Picking the wrong fight

Posted: Dec 29, 2000 12:00 AM
WASHINGTON -- To achieve victory in war, the ancient Chinese philosopher Sun Tzu taught that you must "know the enemy." And with the liberal interest groups who throw bombs from their ivory towers high above the streets of the nation's capital, it is always war. Bipartisanship is a concept about which they constantly carp, but by which they rarely abide. Their modus operandi is to pick a conservative target, hurl epithets toward that person, and see which stick. Then they go for the kill -- repeating the same lies and distortions until a good man's reputation is ruined and his name has been dragged through the mud. That's what they tried to do to George W. Bush. Senior citizens were told that their Social Security would end, union members were warned that Bush would close down their unions, and the NAACP ran television ads suggesting Republicans were racist. It is what Bill Clinton termed "the politics of personal destruction." And it is what they are doing now -- in the midst of a national call for unity and cooperation. Just three days before Christmas, liberal interest groups launched an offensive against President-Elect Bush's choice for attorney general -- Missouri Senator John Ashcroft. Ralph Neas of the liberal People for the American Way called Ashcroft "an astonishingly bad nomination," and said his record on civil right and civil liberties is "abysmal" without citing any evidence. Kweisi Mfume of the NAACP said Bush's selection of Ashcroft was "outrageous," citing concerns on civil rights and affirmative action, but offering no specifics. The National Women's Political Caucus said they were "bitterly disappointed." In an editorial, the Advocate.com felt compelled to write that Ashcroft, "the son of an Assemblies of God minister, does not drink, smoke, or dance," as though those qualities alone were reason to disqualify him. But this time, the liberals have picked the wrong enemy. John Ashcroft has long been a dedicated public servant. He began his public career as Missouri auditor and later as attorney general. Ashcroft served the people of Missouri as governor for two terms and was re-elected in 1988 by a whopping 64 percent. As governor, he was known for his fiscal prudence by balancing the state budget every year he was in office and running one of the best financially managed states in the country. When he was elected to the Senate in 1994, he won his "show-me state" by carrying every county. In the Senate he was a tireless crusader against wasteful spending and higher taxes. He fought to end Washington's long and ignominious tradition of using Social Security funds for a multi-billion dollar shell game. He is an unashamed champion of the right to life, free speech, states' rights and the Second Amendment. But that is the public record. What do we know about the man himself? Simply put, John Ashcroft is a man of impeccable integrity. He is an honorable, decent creature of God who cares deeply for his fellow man. Ask his former staffers and others who know him to describe him, and they all begin -- as I did -- with the word "integrity." Then they quickly follow with descriptive words like "ethical," "honest," "sincere," "fair," "truthful" and "trustworthy." Many of those qualities were on display during his bid for re-election to the Senate. Late in what was a close and hard-fought campaign against Governor Mel Carnahan, tragedy struck. On the rainy night of Oct. 16, the campaign plane carrying Governor Carnahan, his son Randy Carnahan and campaign advisor Chris Sifford crashed, killing all three aboard. John Ashcroft immediately sent his condolences to the grieving mother and widow, Jean Carnahan, and suspended his campaign for nearly two weeks. All campaign appearances, television and radio commercials stopped. On Nov. 7, the late Mel Carnahan emerged the victor due to his widow's promise to accept the governor's appointment to fill the seat. But many Republicans urged Ashcroft to challenge the election citing constitutional grounds outlined in Article 1, Section 3 which states that "No Person shall be a Senator who ... shall not, when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State for which he shall be chosen." They also advised him that voting irregularities in St. Louis were ample grounds for a legal challenge. But Ashcroft saw it differently. In his concession speech the next day he said, "Missouri is a compassionate state ... and I hope that the outcome of this election is a matter of comfort to Mrs. Carnahan. And I hope that we can all accord her the opportunity to have the kind of necessary recovery time after such a great personal loss." That is just one example of the integrity that his Senate colleagues know exists in John Ashcroft. And that is why they will confirm him as the 79th attorney general of the United States.