Magazine article Insight on the News

Symposium

Magazine article Insight on the News

Symposium

Article excerpt

Q: Will John Ashcroft lead the Department of Justice in the right direction?

Yes: He will lead DOJ out of the political morass in which it has been under Clinton.

The liberal firestorm that accompanied George W. Bush's nomination of John Ashcroft to be attorney general was, in some ways, merely the latest manifestation of the dreadful culture war that rages in America. However, there was a particularly troubling edge to the vociferous opposition to Ashcroft, especially the shocking attacks from the politicized National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Ashcroft, one of the most decent, thoughtful and kind men I've known in American public life -- a Christian gentleman in every way -- has been so caricatured as to render him unrecognizable.

Carl Pearlston, a reflective' Jewish leader in California known for his conservative political preferences, wrote recently on the assumptions that lay behind the opposition to Ashcroft, Linda Chavez (the now-withdrawn nominee for labor secretary) and Gale Norton, the interior secretary-designee, not to mention news-media coverage of that opposition. Key liberal Democrats, Pearlston wrote, act as if "the nominees' views are at odds with the missions of the departments Bush has selected them to head. This implies that the missions of the departments are so ideologically fixed and immutable that they can only be headed by one professing allegiance to progressive Democratic doctrines and programs. That view distorts the true mission of these government agencies."

In other words, for so many of the liberals, these conservative individuals -- men and women whose views I share in virtually every instance -- hold views so antithetical to the operational functions of key agencies that they and their nominations should be considered not only worthy of opposition, but essentially un-American. That is as hateful and absurd a proposition as any advanced in the perfectly dreadful eight years that have given us Bill Clinton's America.

What Ashcroft's harshest critics really are saying is that no serious multi-issue conservative can be trusted to administer the U.S. Department of Justice. That's the most accurate translation of the hateful screeds aimed at Ashcroft during these last few weeks. It is the latest theme from the folks who believe that the conservative agenda is constitutionally forbidden, while the liberal agenda is constitutionally required.

Ashcroft, in fact, will restore the Justice Department mission statement to functional reality, after nearly eight years of Janet Reno's political posturing and presidential protection masked as law enforcement. Ashcroft's record indicates he will restore the department's core priorities, even in areas where he, like myself, might prefer to see some changes in underlying law. As U.S. attorney general, he will leave debates over legal changes to the American people and their representatives, revisions in law to Congress and legal interpretation to the courts. He will enforce the law as it is, faithfully discharging his solemn burden to protect the rights of all Americans -- liberal, conservative or in-between.

Examples from Ashcroft's distinguished career as a U.S. senator, governor of Missouri and attorney general of the Show-Me State suffice to demonstrate the many ways in which he will advance the mission of the Justice Department. His record and demonstrated priorities outline how he will run this key Cabinet department.

His law-enforcement record is superb. A supporter of the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms, he also has sought tougher standards and sentencing for crimes committed with guns. As governor, he increased the state's law-enforcement budget and supervised a 63 percent increase in the number of full-time officers. Also while governor, Ashcroft increased the capacity -- and percentage of sentence served -- in state-correctional facilities. …

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