John Ashcroft's birthday is May 9. Somebody should buy him some earplugs, because the critics of the most effective attorney general in history never stop whining, crying or babbling.
According to Richard Cohen of The Washington Post, Ashcroft is "the scariest man in government." USA Today columnist Julianne Malveaux calls him a "racist." Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) concurs: "Sen. Ashcroft acts like a racist, walks like a racist, talks like a racist." Professor Daniel Garst of UCLA describes him as "Ayatollah Ashcroft."
The New York Times treats Ashcroft like dirt. Anthony Lewis compares Ashcroft to Osama bin Laden. Bob Herbert compares Ashcroft to J. Edgar Hoover and Joseph McCarthy. Maureen Dowd, the most trivial Pulitzer Prize winner in history, compares Ashcroft to radical Islamists. William Safire, wearing his civil libertarian hat, has abandoned his pro-Ashcroft position and taken up the flag of paranoid alarmism, calling Ashcroft's programs "exploitations of fear" and "more than a bit excessive," and ridiculing Ashcroft's proposals of military tribunals as "kangaroo courts" and "try-'em-and-fry-'em" institutions.
Throughout his tenure, Ashcroft has been plagued by "media incidents." During his appointment hearings, Democrats tore into him as the embodiment of Bush "extremism," with Sen. Barbara Boxer hysterically screaming that the Ashcroft nomination would "(drive) a stake into the heart of large numbers of Americans." After Sept. 11, the civil libertarians ripped into his anti-terrorism policies, fearing that the government would monitor their rental of "Debbie Does Dallas" and then put the information in a super-secret quasi-fascist government spying system.
Ashcroft fired back at the critics, stating: "To those who scare peace-loving people with phantoms of lost liberty, my message is this: Your tactics only aid terrorists, for they erode our national unity and diminish our resolve." Predictably, the press went psycho. Of course, Ashcroft was completely in the right. Civil libertarians who falsify charges of government oppression help the terrorists by preventing the government from using all anti-terrorism measures at its disposal. But since when has catching terrorists taken priority over getting your face on CNN?
The press couldn't manufacture a sex scandal involving Ashcroft (he's too straight an arrow), but it did find a way to include the words "breast" and "Ashcroft" in the same story -- by reporting on the Justice Department policy of placing a blue backdrop behind the attorney general at press conferences. The Great Hall at the Justice Department includes two naked statues, one a woman, and the press assumed that Ashcroft wanted the backdrop in order to cover the breasts of the female statue. The story was completely fictitious, but there's no better way to sell papers than juxtaposing sexual imagery and conservatives.
Ashcroft is an overwhelmingly decent man. He is not a racist or "intolerant religious fanatic." When he was a senator, he deliberately left Jesus out of office prayers to avoid offending non-Christians. Orthodox Jewish aide Tevi Troy characterizes Ashcroft as "more than tolerant." When Ashcroft's senatorial challenger in 2000, Mel Carnahan, died in a plane crash, Ashcroft refused to campaign for eight days out of respect for the dead. That decision cost him the election.
It is absolutely sickening how much flak Ashcroft takes for defending the American people against terrorism. It was information garnered from the much-maligned Patriot Act that allowed the government to form a case against alleged Islamic Jihad leader Professor Sami al-Arian. Numerous "charities" funneling money to terrorists have been shut down. Between Sept. 11, 2001, and Dec. 14, 2002, over 100 terrorist attacks were prevented. Since Sept. 11, there has been just one terrorist attack on American soil -- the July 4, 2002, murder of two Jews at LAX. Terror cells have been broken up in Portland, Buffalo, Chicago and all over the country.
For some perspective, compare Ashcroft's record against that of Janet Reno, his predecessor. Under Reno's lazy eye, terror cells were built throughout the country and terrorist-funding operations were allowed to continue, despite terror attacks occurring on American soil. Reno was too busy deporting Elian Gonzalez, overlooking Clinton administration lawbreaking, and worrying about civil liberty complaints to deal with the imminent terrorist threat. (For more information on the absolute incompetence and deliberate malfeasance of the Reno-Clinton Justice Department, read David Limbaugh's "Absolute Power.")
John Ashcroft has been entrusted with the most difficult task in the history of the Justice Department. And he is the right man for the job. Unfortunately, he has also been saddled with critics from both left and right. Will those critics stand up for him if he adopts their laissez-faire approach to security and another terrorist attack occurs? If not, they should shut up now and let the man do his job.