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Senate Democrats must save George W. Bush from his scarier self.
They must reject the appointment of John Ashcroft as attorney general, an
appointment that gives the extreme right its most cherished prize--the
power to undermine decades of progress in civil rights, free speech and
abortion rights. This is not a position for a right-wing ideologue, which
Ashcroft certainly is.

Outwardly, Bush plays the moderate. That's why he came so close to
legitimately winning the presidency. During the campaign, he kept his
distance from the GOP right wing while battling Al Gore for the support
of centrist voters. Now, obviously not at all chastened by being the
first president in more than a century to have lost the popular vote,
Bush has boldly appointed Pat Robertson's favorite senator to the most
important domestic position in his administration.

Ashcroft believes that moderate is a dirty word. "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," he thundered during his brief primary campaign
as the far right's alternative to George W.

All one needs to know about Ashcroft is that he achieved a 100 percent voting
record from Robertson's Christian Coalition on every major vote he cast
in the US Senate, from abortion and the environment to the arts and the
economy. But it's a voting record that cost Ashcroft his Senate seat in
Missouri.

Clearly, the political center is where Ashcroft's former constituents
and most Americans want their government to be. The voting public's
inability to decide between two moderate candidates for President was
just one indication of its rejection of extreme politics. People expect
the Justice Department to enforce laws regarding a woman's sovereignty
over her own body, civil rights, gun control and drug treatment, among
others.

Yet here we have Ashcroft, a man who sponsored a constitutional
amendment to ban abortion even in the case of rape and incest. How can we
expect him to protect a woman's right to a medical procedure that he
regards as murder?

As for civil rights, Ashcroft was notorious in the Senate for
systematically blackballing President Clinton's judicial and
administrative appointees solely because they possessed a strong
pro-civil rights record. Indeed, Ashcroft, in an interview with the
neosegregationist Southern Partisan magazine, even flirted with the
notion that the wrong side may have won the Civil War. Can he now be
trusted to follow through on the Justice Department's ongoing
investigation into the abysmal treatment of black voters in Florida?
Hardly.

Just go down the list of issues, and Ashcroft is farthest to the right
on most of them.

He's a stern opponent of laws that would prevent discrimination
against homosexuals and was particularly mean-spirited in his attacks
during the confirmation of James Hormel, who happens to be gay, as
ambassador to Luxembourg. He's a darling of the National Rifle Association. And,
at a time of growing recognition, even by the retiring drug czar, that
the drug war has failed, we face the prospect of an attorney general who,
as a senator, voted against a law to provide funding for treatment. This
measure was so noncontroversial that even Republican hard-liners like
Orrin Hatch and Strom Thurmond were sponsors.

Democratic Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware, who at first said he
was inclined to grant Bush his choice as attorney general, says upon
further reflection that Ashcroft must prove to his former colleagues in
the Senate that he "will vigorously pursue the civil rights laws that he
has--with good reason from his perspective--argued against for the last
twenty years."

Too late for such proof. Biden and his colleagues should make it clear
that there can be no bipartisan cooperation if the Bush Administration
insists on insulting the majority of American voters by putting extreme
ideologues in charge of Justice. They have an obligation to keep the
faith with voters who gave Gore a more than 500,000-vote margin of
victory in the popular vote and the Democrats a tie in the Senate.

Those voters, as well as many who voted for Bush thinking he was not
beholden to the right wing of his party, should not be betrayed in
deference to the clubbiness of the Senate. Ashcroft took the gloves off
when he blocked Clinton's appointees. It is time Senate Democrats showed
the voters they can dish it out as well as take it.

Ashcroft's supporters assure us that he will have no trouble enforcing
laws that he disagrees with. But since he profoundly disagrees with so
many, why put the man through such a test?

Senate Democrats should spare Ashcroft the anxiety that derives from
pretending to enforce laws he finds deeply immoral.

The giddy adoration of Alan Greenspan has come to resemble the stock market bubble itself and, when one phenomenon comes to its end, so will the other.

Conservatives cannot explain
Just why reporters boost McCain.
It seems an odd way to express
The liberal bias of the press.

How ironic that Ashcroft's supporters now ask that he be treated with kid gloves during his own nomination hearings.

Research assistance was provided by the Investigative Fund of The Nation Institute.

The records show, as you have heard,
McCain is not a cuckoo bird.
Yes, he's OK. That's no surprise.
Now how about the other guys?

CORRECTION (from the Dec. 27 issue): In Micah L. Sifry's "Public Citizen No. 1" [Dec. 20], Carl Mayer, although he is among those urging Nader to run, was incorrectly identified as a member of the Draft Nader Committee. Also, the town of Amherst is in Wisconsin, not Michigan.

A version of this article also appeared in Salon magazine.

Imprisonment and torture are the sort
Of things that might just drive a person daft.
So just in case that happened to McCain,

Our correspondent, longtime Los Angeles Times reporter and columnist Robert Scheer, has spent several hours over the years questioning President Reagan on a variety of subjec

Blogs

A new initiative from Half in Ten and the Coalition on Human Needs allows those most affected by federal budget cuts to tell their stories.

March 21, 2011

The White House posted a photo of Obama huddling with his national security team.

March 20, 2011

Obama's tour of Latin America will highlight how the US’s domestic multiple crises are hamstringing its ability to implement effective diplomacy.

March 16, 2011

Fiscal hawks in the US and Britain define policy while ignoring catastrophe.

March 15, 2011

Assistant Secretary of State P.J. Crowley decries Department of Defense's mistratement of WikiLeaks suspect Pvt. Bradley Manning. Obama sides with Defense Department and Crowley resigns, warning that “the exercise of power in today's challenging times and relentless media environment must be prudent and consistent with our laws and values.”

March 14, 2011

Is unrest in the Middle East forcing gas prices off the charts? Or could the oil panic have more to do with Wall Street speculators exploiting fear?

March 9, 2011

Huckabee seemed folksy and friendly—until he started squawking that President Obama grew up in Kenya.

March 7, 2011

Massive protests in Wisconsin don't fit into the White House's lame plan to "win the future".

March 3, 2011

So that's what they mean by from welfare to work. First you go force the poorest Americans into the workforce, then you go after their bargaining power. Wisconsin has long been the eye of this storm.

February 24, 2011

“This freeze would cut the deficit by more than $400 billion over the next decade, bringing this kind of spending -- domestic discretionary spending -- to its lowest share of our economy since Dwight Eisenhower was President. Let me repeat that...."

That was our president announcing his 2012 budget. And indeed let's repeat that — and note a few things he didn't say.

February 16, 2011