WASHINGTON -- Two vastly dissimilar television blitzes have been launched in two days by conservatives who support Senate confirmation of Judge Clarence Thomas for the Supreme Court.
Announced yesterday was a TV campaign budgeted to cost $500,000 eventually and aimed specifically at the constituencies a group of Southern Democratic senators who face re-election next year.
On Tuesday, a separate $100,000 campaign was launched, directly attacking the ethics of three Democratic senators and appearing to be aimed as much at avenging the defeat of Robert H. Bork's bid for a Supreme Court seat in 1987 as it was at aiding Judge Thomas.
President Bush condemned the second campaign yesterday as "offensive" and "counterproductive."
Meanwhile, sources in the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, the huge lobbying coalition that is leading the campaign against the confirmation of Judge Thomas, said they had no plans at this time to wage a television war with supporters of President Bush's nominee.
The dissimilarities between the two pro-Thomas television campaigns were made clear yesterday as their sponsors spoke to reporters at the National Press Club.
Gary L. Bauer, a former domestic-affairs aide to President Ronald Reagan who has created the Citizens Committee to Confirm Clarence Thomas, displayed a television ad portraying Judge Thomas as "a fighter for civil rights" -- the black vote is crucial in the constituencies of the targeted Southern Democrats -- opposed by "the liberal special interests and the soft-on-crime crowd."
Call your senator, the ad suggested -- or better yet, call an 800 number shown in the ad -- and Mr. Bauer will take what he hopes will be "substantial" lists of callers to the offices of the targeted senators.
Following him were L. Brent Bozell III and Floyd G. Brown, two of Washington's better-known conservative activists.
Mr. Bozell is publisher of Media Watch, a conservative newsletter that critiques the press, and is founder and director of the Conservative Victory Committee, a political action committee. Mr. Brown is chairman of Citizens United, a conservative lobbying organization.
Mr. Bozell and Mr. Brown defended their TV blitz, which attacked the personal ethics of Democratic Sens. Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware and Alan Cranston of California. The ad asked, "How many of these liberal Democrats could themselves pass ethical scrutiny?"
The ad has been rejected by Judge Thomas himself -- "I deplore such viciousness" -- and caused President Bush to comment, "If the hope is to contribute something positive to his confirmation, in my view, that's not the way to go about it."
Administration officials contacted the three senators yesterday "and expressed our concern over the ad," according to White House spokeswoman Judy Smith.
Nevertheless, Mr. Bozell said of the ad: "The purpose of our effort is to serve notice on the liberal-Democratic leadership that if they are trying to 'Bork' Judge Thomas, we're going after them. . . . I really don't believe United States senators are going to judge Judge Thomas based on what we do or don't do."
As the television campaigns escalated, Americans were found to be almost 2-to-1 (42 percent to 23 percent) in favor of Judge Thomas' confirmation, according to a poll conducted in early August by the Wirthlin Group, a Republican pollster, but 35 percent said they didn't know or refused to respond.
At the same time, the poll found that only 33 percent of the nation's blacks supported Judge Thomas -- a precipitous downward slide from the 57 percent in his favor in earlier polls.
Meanwhile, the National Baptist Convention USA, the nation's largest black organization, yesterday called on the Senate to reject Judge Thomas.
The denomination, with 33,000 churches and 8.7 million black members, accused President Bush of "packing the bench with ideologues who would rather blame the victims of society than give them the tools that give access to the fruits of our democracy."
OC The Baptists' decision came at their 111th annual meeting here.