Nation Topics - George W. Bush
News and Features
The right wing has long believed that the best defense is a good
offense. Not surprisingly then, they accuse those who dare criticize
George W. Bush's attorney general nominee, John Ashcroft, of engaging in
the "politics of personal destruction," as the President-elect's
attorney, Theodore B. Olson, put it in a L.A. Times column.
That is nonsense. The criticisms of Ashcroft have nothing to do with
his personal behavior and everything to do with his long and consistent
advocacy for an extreme right-wing political agenda. It's perfectly
reasonable to question whether an attorney general who has celebrated the
angry mobs demonstrating at abortion clinics will also defend the legal
right of those clinics to function.
Ashcroft is an avowed enemy of moderation, as he spelled out to a GOP
gathering in 1998: "There are voices in the Republican Party today who
preach pragmatism, who champion conciliation, who counsel compromise. I
stand here today to reject those deceptions. If ever there is a time to
unfurl the banner of unabashed conservatism, it is now."
To place such an ideologue in charge of the Justice Department was
Bush's payoff to the right wing, but it is at best a cynical choice that
certainly deserves to be strongly challenged in the Senate. Such
challenges were a specialty of Ashcroft, who turned the Senate into an
ideological black hole for Clinton nominees. Yet his defenders now claim
that Ashcroft should be immune to criticism because, as Olson claims,
"Presidents are customarily given great latitude" in such nominations.
How hypocritical to make that argument on behalf of a man who
specialized in savaging Clinton's choices. Ashcroft held up the
nomination of two of Clinton's picks to head the Justice Department's
Civil Rights Division. Bill Lann Lee, who has impeccable credentials, now
serves in that capacity on a temporary basis only because he was
appointed when the Senate was not in session. "I doubt seriously whether
the nomination will get out of committee," Ashcroft boasted, claiming
that Lee could not enforce the laws fairly because he had worked as a
lawyer for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, which is the fabled organization
that successfully sued to end segregation in the United States.
Ashcroft has been the Senate's leader in blocking many of Clinton's
judicial nominees, including Margaret Morrow, a centrist and highly
regarded leader of the bar, because he did not agree with a sentence she
wrote in a Law Review article. Morrow was finally approved, over
Ashcroft's objections, when many of his Republican colleagues came to
recognize that there simply was no basis for rejecting someone as
qualified as Morrow.
In another among many such cases, Ashcroft held up the appointment of
Missouri's Supreme Court Justice Ronnie L. White, an African-American, to
the federal bench. White was twice approved by the Senate Judiciary
Committee, but Ashcroft managed a two-year delay in the vote coming
before the full Senate, where Ashcroft managed to get White defeated on a
Ashcroft was less successful in blocking the appointment of David
Satcher to become US surgeon general because they differed on
partial-birth abortion. The Senate handily approved Satcher, but it was
over Ashcroft's strenuous objections. How ironic that Ashcroft's
supporters now ask that he be treated with kid gloves during his own
Such obstructionist tactics in the Senate came to an abrupt and
embarrassing end with Ashcroft's defeat in November by a deceased
opponent, providing as clear a case of voter rejection as one can
imagine. Obviously, voters were not swayed by the huge publicity Ashcroft
received for his vitriolic campaign demanding the impeachment of
President Clinton. Given that the charges against the President have not
been fully resolved, are we to expect that Ashcroft will dispose of them
in an objective manner?
Ashcroft's hysterical attacks on Clinton and his fervent embrace of
the right-wing social agenda led him to explore a bid for the presidency
as the ultra-right alternative to Bush. He seemed to be attacking Bush
when he told a New Hampshire television interviewer that there are "two
things you find in the middle of the road: a moderate and a dead skunk,
and I don't want to be either one of them."
Surely most Americans would insist that the man who oversees the FBI
and all federal prosecution be a genuine moderate capable of evenhanded
enforcement of the nation's laws. The voters gave the Democrats equal
strength in the Senate and defeated Bush by more than half a million
votes in the popular election. That is a mandate for Bush to appoint
moderates and for Democratic and reasonable Republican senators to hold
him to his pledge, with a thumbs down to Ashcroft.
Obliviously on he sails,
With marks not quite as good as Quayle's.
The Nation Institute's Investigative Fund provided research support.
A public school whose students don't test well
Would lose some funds unless its score improves.
If cutting funds won't help the kids advance,
Texas Governor George W.
In rather the same way as new movies are now "reviewed" in terms of their first weekend gross, new candidates have become subject to evaluation by the dimensions of their "war chest." This silly,
Could settlement and peace both come before
Young Bush finds a position on the war?
Texas Observer editor Louis Dubose estimates that his property tax will decrease by $130 in the year 2000.