WASHINGTON — Fourteen Republican senators, including Sen. Strom Thurmond, the ranking GOP member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, questioned the party loyalty of New York attorney Robert B. Fiske Jr. and urged President Bush today not to nominate him as deputy attorney general.
"It does not appear that Mr. Fiske shares the basic approach to matters of legal and judicial policy which you so effectively articulated in your winning campaign for President," the senators said in a letter to Bush.
"We therefore respectfully urge you to reconsider this matter and select a nominee with a demonstrated commitment to your principles, and those of the Republican platform, in these important areas," the senators said.
Whether Bush heeds the advice or not, it is clear that Fiske would face tough questioning from some Republican senators during Senate confirmation hearings before the Judiciary Committee.
On Friday, well after the Republicans began circulating the letter to collect signatures, Bush appeared to endorse Fiske, who has been recommended by Atty. Gen. Dick Thornburgh.
At a gathering of federal prosecutors at the White House, Bush noted that his Administration included several former U.S. attorneys in key positions.
"We hope to see yet another--Bob Fiske of New York--joining our ranks here soon," Bush said without elaboration.
The 14 mostly conservative senators said they have "serious concerns" about Fiske based on his tenure as chairman of the American Bar Assn.'s Standing Committee on Federal Judiciary, according to the June 14 letter that was released today.
The senators contend that during Fiske's chairmanship, the panel "improperly applied ideological criteria to thwart the nominations of various well-qualified candidates" that then-President Ronald Reagan had nominated to the federal bench.
The senators said Fiske, a pillar of the New York legal establishment who once was U.S. attorney in Manhattan, gave liberal organizations the names of people under consideration for judgeships.
"Such leaks permitted groups opposed to the President's judicial philosophy to attack the candidates and prevent their nomination," the letter said.
Fiske and the ABA have acknowledged that two liberal organizations were given the names of prospective nominees for the purpose of determining if the candidates had ever shown bias against women or minorities.