For this, he’s about to become Public Enemy Number One. At least, that is, if we’re to believe many liberal special interest groups and their megaphone, the mainstream media.
In an extraordinary meeting in Washington last Tuesday, over 200 left-wing organizations gathered to oppose Ashcroft’s nomination, including representatives from People for the American Way, NAACP, and advocates of gun control, abortion rights, homosexuals and environmental protection. In fact, “oppose” may not be the right word: vilify is more like it. To hear them tell it, you’d think Ashcroft, whose confirmation hearings begin today, was a combination of the Grand Inquisitor and Flannery O’Conner’s Hazel Motes. The decibel level of liberal screeching is reaching a pitch that hasn’t been heard in the nation’s capital since the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings nearly a decade ago.
Opponents seemed determined to raise the heat in Congress. But what about some light on the charges against Ashcroft? For this, an examination of the accusations is helpful:
He’s an extremist! – If Ashcroft’s an extremist, then so is most of Missouri – and probably most of the country outside the east and west coasts. Ashcroft has won five out of six statewide elections he’s run – including two terms as governor, winning reelection in 1988 by 64%, the largest percentage of any Missouri governor since the Civil War. He was elected to the U. S. Senate in 1994 with 60% of the vote and carried every county in Missouri.
Must be lots of extremists in Missouri.
He narrowly lost his recent senatorial re-election campaign to a deceased opponent, Governor Mel Carnahan, who died in a plane crash three weeks before the election. (Carnahan’s widow was named by the succeeding governor to replace her husband.) Rather than challenge the election for its many irregularities, Ashcroft conceded to Mrs. Carnahan in an extraordinarily gracious concession speech to avoid the wrenching, divisive consequences resulting from a contested election. (How well we know!)
If this is extremism, we need lots more of it. Had another well-known candidate (a moderate, of course) displayed the dignity Ashcroft did and put the country’s well being above his own, rather than launching a maniacal effort to overturn the election outcome, the entire nation – lawyers excepted – would be a lot better off now.
He’s a racist! – Ashcroft’s detractors cite two instances they believe indicate racism or at least insensitivity to things racial. First, he helped block the nomination to the federal bench of Ronnie White, a black Missouri Supreme Court justice. Ashcroft claimed White was “soft on crime,” a charge supported by White’s willingness to give a second chance to Jimmy Johnson, a Missouri man who murdered a sheriff's deputy, the wife of the county sheriff and then two more deputies, for a total of four murders.
Since Ashcroft opposed White, and White is black, therefore Ashcroft must be racist. Such is the black and white thinking of left-wing special interest groups. I think I’m beginning to get it. One question, though: What does that make those senators who voted against the confirmation of Clarence Thomas as Supreme Court justice?
The second issue inflaming the hearts of the anti-Ashcrofts is an interview he gave to Southern Partisan, a magazine dedicated to preserving Southern heritage and culture. In the interview, the fieriest thing he said was that more needed to be done to set the record straight about “Southern patriots like Lee, Jackson and Davis.” This may be enough to set politically correct heads spinning, but is nothing any sane person would find even remotely objectionable.
He’s anti-abortion! – Well, yes he is. Ashcroft has been a lifelong defender of the rights of the unborn and was given a 100% approval rating for his voting record by the National Right to Life Committee. But George Bush ran and was elected as pro-life presidential candidate. (Granted, as a quiet pro-life candidate.) So why shouldn’t he have an attorney general that reflects his views? Would anyone have expected Bill Clinton to pick an anti-abortion Attorney General for his cabinet?
That’s the trouble with these pro-abortion fanatics: they get so hung up on a single issue.
One can’t help sensing that a nasty, unstated undercurrent runs beneath the progressive elite’s attempt to demonize John Ashcroft. At least it was unstated until last week when Ralph Neas of People for the American Way, the opposition’s ringleader, bluntly stated it. “Ashcroft might make an excellent choice to head the Christian Coalition…” he said in a January 9 press conference, “but he’s not qualified to lead the U. S. Department of Justice.”
There you have it – a statement of raw anti-Christian bigotry from a man who is more and more coming to resemble Joe McCarthy. Yet none of the major media outlets found it worth reporting. Imagine if a conservative organization made a similar statement about Joe Lieberman’s qualifications to serve as Vice President or Ralph Nader’s suitability as President. That group would be vilified and hounded out of the public square – and rightfully so.
But no thunderous disapproval came from the press – nor is one expected. In fact, the New York Times echoed Neas in a January 12 editorial by saying, “Mr. Ashcroft’s religion-based approach to public policy issues” makes him unfit to serve as Attorney General.
This is the point we’ve come to in this country: the greatest obstacle now to attaining high office is not sexual or financial scandal, but strong Christian faith.