Ashcroft Becomes Country's Next Attorney General
Rigsby, Deborah, Nation's Cities Weekly
After a contentious confirmation process, former Missouri Senator John Ashcroft was approved last week by the Senate as the nation's 68th Attorney General, the last of President George W. Bush's 13 Cabinet nominees to be confirmed.
After two days of floor debate, the Senate confirmed the appointment of Ashcroft by 58-42 margin.
"Of the 67 attorneys general we have had, only a handful have come close to the qualifications that John Ashcroft brings in assuming the position of chief law enforcement officer of this great nation" stated Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah). "John Ashcroft, like many of us, is a man of strongly held views. I have every confidence, based on his distinguished record, that as Attorney General, he will vigorously work to enforce the law - whether or not the law happens to be consistent with his personal views."
This controversial nomination was criticized by several Democrats, including Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), who stated that "Senator Ashcroft has a deeply disturbing record on issue after issue of vital importance to millions of Americans."
Amid widespread concern about his views on abortion, civil rights, certain judicial nominations, and other issues, Ashcroft responded to inquiries and criticism during his confirmation hearing in addition to hundreds of written questions submitted by members of the Senate Judiciary Committee. The questions covered a range of topics including Election 2000 and voting rights, restructuring of the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), racial profiling, the environment, and the federal death penalty.
"I will enforce the law. I reject racism, and I will reach out to all people." This was one of Ashcroft's repeated statements during the hearing as he defended many of his positions taken as a United States Senator, Governor of Missouri, and Missouri State Attorney General.
"The Attorney General must recognize this: the language of justice is not the reality of justice for all Americans. There are millions of Americans who wonder if justice means hostility aimed at `just us,'" Ashcroft stated in his opening remarks before the Senate Judiciary Committee. "From racial profiling to news of unwarranted strip searches, the list of injustice in America today is still long. …