That John Ashcroft is a right-wing, pro-gun religious fanatic who laments the civil rights gains of the past decades and believes that leaders of the pro-slavery Southern Confederacy are deserving of veneration should not disqualify him from holding an important office.
No, indeed, he would make an excellent president of the National Rifle Association, or leader of the Christian Coalition or an anti-abortion group. Perhaps there’s even a job for the defeated Republican senator in the federal government, say on some historical commission devoted to the restoration of Civil War artifacts, such as the holding cells for runaway slaves.
But how can George W. Bush appoint as US attorney general a man who gave an interview to the pro-Confederate Southern Partisan magazine that praised the magazine for its “heritage…of defending Southern patriots like Lee, Jackson and Davis”? Ashcroft said it was necessary to stand up for the leaders of the Old South “or else we’ll be taught that these people were giving their lives, subscribing their sacred fortunes and their honor to some perverted agenda.” Never mind that the agenda these people were defending was slavery. This can only lead one to believe that Ashcroft’s strenuous opposition to affirmative action is based on the view that slavery and segregation were not all that damaging to the lives of black Americans.
Ashcroft represents the extreme flash point of the culture wars that are threatening to tear this country apart. He’s of the school that interprets Christianity as a mandate for condemnation and exclusion rather than tolerance and inclusion. He’s so imbued with his own personal connection to the Almighty that he interprets his electoral defeats as “crucifixions” and his return to public life as “resurrections.”
His religious arrogance allows for no other interpretation of God’s will. For example, Ashcroft has made support of the death penalty a litmus test in his selection of judges; what about the Roman Catholic Church’s position condemning capital punishment? Ashcroft finds a biblical basis for his stern condemnation of homosexuality, but there are leading Christian and Jewish denominations that strongly disagree.
Ashcroft has every right to practice his variant of Pentecostal Christianity, but the idea that the nation’s chief law enforcer might force his interpretation into the law of the land is deeply troubling. The attorney general is charged with protecting the civil rights of minorities and women’s reproductive freedom. Yet Ashcroft’s view of what rights are protected by the Constitution is so narrowly defined as to condone the reversal of most of the advances in human rights in the past half-century.
For example, at a time of rising hate crimes aimed at homosexuals, he voted against the Hate Crimes Prevention Act as well as bills banning discrimination in employment. He even voted against AIDS funding.
On a woman’s right to choose, which is accepted by a clear majority of Americans and by the courts, Ashcroft has endorsed the most extreme side of the anti-abortion position: “If I had the opportunity to pass but a single law,” he has said, it would be a constitutional amendment to “ban every abortion except for those medically necessary to save the life of the mother.” He excludes rape and incest as justification for abortion.
Ashcroft’s abortion views are so extreme that he would favor banning some contraceptives, such as the pill and IUDs, that can prevent a fertilized egg from being implanted in the uterus, thus causing, in his view, de facto abortions. As attorney general, he would play a crucial role in picking federal judges, including the US Supreme Court, and there is no way that he would be party to nominating judges who accept the court’s decision in Roe v. Wade.
Finally, we don’t need an attorney general who’s been the NRA’s most reliable vote in the Senate and the recipient of much funding from that organization. He was one of only twenty senators who opposed mandatory safety locks for guns. He also opposed a ban on assault weapons, and he urged Missouri voters to legalize the carrying of concealed weapons.
The last job in the world that Ashcroft should be offered is that of US attorney general. Imagine the outcry if Bush had appointed Jesse Helms to that position. Yet according to the National Journal, Ashcroft’s voting record as a senator was to the right of Helms.
Bush has betrayed the vast majority of Americans who voted for the politics of inclusiveness and moderation advanced by both him and Al Gore. Why is there not a single Republican senator, let alone more Democrats, who are willing to condemn this obvious disaster of a nomination?