on C-SPAN and won mention in the Capitol newspaper, The Hill. When one feminist confronted him, he enjoys telling fellow conservatives, he told her, "Why you look rather pretty."