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Attorney general nominee different, but capable choice

Posted: Thursday, January 18, 2001

After weeks of innuendo and accusations that bordered on demagoguery, the debate surrounding attorney general nominee John Ashcroft has centered on a simple but important question: Can Americans trust that, as the nation's chief law enforcement officer, Mr. Ashcroft would enforce the law regardless of whether he agrees with it?

Critics say that they have concerns and contend that, while Mr. Ashcroft was attorney general of Missouri, he was more zealous in enforcing laws that he supported. Those critics, along with Democrats eager to make mischief with a Bush nominee, will attempt to use this week's confirmation hearings to paint the former Missouri senator as ''anti-civil rights.'' They cite his reservations about affirmative action and opposition to Ronnie White, a prominent black nominee to the federal bench. They also point to his having battled with federal courts, as Missouri governor, over the desegregation of Kansas City schools. ...

What they don't take into account are the facts that Mr. Ashcroft voted to confirm 26 of 28 black judicial appointees before him, initiated the Martin Luther King Day observance in Missouri and supported the historically minority Lincoln College.

While John Ashcroft would not have been our first choice for attorney general, he is the choice of our president-elect. Mr. Bush has the right to select the Cabinet he chooses and the duty to stand by his selections during even the rockiest of confirmations. ...

If Mr. Ashcroft holds steady, much of the opposition will wither, and what does not will be revealed as nothing more than a critique of his politics by those who do not share them.

--The Dallas Morning News

Jan. 17

To appease Republicans on the hard right, U.S. President-elect George W. Bush named a few ultraconservatives to domestic portfolios in his cabinet. ...

... Today is John Ashcroft's day. The former Missouri senator, governor and attorney general appears before the Senate's judiciary committee for what promises to be, and should be, a serious grilling.

A committed Christian conservative who believes (borrowing a phrase from the colonists' war against George III) that ''we have no king but Jesus,'' Mr. Ashcroft does not like liberal America. ...

He has voted against a federal ban on assault weapons and against a law to bar workplace discrimination because of sexual orientation. He would deny abortions even to rape and incest victims. ... As a senator, Mr. Ashcroft led a concerted and successful campaign to prevent Judge Ronnie White, the first black judge on Missouri's Supreme Court, from being named a U.S. District judge. ... Mr. Bush has a reputation from Texas of being a conciliator. His failure to win a majority of the popular vote for the presidency suggests he could use such a talent, since he cannot legitimately claim a mandate to create a new, more conservative America. Yet he has nominated Mr. Ashcroft as chief enforcer of laws and decisions that in many respects would appear to offend the nominee.

--The Globe and Mail, Toronto

Jan. 16



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