Jillian Bandes
Freeeeeeeee-dom.

I'm usually not so nonchalant with such an important word, but John Ashcroft sure repeated it a lot in his 20-minute speech before a full auditorium here at CPAC this afternoon. It wasn't a bad thing; the word is very fitting for a man like him, and if anyone has permission to have "freedom" as their schtick, it's Ashcroft. But goodness. The man isn't afraid of being repetitious.

Ashcroft, who served as Attorney General under Bush after serving as Missouri's Senator and Governor, clearly is an old-timer among the CPAC regulars. But he's got timeless appeal. And though he was a little heavy on the use of the word "freedom," he had some very detailed things to say about it. In a nutshell, Ashcroft argued that freedom was the one main core value of America, that it is broader and more at risk than ever before, that we need to work to expand it, and that we need to be transparent and forthcoming about it.

But he did so in way that went far deeper than simply singing freedom's praise.
At one time, we could only threaten a nation with another nation. But now we know that just a few people could threaten a nation with just a few chemicals.
I thought it was thoughtful and genuine, but his speaking style was received with mixed emotions by the audience. Take his fourth point:
The defense of freedom requires an integrity in vocabulary, and transparency in policy.
That got a blank stare from the audience. But the he followed it up with:
...I think when defending freedom, if you refuse to call a war a war, you're unlikely to defend it successfully.
That was met with enthusiastic applause.

Jillian Bandes

Jillian Bandes is the National Political Reporter for Townhall.com