“When you carefully consider FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) requests and decide to withhold records, you can be assured that the Department of Justice will defend your decisions.” – Attorney General John Ashcroft, Inter-agency Memo, 10.01 (WashingtonPost.com, 3.3.02)
It only gets worse from there.
Never before have I regretted a position more than I have my support, however soft, but based on my brother’s first hand knowledge and dealings with him, for John Ashcroft for attorney general. However, nothing prepared me for the cascade of evidence coming out of a leaked secret governmental document entitled the Domestic Security Act of 2003.
The Machiavellian machinations of the Bush administration are on full display for all to see in this document, spearheaded by the ever righteous John Ashcroft. But will the American people see that our government is about to grant itself unparalleled powers over the people, all in the name of terrorism and an impending Iraqi war? It remains to be seen who is actually watching, paying attention, or is willing to dare question our president, who seems to be on his own personal, political, and global warpath.
On 2.2.01, an important postscript was added to this column:
POSTSCRIPT 2.2.01: On 1.19.01, Senator Orrin Hatch read part of a statement my brother made to the St. Louis Post Dispatch into the record of John Ashcroft’s Senate confirmation hearings. Subsequently, Senator Hatch’s office requested a letter from Larry detailing exactly what happened during the Missouri desegregation cases nearly twenty years ago, which the Senator also used as background in a speech he gave on the Senate floor on 2.1.01, the day Senator Ashcroft was confirmed as Attorney General of the United States.
The Democrats managed forty-two votes against the Ashcroft confirmation, enough for a filibuster, though he was confirmed. Subsequent information about his exact reasoning opposing Mr. Hormel’s ambassadorship, and new information exposing that Mr. Ashcroft used “lifestyle questioning” when interviewing a potential employee are disturbing, to say the least, they were not enough to derail his appointment. Many liberal activist groups mounted an honorable fight against Mr. Ashcroft’s nomination, fulfilling an important role in the nomination process. The senators voting against their former colleague deserve our respect.
Now, the column and interview with my brother, January 2001…
——–original post below———
Between 1978 and 1984, my older brother Larry R. Marshall, once a Missouri State Senator (R), worked for Attorney General John Ashcroft. Larry was Assistant Attorney General to the state of Missouri, working from 1978 – 1980, then taking a break to run for Congress, returning in the fall of 1980 shortly after his primary defeat, remaining in the A.G.’s office until 1982. Then when in private practice, Mr. Ashcroft hired him as special assistant attorney general, 1983-1984 (lasting approximately eight months), when he became involved in the now much talked about desegregation cases in Missouri, handling the Kansas City case.Â In fact, today (1.15.01) on CNN my brother debated Mr. Ashcroft’s motives in this desegregation case with Professor Gary Orfield of Harvard University, who is a professional witness in desegregation cases, and was quoted on January 14, 2001 in The New York Times as being a top expert in school desegregation.
My brother was a Republican at the time he worked for Senator Ashcroft. It’s important to note that Larry was a co-sponsor of the ERA bill in the Missouri Senate each time it came up to a vote. Also significant is the fact that Missouri was (and still is) a rabidly pro life state. During his time as a state senator, Larry voted against each and every anti choice bill that came up for a vote in the state senate. (Is it any wonder my brother lost his bid for Congress with his pro choice and pro women stance in a rural, staunchly pro life Republican district?) Regardless of this, Mr. Ashcroft continually sought my brother’s legal expertise in very important cases. Larry now considers himself an Independent, though Missouri does not mandate party affiliation for voters.
Needless to say, my brother and I have had innumerable conversations about Mr. Ashcroft. Here is a short exchange that illustrates my brother’s views on Mr. Ashcroft’s competency. Important to note is that my brother is no longer in contact with Mr. Ashcroft, though others associated with the senator have recently contacted him, and that Larry worked for Senator Ashcroft some twenty years ago. This snippet is part of a long conversation I had with my big brother on January 14th, catching it in mid-stream:
Taylor: “After talking with you, it sounds to me like a lot of the groups, the coalitions opposing Mr. Ashcroft… It sounds to me like they don’t really understand the complexity of what went on in the Missouri deseg cases.”
Larry: “Well, I think that’s part of it, and I think the other part is… There were two initial reasons during the period of time that I was there that we opposed this thing. The first was the legal basis that I just gave you. We did not think that there was absolutely any (his emphasis) legal basis for finding the state liable and forcing the state to participate in and pay for any kind of inter district or intra district busing plans. That’s the first thing. The second part of this was, and this is thing that I think people have to understand. John Ashcroft was the attorney general of the state of Missouri. As the attorney general of the state of Missouri, his obligation is to represent all (his emphasis) of the the citizens of the state of Missouri. Not just one school district or one group of people in one school district…This was going to cost the state of Missouri a substantial amount of money… John Ashcroft simply was not going to give any (his emphasis) local school district a blank check to do whatever they wanted to do in their school district… (John Ashcroft was responsible) to the taxpayers of the state of Missouri… (He had to) make sure that whatever money was spent in the city of St. Louis, in Kansas City, was spent in the best interest of the students of those two school districts.”
Taylor: “So it sounds to me like what is being interpreted by many as racial bias is basically… Are you saying that it was Mr. Ashcroft trying to be fair to not only blacks, but whites as well that he represented as attorney general?”
Larry: “I think that is a pretty fair statement. I mean, he had an obligation to protect the interests of all the people of the state of Missouri.Â I can tell you that in the five years, in the approximately five years that I worked for him, in the roughly two and one half to three years that I worked on either the St. Louis or Kansas City desegregation cases, John Ashcroft did not utter one word to me that suggested that he was racially motivated, or that any action that he was taking was based on racial discrimination. He did not give me any instructions that I believe to be unethical, illegal or improper that I, personally, would have… that I personally had a difficult time with. Had he told me to do anything that I thought was racially motivated or racially discriminatory or had racial animus of any kind, I would have refused to do it and, if necessary, I would have resigned.”
Mr. Ashcroft has had two terms as Missouri’s attorney general, as well as two terms as governor, not to mention one term as United States Senator.
There are few issues on which the attorney general designate, John Ashcroft, and the Democrats agree. From abortion rights to religion to civil liberties, there is a chasm separating our differing opinions. Groups from the NAACP to People for the American Way to Human Rights Campaign and from NARAL to NOW, among others, are mounting a considerable effort to oppose Mr. Ashcroft’s nomination. Sighting one example, many question, as one of the most staunchly religious pro life politicians in America, whether Mr. Ashcroft will allocate the necessary resources to enforce the laws that affect so many women, especially where it concerns safe access to abortion clinics.
Though Mr. Ashcroft’s religious beliefs seem to border on the fanatical, and even though he is a right wing conservative, this in no way should disqualify him for the nation’s top cop. Religious persecution in the name of activism, no matter whether the cause is self-determination for women, individual rights, gay rights or civil rights is just plain wrong. Mr. Ashcroft seems to have integrity, honesty and passion for right, which should be the core consideration for his ability to act as U.S. Attorney General.Â That is not to say we should ignore his rabid pro life philosophy, or his anti gay mentality, among other beliefs, which could cost America a huge price. Tough questions must be asked and answered. But it’s not just Mr. Ashcroft who deserves the close scrutiny. It’s President-elect George who really deserves the hot seat, who in nominating this man shows incredible nerve in choosing someone who is so incredibly polarizing and obviously divisive in the eyes of so many Americans.
When the election was certified on January 6th, certain members of the Black Caucus objected to the twenty-five electoral votes from Florida going to Dubya. Representatives Eddie Bernie Johnson (D-Texas), Alcee Hastings (D-Florida), Maxine Waters (D-California), and Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D-Illinois) all stood at the House microphone to voice their displeasure with Florida’s vote outcome. In total there were thirteen objections to Florida’s votes going to Bush-Cheney, eleven coming from the Black Caucus.
As most are aware, African Americans and other minorities, specifically in Florida, felt their vote was not counted, due to unfair conditions. Some have charged criminal wrong doing, because of perceived efforts to keep minorities from casting their vote in the election of 2000, which the Justice Department is now investigating. Many feel that Governor Jeb Bush and Secretary of State Katherine Harris were tangentially involved in getting Dubya elected, whether this is fair or not. There is very bad blood from what happened in Florida, with minorities feeling particularly aggrieved, which is understandable from the accounts I’ve read.
President-elect George then nominates John Ashcroft for Attorney General.
Mr. Ashcroft comes under immediate fire because of his actions of opposing Judge Ronnie White to the federal bench. An act many feel showed bias and racial prejudice, something that Mr. Ashcroft will have to explain in great detail during his confirmation hearing. The fact that he accepted an honorary degree from Bob Jones University, as well as being interview by supposed racially bigoted magazines has inflamed the African American community and civil libertarians. This wasn’t hard to do since many were already feeling slighted by the Florida voting debacle.
So why would our new president nominate someone who is so obviously insensitive towards a large segment of America that is already feeling dissed and disenfranchised? Why would President-elect George openly antagonize a block of voters the Republicans are trying to woo? Because Dubya won the election, and he is going to appoint whomever he chooses, including staunch conservatives with solid credentials, because that’s what happens when a conservative wins the White House. Besides, the religious right helped get Dubya elected, so when the calls came in to his headquarters demanding quid pro quo, he acquiesced like the smart and slick politician he is. Now the rest of us get to eat whatever he serves up. Ashcroft is only one serving of the drek we’re going to swallow before this is all over.
During the campaign, many didn’t want to talk about certain issues, especially abortion. I was scoffed at by many, including pro choice Republicans, because they thought abortion rights was a non issue at this point in our history. No one made that point more clearly than George W. Bush. He dodged, ducked and disregarded the questions about this subject, because he knew it could kill his campaign hopes. He said clever things like, I know the country isn’t ready for an amendment banning abortion, but never talked about this or other reproductive right’s issues in detail. Unfortunately, mainstream Democrats didn’t pin him to the wall on any of these issues. Now we’re anti choice, anti self-determination for women and gays president, who seems insensitive to racial issues, and evidently thinks that DADT also applies to reproductive rights and sexual issues.
For months and months, through radio interviews, columns and lectures I’ve talked about choice, sexuality and personal liberty issues, as they would be affected by a Bush Administration. Many challenged that anything of importance would happen, because so many believe that cultural issues are not decided out of Washington, and that choice, women, gay and civil rights, as well as other cultural issues are now safely embedded in the very fabric of our society. That what happens in your own home, in your own life and relationships will only be directly affected by your own decisions. That the close election would keep the conservatives in check.
There is nothing so chilling as the reality of a conservative agenda sliding into power.
The conservatives are coming, beginning with John Ashcroft, the no-nonsense administrator, politician and moral chieftain of the religious right. His Senate colleagues have said they want to hear his explanation for the Ronnie White episode, among other things, but many are whispering that he will be confirmed, because he is eminently qualified, also having the integrity and grit to do the job. The fact that he is a pro life conservative should have nothing to do with his confirmation. His life at conception philosophy is an affront to abortion rights advocates, but that’s no reason to deny Mr. Ashcroft confirmation. President-elect George is a pro life conservative and it is his privilege and duty to appoint qualified people that share his pro life beliefs to his administration. He owes that to the people who voted for him, regardless of the fact that his actions are disheartening to me and other more radical, liberal activists.
However, it does matter whether or not Mr. Ashcroft can remain neutral and impartial in the face of enforcing laws that he personally finds abhorrent, whether it’s abortion clinic access, reproductive health care issues, as well as the enforcement of obscenity laws, and the availability of pornography in town and on the Web, among many other issues. The one area he might turn out to be a hero is in privacy. His integrity isn’t the question at this point in his public career, his ability to remain fair and allocate appropriate resources where they’re needed, including at abortion and reproductive clinics is very much the issue. If he gives his word that he will indeed uphold the law of the land, regardless of how much his personal beliefs clash with them, then we must respect his word. The rest he will prove to the American people through his actions as United States Attorney General.
It does seem obvious that President-elect George is truly culturally tone deaf. Or perhaps he’s just arrogant and believes he is going to charm pro choice and civil libertarians into coming over to his side. Or maybe he’s just dense as dirt and doesn’t understand that he has just stuck his presidential finger in the eyes of millions of Blacks, minorities, women, gays and everyone in the country, including the millions who enjoy erotica or other sexually explicit material. Or maybe he just doesn’t care how we feel because he was elected president, by God.
It’s not only Ashcroft who deserves to get his nuts roasted in the senatorial fireplace. It’s President-elect George for nominating such a stiff, culturally dimwitted candidate who has a silent, religious right agenda that is not the law of the land. I ask you: What was wrong with John Danforth? He’s a conservative, pro life Republican who would have sailed through confirmation! Thus, the John Ashcroft appointment begins round one of the impending SupremeCourt appointment war.
Ashcroft is, by most accounts, a moral, righteously dedicated public servant, who is one of the thousands of staunchly pro life conservatives who come to power with the Bush Administration. He has earned the right to a fair, thorough hearing.
To his credit, Mr. Ashcroft’s concession speech, after the deceased Mel Carnahan beat him in the 2000 election, showed incredible grit, class and grace; though how he lost to a dead man is worth questioning. The rumors of Missouri voting irregularities could certainly have been turned into innumerable court cases, but Mr. Ashcroft bowed out instead. That took immense courage and backbone. Though it thoroughly disappoints me, and depending on what surfaces out of the intense grilling he’s bound to receive, Mr. Ashcroft will probably be confirmed, though nothing is certain at this point. But remember, Mr. Ashcroft is only a symptom. Dubya’s the disease.
Maybe people will finally realize who exactly was elected. We have a pro life, staunch conservative Republican in the White House, boys and girls, and along with him comes millions of religious right activists who skulk around in the shadows looking for opportunities to impose their will. It didn’t work for them out in the light, so they might as well try it this way, and so far, so good.
We now have a president who not only believes he won this election through mandate, but also seems to think that how we feel about him will evolve into a loving, respectful relationship. He may be our president, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it, condone his dismissive attitude, or accept his conservative presidential mandates that have only barely begun to roll out of Washington. However, I’m certainly not going to shoot his messengers. Make no mistake about it. President-elect George intends to
continue seducing and charming his way across America, while his appointed henchmen and women do his conservative dirty work.
You may get the appointment of Mr. Ashcroft to U.S. Attorney General, Mr. President. But we’re going to serve him back to you sooner rather than later, because eventually the people are going to understand that the old guard means old times, which isn’t going to cut it with the moderns.