Let's Not Fall for Re-Inventing John Ashcroft as a Good Guy
The Washington Post re-invents former Attorney General John Ashcroft, casting him as a protector of civil liberties in comparison to Alberto Gonzales.
Who are they kidding? John Ashcroft may have had a moment on his hospital sick bed in which he balked at re-authorizing the warrantless NSA surveillance program, and he may have expressed reservations about indefinite detentions at Guantanamo, but he was just as abominable as an Attorney General, and in my opinion, more so than Alberto Gonzales.
From his push on the Patriot Act, to his initiating warrantless monitoring of attorney-client conversations, to his many failed terrorism cases, his connection to Abu Ghraib, his insistence on prosecuting medical marijuana cases even in states that had legalized it, his attempt to keep tabs on federal judges, his belief that the undocumented could be held indefinitely and most spectacularly, his crusade to increase the use of the death penalty in federal cases, over the objections of his own prosectors and a federal judge, he should not be re-evaluated for his one moment of lucidity.
He was the worst Attorney General ever.
A blast from the past: The criticisms of Senators at his confirmation hearings.
Sen. Patrick Leahy:
But actions speak louder than words. And in the case of Senator Ashcroft, his 30-year record of intense opposition on so many critical issues involving civil rights, women's rights, gun control and nominations speak volumes and demonstrate clearly and convincingly that he is the wrong person to be attorney general of the United States.
...in my view, Senator Ashcroft has demonstrated repeatedly bad judgment, at a minimum, on matters relating to enforcement of civil rights and the attitude he has towards minorities, particularly African-Americans, an insensitivity in the extreme.
Sen. Herbert Kohl:
His record is out of the mainstream on central issues to the Department of Justice, issues like women's rights, civil rights, voting rights, gun control, as well as the nomination of judges. He has spent his entire public life devoted to reversing some of the very laws that he will be asked to administer. And there are indications that when he was responsible for enforcing Missouri's laws, he often chose to use the resources at his disposal to undermine them.
Sen. Richard Durbin:
As governor, in 1986, he signed the bill that defined life as beginning at fertilization, providing a legal basis to ban some of the most common and effective methods of contraception. In 1998 and 1999, Senator Ashcroft wrote letters to Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell, opposing a Senate amendment to require the FEHBP, the federal health insurance plan, to cover the cost of FDA-approved contraceptives, citing concerns that funding certain contraceptives was equivalent to funding abortifacients.
Sen. Maria Cantwell:
Senator Ashcroft's record of making inflammatory statements regarding reproductive rights and desegregation, his apparent disregard for protecting the individual liberties of all Americans, his affiliation and unwillingness to disavow extremist organizations and publications, and his penchant for supporting legislation to roll back our nation's environmental laws I find disturbing.
John Ashcroft was not an acceptable Attorney General. PFAW has more on his attack on civil liberties and the ACLU discusses his push for more expanded spying powers. He was hardly an opponent of FISA wiretaps. Even the DOJ Honors Program under Ashcroft screened applicants based on ideology.
I'm only scratching the surface here. I hope people don't put blinders on in their desire to see Alberto Gonzales take a fall.
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