Will Ashcroft Really Put
His Faith In a Blind Trust? ...
The best entertainment we have been offered in this dull, depressing
inaugural season was the John Ashcroft hearing before the Senate Judiciary
Committee. At issue was whether a man should be attorney general who thinks a
woman should be forced to give birth to her rapists child, and one who, in a
related development, is soft on slavery.
The Democrats did not attempt a particularly vigorous attack on these views,
knowing them to be shared by a statistically significant number of voters.
But at least they called Ronnie White to testify before the Senate Judiciary
Mr. White, an African-American who is chief justice of the Missouri Supreme
Court, had been shot down from ambush by former senator John Ashcroft in 1998 when President
Clinton tried to make him a federal judge.
Could Mr. Ashcroft be that hideous beast not seen in Washington since the
Voting Rights Act of 1965--a racist?
Not in the opinion of the injured party himself. I dont think John Ashcroft
is a racist, Chief Justice White averred, stoutly.
John Ashcroft didnt think so either. He was guilty
only of being tough on crime, whereas Judge White was squishy-soft on it.
But the record showed that Judge White had voted for the death penalty 41
times, which made him just about as blood-thirsty as anybody else on the
Missouri bench, including a lot of Ashcroft appointees...
Then what reason other than racism could there have been for Mr. Ashcroft to
torpedo Judge White? Would the committee have to breach senatorial comity by
voting down a man who, until his recent defeat by a corpse, had been a
It developed that in 1992 the Governor of Missouri, then Mr. Ashcroft, had
sent an antiabortion bill to the General Assembly only to see it blocked in
the House Judiciary Committee by its then-chairman, Ronnie White.
Mr. Ashcroft thus turned out to have had a perfectly acceptable
reason to lie to his colleagues six years later about a mans judicial
record. The colleagues understood, then and now, that it made no difference
whether the victim was black or white or green. Vengeance is mine, saith the
Lord, and John Ashcroft was sent here to do the Lords bidding.
The other great question before the committee was whether as attorney general
John Ashcroft would be capable of doing the bidding of Congress and the
Supreme Court, both of which have made civil rights and the right to abortion
part of the law. And both of which so-called rights are abominations unto
the Lord, insofar as John Ashcrofts understanding of the matter reacheth.
Mr. Ashcroft satisfied the committee on this point by lying, as of course he
had to do if he didnt want to spend the rest of his life as a lobbyist in
Jefferson City. He testified under oath that he would have no trouble
enforcing laws he considered contrary to the laws of God. You got to render
unto Caesar, guys. If you catch my drift.
Listening to this nonsense got me to wondering about bridges and Brooklyn.
Would Orrin Hatch be so gullible if the Supreme Court had appointed Al Gore
president and the nominee were a lifelong opponent of the death penalty--the
Pope, for instance?
Actually theres precedent on that point, said a veteran federal prosecutor
who consults with me on these matters. Not the Pope part, but Janet Reno was
a lifelong opponent of the death penalty.
Improbable though this sounded, it turned out to be true. And no doubt it was
a great consolation to the 103 prisoners sentenced to death during her 15
years as state attorney in Miami.
Ms. Reno, too, promised to uphold the law when she was sworn in as Dade
Countys chief prosecutor and later as U.S. Attorney General. But she lacked
the suppleness of mind that might have allowed her to take the truly moral
course, which in her case would have been to talk the talk but not to walk
the walk. She should have spent her 15 years searching for just the right
death penalty case, and never quite finding it.
But that, as a great Republican moralist once said, would be wrong.
On the other hand, John Ashcrofts automatic, instinctive falsifications about Judge
Whites record show clearly that he is not a man who sweats the small stuff.
Our next attorney general understands perfectly that dishonesty in the
pursuit of virtue is no vice.