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When Mr. Ashcroft was Missouri's attorney general, he opposed a voluntary school desegregation plan in St. Louis. Related Gully Coverage

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President-to-be George W. Bush's nominee for attorney general, outgoing senator John Ashcroft. Dec. 22. Adrees Latif

United States

Beware Minorities, Women, Queers: Ashcroft Is Coming!

by Kelly Cogswell

DECEMBER 27, 2000. In November, Missourians preferred to vote for a dead man rather than elect the ultra-conservative John Ashcroft to a second Senate term. But instead of being out in the cold, Mr. Ashcroft has been nominated by the President-to-be George W. Bush for an even more powerful national position—U.S. Attorney General. In that post he can protect or erode civil rights and liberties, fight crime or fight abortion, enforce the antitrust laws or give free reign to tobacco magnates.

The Attorney General also advises the White House on judicial nominations. Unless Mr. Ashcroft is suddenly possessed by the spirits of Jefferson and Franklin, he'll probably recommend candidates who are anti-abortion, anti-queer, and anti-separation of church and state.

bushWhile the Senate is expected to confirm Mr. Ashcroft, his hearings will kick off major mobilizations by abortion rights, civil rights and civil liberties groups preparing for major fights against Bush's anticipated Supreme Court and federal judgeship appointments of right-wing Ashcroft-clones.

Minorities, Queers, and Women
Mr. Ashcroft is a diligent opponent of abortion rights. He has toiled mightily to criminalize abortion, even in the case of rape or incest, and it is questionable how vigorously he would enforce laws against those that engage in violence against abortion clinics—or gay bars, synagogues, and black churches for that matter.

He vehemently opposed a federal court appointment for Ronnie White, a black Missouri Supreme Court justice, falsely claiming White was soft on crime and reluctant to issue the death penalty. When Mr. Ashcroft was Missouri's attorney general, he opposed a voluntary school desegregation plan in St. Louis. Last year, he accepted an honorary degree from Bob Jones University, a bastion of the Christian right and no friend of racial, or any other kinds of minorities.

An avid supporter of the death penalty, like Bush, who set new records for executions this year, Mr. Ashcroft opposes a moratorium on the grounds of racial inequality.

Unfettered Business
In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Jerry Jasinowski, president of the National Association of Manufacturers, said the business community would look to Mr. Ashcroft to conduct "a thorough review of antitrust policy and the nature of federal litigation concerning the private sector."

What Mr. Jasinowski really means is that federal litigation will cease and desist in favor of "self-policing" by industry, and that we, the people, will be largely on our own against the likes of Philip Morris and Microsoft.

This will obviously have a great impact on environmental policy. Even if the Environmental Protection Agency's more moderate Christine Whitman can be successfully pressured to fight polluters and protect open spaces and wilderness areas, pro-business, anti-environmentalist Ashcroft may well undercut her ability to enforce even the most basic environmental laws.

Separation of Church and State
pat robertsonIf Mr. Ashcroft is confirmed by the Senate as the Attorney General, instead of being guided by the Constitution, he may be one of its main foes. Mr. Ashcroft, closely tied to TV preacher Pat Robertson, has blasted the basic constitutional premise of church-state separation. In a 1998 address to Robertson's Christian Coalition, he said, "A robed elite have taken the wall of separation built to protect the church and made it a wall of religious oppression."

In the Senate, Mr. Ashcroft was the principal architect of 'charitable choice,' a right-wing boondoggle that funneled millions of taxpayer dollars into churches and other sectarian groups. He has also attempted to legislate his fundamentalist anti-abortion, anti-gay stance.

It is also his religious beliefs that have guided his attempts to defund the National Endowment for the Arts, and undermine the United Nations. Literature handed out by Mr. Ashcroft's aides at the 1998 Christian Coalition conference asserted that the UN Treaty on the Rights of the Child would make spanking a crime. He favors school vouchers, and heavy censorship of the Internet.

Mr. Ashcroft's recommendations for any Supreme Court vacancies are expected to have similar biases. Clever conservatives like Clint Bolik, vice president of the right-wing Institute for Justice, are already pressing Bush to nominate conservative judges who are black or Hispanic, thus harder for Democrats to turn down.

Related link:

For the Americans United for Separation of Church and State announcement opposing Ashcroft's nomination.

In Depth

Bush Plus
U.S. politics and the Bush administration All about George W. Bush, Dems, Greens, GOPs, and the morass of U.S. politics.

Color and Cash
race and classThe Gully's complete coverage of race and class, two intertwined pillars of American society.

New World
new worldOur Americas. Politics, democracies, failed utopias, and the sullen heirs of colonialism: from Canada to Argentina.

Gay Mundo
gay pride
The Gully's ultragay coverage. Includes musings on activism, info on queers from Guatemala to Puerto Rico and more.

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