John Ashcroft (1942-) is a long-time Republican
politician from Missouri
. President-Elect George Bush
(it's about time to drop the "W.
") recently nominated him for the Cabinet
post of Attorney General
, and liberal backlash
began almost immediately. The Senate has yet to confirm
his nomination, so if you care at all about politics
, you owe it to yourself to learn
a little about this guy -- his name's already all over the news
, and it's only just begun, folks.
Ashcroft graduated with honors from Yale in 1964, and went on to study at the University of Chicago Law School, where he and his wife Janet received their law degrees in 1967. After teaching business law at Southwest Missouri State University in Springfield for several years, Ashcroft entered public service, first as Missouri Auditor and then as Missouri Attorney General. In 1984 he became Missouri's 50th governor, and was re-elected in a landslide in 1988. He also served as both president of the National Association of Attorneys General and chairman of the National Governor's Association during his terms in those respective seats.
Ashcroft was elected to the United States Senate in 1994, carrying every Missouri county in the process. He quickly emerged as one of the most conservative members of that legislative body. Most recently, he battled Mel Carnahan in a 2000 attempt to keep his Senate seat. He was leading the vicious race when Carnahan suddenly perished in a Jefferson County plane crash. After the tragedy, Ashcroft temporarily halted his campaigning out of respect for Carnahan's family and friends. He later renewed his campaign in a very subdued manner. The Democratic Party decided to stay with Carnahan as their candidate, with the implication that the Democratic governor would appoint Carnahan's wife to the seat. Bolstered by public sympathy for Carnahan as well as national attention, the Democrats were able to tighten the election and emerge victorious in a close race. The election was questionable on several grounds (legality of electing a dead man, polls in St. Louis staying open late, etc.), but clearly Ashcroft could not contest the result because of the circumstances.
As stated earlier, Ashcroft is now the most controversal nominee in George Bush's potential Cabinet. Ashcroft is anti-abortion, pro-death penalty and extremely religious. (His Pentecostal faith even forbids dancing, though he's a tolerable singer). The first and third of those ideological facts are the true source of the opposition to Ashcroft's nomination. But unfortunately, what is getting the most face time on the airwaves is Ashcroft's alleged racial bias. Yet this is an argument against that which does not exist.
The backbone of the argument is that Ashcroft's opposition to the elevation of judge Ronnie White to federal court was racially motivated. If Ashcroft truly fears black judges, one would have to wonder why, as governor of Missouri, he appointed eight African-Americans to state judicial positions. This is even more interesting because non-partisan judicial nominating commissions, not the governors, are in charge of nominating Missouri judges. Each time he appointed, Ashcroft had three judges, from which he had to choose one. Whenever a black candidate was among the three, Ashcroft chose the African-American over the whites every time but once.
One would have to wonder why Ashcroft appointed the first African-American to be named to a Missouri Court of Appeals. One would have to wonder why Ashcroft appointed the first African-American named to the St. Louis County Circuit Court. One would have to wonder why, as a member of the U.S. Senate, Ashcroft voted in favor of 26 of the 28 African-American judges nominated by President Clinton. One would have to wonder why African-American judge Jimmie Edwards was appointed to three different posts by Ashcroft, despite being a liberal Democrat politically opposed to Ashcroft. Edwards maintains that Ashcroft "did not have a litmus test. He did not ask me if I was pro-life or pro-death penalty."
I could go on and on, but I think even a cursory glance at Ashcroft's judge-appointing record disproves the alleged racial bias. That would save me much space; please look it up for yourself if you think I misrepresent fact.
The other arguments against Ashcroft are on purely ideological ground. They say nothing about his competence, qualifications, or integrity. Yes, Ashcroft is very pro-life. But is there a requirement for Attorneys General to be pro-choice? Here we have abortion-rights advocates applying the same litmus test they bemoan! What harm would a pro-life Attorney General cause to the country? Would he look the other way on clinic bombings? Would he wave a magic wand and make abortion illegal? There is a entire legislative process for that! What is the threat? If being opposed to women's reproductive rights (and for a fetus' right to live) is "extremist", then I guess I too hold beliefs too out-of-touch to be Attorney General.
Ashcroft is against racially-based affirmative action. This does not mean he is a racist. This means he is a conservative. Despite the Democratic attempts to equate the two terms, this is an important distinction.
The final few of the arguments listed in the writeup above this one are nothing more than misrepresenations that simple investigations would clear up; summing up bills in single sentences is usually an indication of intent to deceive the reader. Ashcroft is indeed supported by the National Rifle Association and the Christian Coalition, as are many conservatives. These oranizations are only included to link Ashcroft with organizations which Democrats have already successfully demonized, in an attempt to demonize him.
I was skeptical of Ashcroft myself, but the more I read of the man, the more I liked him. I do not agree with all or even many of his views, and I certainly do not share his Christian beliefs, but I recognize that he is a fair man, and one of impeccable integrity. He has many conservative views, yes, but so does the president that was elected. To not confirm this very capable nominee would be a loss for the United States of America. I humbly yet half-kiddingly suggest that the fear of Ashcroft within the Democratic establishment is solidly based in the fear of what he might find in the files of the department he takes over.