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To: Rich Lowry, editor National Review

From: Jude Wanniski

Re: Ashcroft and his pals

Your Feb. 5 cover story on why the lynch mob hates John Ashcroft, the “‘Conservative’ and ‘Racist,’” is as good as anything you’ve written in recent years, Rich.

It’s good to see you actually naming the names of the hypocrites in the press corps who say they concede Ashcroft is a man of honesty and integrity, but that he should not be confirmed as attorney general because he did things in the past that might now be interpreted as having been “insensitive to race.”

I’m sorry I can’t name the names of the hypocrites you name because some are friends of mine, and they would not forgive me if I did. I will, though, note that you prominently mention Al Hunt of the Wall Street Journal as one of the super-hypocrites, as he is no friend of mine and would love to see me strung up alongside Sen. Ashcroft.

To tell you the truth, Rich, I am really starting to think that I should be lynched.

There was a time not so long ago that I thought of myself as a friend of the blacks, the Jews and the homosexuals, but according to the latest standards, I’ve now become homophobic, anti-Semitic and racist. Why, I even hang out with other homophobes, anti-Semites and racists. Birds of a feather, you might call us.

I was thinking the other day that I actually had dinner with Sen. Ashcroft, the racist homophobe, and the Nation of Islam’s Minister Louis Farrakhan, the anti-Semitic bigot, in 1997, at the annual Polyconomics supply-side conference in Florida.

As far as I know, Sen. Ashcroft is the only white member of Congress to have ever broken bread with Minister Farrakhan. They were both guests at the conference and had a most interesting exchange during Farrakhan’s talk, when Ashcroft asked him a question about the concept of a separate “nation” within our nation. At the conclusion of his remarks, the audience of mostly Wall Streeters and their wives gave Farrakhan the longest sustained applause of anyone who has appeared before or since in our 16 years we have been holding our conferences. (More birds of a feather, including the several Jewish attendees who applauded.)

Wondering if he would mind sitting next to an anti-Semitic bigot, I asked Ashcroft if he would join my table and sit with Farrakhan. Ashcroft’s wife Janet, a law professor at
Howard University — the nation’s premiere black institution of higher learning — gave her husband a smiling nod, and that was that.

An interesting sidelight was that one of my Jewish Wall Street clients purposely had boycotted the Farrakhan presentation, stepping out of the conference room. When he heard the applause he knew he must have missed something and felt abashed when told by others that Farrakhan was terrific; he decided he would join our table.

Sen. Ashcroft and Minister Farrakhan sat next to each other and spent 90 minutes chattering away. At least part of their discussion was about Africa, as Ashcroft had just been assigned the Africa subcommittee on Senate Foreign Relations, and Farrakhan was then and is now the most popular American in all of black and Islamic Africa. To my best recollection, they did not say anything homophobic, anti-Semitic or racist, but what do I know? They may have been carrying on like Adolf you-know-who, but I may have been too insensitive to notice.

Come to think of it, Sen. Ashcroft and Minister Farrakhan are both pretty sneaky guys.

Ashcroft, the racist, opposed the nomination of a black federal district judge to be a black appeals court judge and he covered up his racism by supporting the nominations of 26 other black judges! He also is being accused of homophobia, because he opposed the nomination of a gay individual to be U.S. ambassador to Luxemburg, but he also has been clever enough to have hired gay men in various jobs during the years when he was attorney general and governor of Missouri, thereby sneakily covering up any readily identifiable pattern of homophobia.

As for Minister Farrakhan, we all know he is anti-Semitic because he once said, “Judaism is a gutter religion,” according to the New York Times. He has cleverly covered his tracks there, Rich, because the Times informs me it can find no record of his making that remark, but it is nonetheless sure he did. What a sneak! And do you know, over the last 15 years of audio and videotapes I have listened to, Farrakhan almost never forgets to sing the praises of Abraham and Moses. He actually credits Judaism for being the font of monotheism that begat both Christianity and Islam!

I’m really happy to see you taking up the Ashcroft cause, Rich, and doing it so well. Readers of the National Review at least will be informed, even if readers of the Times will remain in the dark. How about, though, you helping me roll back these new standards as they apply to Farrakhan. I don’t know about you, but all my other conservative friends (except that well-known Arab, Bob Novak) — will have nothing to do with checking out Louis Farrakhan.

I’d asked Farrakhan if he would be willing to sit down with the editors of the Times and talk about what he really thinks, and he said he would be happy to do so. Just name the time and place! Alas, those liberal fink hypocrites at the Times told me no dice. They did not see any point.

But, Rich, I asked my friends at the Wall Street Journal if they would sit still for a meeting with Farrakhan, and they also said no dice. They weren’t going to risk being condemned by the Anti-Defamation League for hanging out with a known anti-Semite the way Tim Russert was for having Farrakhan on “Meet the Press.”

I was told by the Journal guys they would only meet with him if it was cleared by the editors of the Jewish weekly Forward. So I asked Farrakhan if he would meet with the Forward editors and he said, “Anytime you say so, Jude.” But the editors of the Forward said he could not come to their editorial offices. It would not be kosher.

Now I am actually afraid to suggest he meet with you folks at the National Review. You are probably in enough trouble already because of the case you’ve made against Ashcroft’s hypocrisy. Come to think of it, I may have gotten Ashcroft into deeper trouble with the world’s greatest deliberative body for reminding you about his dinner with Farrakhan in 1997.

Please forget the whole thing.

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