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Gary Bauer and Frank Greer: Bush's Cabinet troubles

January 9, 2001
8 p.m. EST

Former presidential candidate and Reagan domestic policy advisor Gary Bauer is founder and chairman of the Campaign for Working Families and the Family Research Council.

Frank Greer is a partner in the public relations and consulting firm Greer, Margolis, Mitchell, Burns and Associates, Inc. During a career that has spaned more than 30 years, Greer has served as consultant to national and international political candidates, including President Bill Clinton, South Africa President Nelson Mandela, and Vaclav Havel in his first campaign for the Czechoslovakian presidency.

CNN Moderator: Welcome to, Gary Bauer.

Gary Bauer: Hi, and it's great to be with you again

CNN Moderator: Did Linda Chavez quit too early?

Gary Bauer: I think she left too early, but I have no idea how much pressure she may have been under from Austin, Texas, to not prolong the battle.

Question from Tita: Mr. Bauer, why haven't the conservatives come out and demonstrated as they did in Florida? It was great to see, for once, the Democrats on the defensive. Conservatives must get out there with a louder voice and good sound bites.

Chavez news conference (January 9)

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Chavez speaks with CNN's Wolf Blitzer (January 9)

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CNN's Eileen O'Connor reports Linda Chavez's withdrawal (January 9)

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CNN's interview with Marta Mercado (January 9)

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Bush, surrounded by moving company workers, talks about going to the White House and defends Chavez (January 8)

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Gary Bauer: I think conservatives are not as comfortable with demonstrations as the liberal part of the political spectrum is. But I do understand that there will be some conservative demonstrations during the inaugural weekend to counter expected demonstrations by Jesse Jackson and others.

CNN Moderator: Do you anticipate problems with other Bush cabinet nominees, specifically the Ashcroft nomination?

Gary Bauer: The 35 liberal groups that held a press conference today against Ashcroft are a formidable coalition. Nonetheless, I believe he will be confirmed by a margin of 70-30 with only the most liberal senators and those planning to try for the Democratic presidential nomination someday being the only ones who vote against him.

CNN Moderator: Critics of Ms. Chavez say that she is merely being held to the standard she set when she criticized Zoe Baird. Why do most Republicans disagree with that?

Gary Bauer: Zoe Baird had hired an illegal immigrant and was paying her "off the books." There is no evidence that Linda Chavez had hired anyone, but rather she had provided shelter to a woman in an abusive domestic situation and on occasion gave her cash gifts to cover her expenses.

Question from Baby: Mr. Bauer, is Mr. Ashcroft the type who would step down like Mrs. Chavez in order to avoid controversy?

Gary Bauer: I don't think he is. The charges being made against him go to the heart of his character. It is not true that he is against civil rights or protecting the environment. I believe that he will want to defend himself all the way until a vote is taken.

CNN Moderator: What does the speed with which the Chavez nomination was withdrawn say about how willing the Bush administration may be to stand tough on some of the more difficult issues that will certainly face this administration?

Gary Bauer: I find the implication troubling. Politics and governing are not for the faint of heart. Washington is a city where people play hardball. The new president has got to be willing to stand his ground even when the headlines aren't pleasant.

Question from Libby: Do you think if Ashcroft is not confirmed, a domino effect will ensue regarding Christians in the political arena?

Gary Bauer: I wouldn't want to go that far. But I would be concerned that if conservative nominees are smeared and destroyed, that the Bush administration will move further to the left and alienate its own political base. I intend to work as hard as I can to make sure that doesn't happen.

CNN Moderator: Many people in both parties say that both political parties have engaged in what is now being called "the politics of personal destruction." How do we stop the cycle?

Gary Bauer: Well, that is a very important question. I experienced a little of that when I ran for president. It's one thing to debate issues; it's another thing to try to smear people or attack their character. I believe President-elect Bush missed a real opportunity today to stop this pattern if he would have come out with Linda Chavez and said, "Enough is enough. I stand by my nominee." And I believe the American people are tired of the old politics. We may have been able to begin the process of returning confidence and respect to Washington again.

CNN Moderator: One of our audience members, MDP, points out that the majority of people in the presidential election voted for Gore or Nader, indicating that the country is leaning slightly left. Do you agree?

Gary Bauer: No. Most Americans are not nearly as ideological as any of us think. I think the country is narrowly divided on some basic issues, but millions of Americans are not consistently liberal or conservative. That's why a president has to show leadership, even if polls may indicate that at a particular time the majority of people are not with him.

CNN Moderator: Do you have any final thoughts for us?

Gary Bauer: I appreciate people taking time out of busy lives to ask some great questions and I hope my answers were responsive.

CNN Moderator: Thank you for joining us today, Gary Bauer.

Gary Bauer: Thanks, everybody!

CNN Moderator: Welcome to, Frank Greer.

Frank Greer: Hello, and it's good to be with you tonight.

CNN Moderator: Do you think Linda Chavez would have been confirmed by the Senate had she not withdrawn today?

Frank Greer: I think that there were other problems with her nomination. Her opposition to several labor laws like the minimum wage and family and medical leave would have presented problems with her nomination even if she had survived this controversy.

Question from Baby: Mr. Greer, how hard will it be for Mr. Ashcroft to be confirmed?

Frank Greer: I think it will be very difficult because his positions are very extreme on issues like civil rights, a woman's right to choose and even environmental enforcement.

Question from Demilo: Mr. Greer, do you think Bush gave Chavez the ax?

Frank Greer: I cannot believe how quickly they threw her overboard, and it should cause them to question his loyalty and his political courage.

CNN Moderator: Why do you think President-elect Bush was not willing to expend a little more political capital to try to save the Chavez nomination?

Frank Greer: I think you have to ask President-elect Bush and his team. I was astounded they were not willing to expend capital.

Question from Libertarianguy: Mr. Greer, isn't it true that the illegal immigrant issue was just a means to an end, and the goal was to defeat Ms. Chavez' nomination by any means?

Frank Greer: The fact was that she had an illegal immigrant in her home. There were questions of whether or not she asked that person to work, which would be illegal, and serious questions about her failure to tell the truth during the vetting process, and she may have interfered with a potential FBI witness' testimony. Those were the things that caused her problems -- not a political attack.

Question from Quinten: What are Mr. Ashcroft's potential conflicts/issues?

Frank Greer: As attorney general he is expected to enforce the law of the land, and yet he has totally opposed Roe v. Wade, which is the right to choose for American women, and he has totally opposed most civil rights and environmental laws. That's the reason he is in some trouble.

CNN Moderator: What other nominees do you think face potential problems in the confirmation process?

Frank Greer: I think there are serious problems with Gail Norton, the nominee for the Department of Interior. She has a terrible record on environmental issues and is responsible for some of the worst environmental disasters in Colorado.

CNN Moderator: Returning to the Ashcroft nomination. In spite of some of the reservations some senators may have, do you think senatorial courtesy is going to win out?

Frank Greer: It may, because the club atmosphere in the Senate is very strong. But this weekend at least five senators said they had serious doubts whether he should be confirmed, so the concerns may overwhelm senatorial privilege.

Question from Chopper: Mr. Greer, you seem to believe that Senate confirmation criteria include agreeing with liberal Democrat ideology. Where did you ever get that idea?

Frank Greer: No, I believe that people who are nominated to run executive departments of the government have a responsibility to enforce the laws of the land that have been passed by Congress, and if you appoint people who are opposed to those laws, you can't expect them to be enforced effectively.

CNN Moderator: Do you have any final thoughts for us?

Frank Greer: President-elect Bush said he would unite the country, but these three nominations have been very divisive for the country, and he should begin to reconsider whom he is nominating for these jobs.

CNN Moderator: Thank you for joining us today, Frank Greer.

Frank Greer: Bye-bye.

Gary Bauer and Frank Greer joined the Crossfire chat room via telephone from Washington, D.C. provided a typist. The above is an edited transcript of the interview, which took place on Tuesday, January 9, 2001.

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