Ashcroft: A hill to die on

Posted: Jan 13, 2001 12:00 AM
I am not pleased about this, but I was sure on the money when I wrote that we were on the verge of a four-year war by the Democrats. Outgoing President Clinton obviously intends his politics of polarization to continue beyond his eight-year stint. Preaching to fawning, disgruntled audiences, he declared "the only way (Republicans) could win the election was to stop the voting in Florida." So much for any pretense to bipartisanship and healing. But, you ask, who cares what Clinton does -- he'll be out of office in a week? The problem with that is twofold. First, Clinton's not going anywhere; he and his now-powerful wife will remain in Washington, and promise to be major Democratic powerbrokers for the foreseeable future. He's also installed his chief fundraiser, Terry McAuliffe, to head the DNC. Second, even without Clinton's hands-on involvement, the Democratic Party would carry on in his tradition anyway. The party has been thoroughly Clintonized. This can best be seen in its approach to George Bush's more conservative cabinet designees. Various left-wing interest groups have drawn a line in the sand, and are going to do everything in their power to defeat the nominations of Ashcroft, Chavez and Norton. One down, two to go. A word about their conquest of Chavez: They tell us they were outraged by her potential violations of the law. Everyone knows they don't care a whit about those laws. This is purely a matter of ideology. Forget lawbreaking. Chavez's sin was being conservative. She had the audacity to oppose the minimum wage and to promote English as the primary language. Are the leftists moved to compromise with the other two nominees after having vanquished the first? Not in the slightest. She was just an appetizer. Norton will be delectable, too, but they're anxious to get on to the main course: John Ashcroft. The driving forces behind the "Borkings" are the National Organization for Women, Handgun Control, the National Abortion and Reproduction Rights Action League, Planned Parenthood, the Sierra Club, People for the American Way, the Alliance for Justice, certain gay rights groups and Big Labor. And they call Ashcroft extreme! On what basis, you ask? His opposition to abortion, special rights for gays, gun control and his support for the death penalty and the elimination of the National Endowment for the Arts. Our culture is so heavily under the spell of political correctness that it is now commonplace for the dominant media culture to characterize these mainstream positions as extreme. Under these criteria our nation was founded by a gaggle of right-wing extremists. How far we've come in the name of enlightenment! Besides, who is calling whom extreme? These leftist groups, collectively, have a vise grip on the Democratic Party, whose officials march in lockstep to their belligerent commands. Hopefully, a few Democratic senators will prove me wrong, but it's not looking good right now. Arkansas columnist Gene Lyons captures their position pretty succinctly: "Opposing Ashcroft needs no constitutional justification and has nothing to do with 'personal destruction.' It's purely political. The man's dogmatic, intemperate views make him unfit for the job of enforcing laws he clearly doesn't believe in. That's all we really need to know." There you have it. Ashcroft is a genuine conservative and Christian, therefore an extremist, therefore evil and therefore must be opposed at all costs -- including painting him as a racist. We should not be surprised that those who supported Janet Reno for almost eight years as she ran interference for Bill Clinton and otherwise politicized the Justice Department, would vigorously oppose Reno's polar opposite. Unlike Reno, and contrary to the popular slander, Ashcroft will enforce existing laws, whether he agrees with them or not. Nothing in his history suggests otherwise. By the way, Ashcroft unequivocally denounces violence at abortion clinics. Ashcroft's libelers know he's a man of integrity and that he's not a racist, but they'll do everything they can to suggest otherwise and destroy him. But ultimately, this is not about Ashcroft. It's about power. In their view, George Bush has no right to govern, especially not as a conservative. Conservatives should not be discouraged. Bush knows what he's up against. He knows that he can't placate the left by capitulating. He knows that his authority is on the line and that, politically speaking, the Ashcroft nomination is a hill to die on.