George Bush's nomination of John Ashcroft as attorney general of the United States could not suit me more. Ashcroft is an outstanding nomination, especially on the heels of the most corrupt Justice Department in the history of the nation.
Ashcroft is an evangelical Christian, scrupulously honest, genuinely conservative, a former Missouri attorney general, governor and United States senator. He has stellar academic credentials, having graduated from Yale with honors and the prestigious University of Chicago School of Law. He is a man of unimpeachable integrity who is without skeletons.
The wisdom of the Ashcroft appointment is further demonstrated by the quality of Ashcroft's most outspoken opponents, some of whom are paralyzed with panic. Militant feminist Kate Michelman said that Ashcroft is "a real danger to women's rights." Translation: those who are staunchly pro-life should be disqualified from public service. Ralph Neas, president of the People for the American Way, said, "I don't believe anyone in the U.S. Senate has a worse record on civil rights and civil liberties." Translation: Ashcroft had the political courage to oppose the nomination of Bill Lann Lee as Chief of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division. Lann Lee's nomination was rejected by the Senate, but Clinton illegally installed Lee anyway to head Civil Rights, completely thwarting the Senate's advice and consent role. As Ashcroft and others predicted, Lee has turned the Civil Rights Division into a zealous agency for enforcement of affirmative action initiatives deemed illegal by the United States Supreme Court.
The attorney general is one of the most important positions in the executive branch. Article II, Section 1 of the United States Constitution vests the president with the executive power of the United States of America. He is the nation's chief executive officer. Article II, Section 3 provides that the president "shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed." The Department of Justice is the primary government agency charged with the implementation of the president's constitutional duty to faithfully execute the laws.
The foreword to a 1927 primer on the Department of Justice emphasizes the Justice Department's central role in law enforcement:
Probably the most essential function of government is the maintenance of law and order. A government that does not protect its citizens in the orderly conduct of their affairs and ensure the enforcement of its commands as expressed in law, is not only derelict in respect to one of its primary duties, but also brings itself into contempt, and thus lays the basis for failure in respect to all its other undertakings. ... This task of law enforcement presents one of the important problems of administration confronting the national government. The Department of Justice is the central agency for the performance of this task.
As the Department of Justice is entrusted with the duty of impartially enforcing the law, it is important that to the maximum extent possible it stay above politics. When justice is administered unfairly, when those in power are treated as being above the law, the system tends to disintegrate.
Sadly, the Clinton administration displayed an ugly contempt for the cherished institutions of our government. That attitude unfortunately trickled down into the halls of Main Justice. The Clinton-Gore-Reno Justice Department left in its wake a system corrupted under the influence of executive privilege and power. President-elect Bush and Sen. Ashcroft have their work cut out for them. The Clinton-Gore-Reno years provide a regrettable example of the horrors of politicized justice in America. Bush and Ashcroft will have this sordid legacy as a constant reminder of how bad things can be when justice is perverted and subordinated to the whims and interests of a political class of would-be elites.
President-elect Bush, in nominating Sen. Ashcroft, said that Ashcroft satisfied his three requirements for the spot: integrity, executive prowess and "a commitment to fair and firm and impartial administration of justice." Amen. In accepting the nomination, Sen. Ashcroft affirmed his commitment to "equal justice under the law" and to the concept embodied in the inscription on the United States Supreme Court building, "Justice, the guardian of liberty."
Ashcroft's recognition of justice as indispensable to our liberties is abundantly reassuring to those of us who long for a restoration of the rule of law for this great nation. We anxiously wait for the long overdue cleansing to begin.