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Bush aide calls attack on Norton 'plain wrong'

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Attacks from environmental groups on Gale Norton, citing a 1996 speech Norton gave on states' rights and the Civil War, were deemed "plain wrong" by Bush spokesmen Thursday.

"This is another test whether people are interested in bipartisanship or partisanship, and we expect people to choose the former," a senior Bush aide told CNN.

In the speech, made public by two environmental groups, Norton used the Confederacy and the Civil War as an example of people willing to die for the 10th Amendment, which calls for strong states' rights. Norton, then Colorado's attorney general, was speaking to the Independence Institute, a conservative think-tank in Denver.

In the situation with the Confederacy, she said, "We certainly had bad facts in that case where we were defending state sovereignty by defending slavery."

While some scholars and conservative legal activists agree the Civil War was more about the battle for states rights than the battle for keeping the system of slavery, the point is one of debate.

Norton was not endorsing slavery, but environmental groups say the statement shows a lack of sensitivity to people of color because she chose to make the case by invoking the Confederacy.

"This is another test whether reasoned dialogue in Washington stands a chance," a senior Bush aide responded. "Special interest groups (must decide if they) will instead go nuclear or will they engage in reasoned dialogue."

Another Bush spokeswoman called the criticism a "stretch," saying, "This is a typical political maneuver by liberal special interest groups who don't agree with her views on the environment."

In addition, she said, "They are trying to tear down somebody because they disagree with her on the issues."


Thursday, January 11, 2001


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