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The horrendous fight over the nomination of John Ashcroft to become attorney general of the United States was a good thing. It was an important victory over the forces of radical liberalism. It exposed ruptures and fault lines in the ranks of the Democrat Party. And it demonstrated that Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle no longer has the iron-fisted control that he exercised time and again during the last eight years. The vote was 58 for Ashcroft and 42 against.

As is their wont, the Democrat leaders declared victory after losing. They claimed they had achieved everything they wanted in the nomination fight. They said their opposition was a “shot across the bow” to keep Ashcroft “honest” and to warn President Bush what would happen if he dared to nominate a conservative judge to the Supreme Court.

These assertions are rationalizations. In the first place, Ashcroft is already “honest.” That is one of the problems they have with him. And President Bush already has the 51 votes he needs to confirm his choices for the Supreme Court. Democrat threats of a filibuster are hollow. They will not want to run the risk of being seen as partisan obstructionists.

The Democrats did not fire shots to deliver a warning; they fired shots to sink the ship. They wanted to destroy Ashcroft just as they destroyed Judge Robert Bork.

The inflammatory lies and innuendoes Ted Kennedy used against Ashcroft are echoes of his infamous accusations against Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork. His words against Bork ushered in a new era of McCarthyism. They are worth repeating for their historic value and to provide insight into how liberals execute the politics of personal destruction.

On the Senate floor in 1987, Edward Kennedy said, “Robert Bork’s America is a land in which women would be forced into back-alley abortions, blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters, rogue police could break down citizen’s doors in midnight raids, schoolchildren could not be taught about evolution, writers and artists would be censored at the whim of government, and the doors of the federal courts would be shut on the fingers of millions of citizens for whom the judiciary is often the only protector of the individual rights that are the heart of our democracy.”

But this time, the scurrilous demagoguery of guilt by association, the mass protests, the lies and the manipulation did not carry the day. The best efforts of the paid character assassins and the Democrat nightriders did not prevail. This time it didn’t work.

Perhaps the greatest value of the confirmation brawl was that it brought into clear view that a majority of Democrat senators are, when the chips are down, little more than puppets of special interest groups organized around left-wing zealotry.

Who are the puppeteers pulling the strings? We now have a list. On Jan. 30, 2001, Mark Levin, president of the Landmark Legal Foundation, sent a letter to Sen. Patrick Leahy with questions about the closed meeting between Democrat Senate staffers and a group of “over 200 national organizations opposed to the nomination of former Senator John Ashcroft for attorney general of the United States.”

Levin noted, “Among other things, the group established a lobbying committee.” According to Federal law, organizations that receive federal funds are prohibited from lobbying activity. Nevertheless, at least 18 of the organizations present at this anti-Ashcroft meeting received more than $150 million in federal funds over a four-year period from 1996 through 1999.

Among these 18 organizations are some familiar ones, including the American Bar Association, American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, National Council of Jewish Women, National Education Association, NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund, Planned Parenthood and the Sierra Club.

Levin asked Sen. Leahy “whether these non-profit organizations, with your encouragement, are using tax-exempt funds or federal funds to lobby senators.” Levin sent copies of his letter, with exhibits, to the Internal Revenue Service, the Tax Division of the United States Justice Department and the Senate Select Committee on Ethics.

It has now been made perfectly and irrefutably clear that what these organizations have against Ashcroft is not that he is a religious man, but that he takes his religion seriously. They do not fear him because he will not defend the Constitution, but because he will; they do not fear him because he will not scrupulously enforce the law, but because he will; and they do not fear him because he has flexible and accommodating moral values, but because he does not.

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