Is Sen. John Ashcroft, R-Mo., President-elect George W. Bush’s choice
for attorney general, an enemy of civil rights?
To paraphrase President Clinton, this depends on your definition of
“civil rights.” Webster’s defines civil rights as “Those rights
guaranteed to the individual by the Constitution; the right to vote,
exemption from involuntary servitude, and equal treatment of all people
with respect to the enjoyment of life, liberty, and property and to the
protection of law.”
About Ashcroft’s selection, NAACP President Kweisi Mfume said, “It is
outrageous for President-elect Bush to select someone who has
consistently opposed civil rights and affirmative action to be
responsible for enforcing the nation’s laws. Ashcroft has one of the
Senate’s most negative voting records on civil rights. He received a
grade of ‘F’ on each of the last three NAACP report cards because of his
anti-progressive voting record, having voted to approve only three of 15
legislative issues supported by the NAACP and other civil rights
For liberals, Ashcroft’s biggest liability remains his pro-life
ideology. When will liberals learn that well-intentioned people of honor
and integrity believe that the “unborn” deserve preserving? When will
liberals understand that “pro-choice” and “liberal” are not necessarily
synonymous? On abortion, as with vouchers, busing, and the privatization
of Social Security, the NAACP ignores the black rank and file. Polls
consistently show blacks siding with pro-lifers. The Watkins Group, a
black pro-life organization, says, “Our findings strongly indicate that
black Americans are not supporters of abortion. When interviewed
regarding the issue of abortion, black women overwhelmingly oppose
abortion, and black men are even more vehement in their opposition.”
Now, let’s analyze the 12 “civil rights” issues that Ashcroft voted
against. For ideological reasons, Ashcroft opposed the nominations to
federal judgeships of non-conservatives Ronnie L. White, Marsha Berzon,
and Richard A. Paez. Civil rights issues?
Ashcroft opposed a bill mandating that the federal government hire
more teachers. Opponents believed, for ideological reasons, that the
Constitution denies the federal government a role in education.
Ashcroft opposed expanded hate crime legislation. Even some civil
libertarians consider hate crime legislation unconstitutional, arguing
that such laws punish thought and make certain crime victims more
important than others.
Ashcroft opposed a bill to address the “disproportionate number of
minorities in the juvenile justice system.” Perhaps Ashcroft felt that
the disproportionate number of minorities in the juvenile justice system
reflects a disproportionate number of minorities committing crimes.
Ashcroft voted against expanding gun control legislation, specifically
laws regarding gun show background checks.
Ashcroft also opposed the so-called “Patients’ Bill of Rights,” as
well as a measure to “preserve” the Community Reinvestment Act. This
reflects Ashcroft’s ideological opposition to greater government
involvement in health care and banking. He voted against a minimum wage
increase — laws, for what it’s worth, that Nobel laureate economist
Milton Friedman calls “one of the most, if not the most anti-black law
on the statute books.”
Finally, two of Ashcroft’s votes on this legislative hit list pertain
to the impeachment of President Clinton. A civil rights matter? How
crazy does it get? In Los Angeles, the mostly Hispanic janitors went on
strike. Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy came to town and sided with the
janitors. At a rally, Kennedy, bullhorn-in-hand, yelled, “This is a
civil rights issue.” Oh.
The same anti-Ashcroft crowd claims to love “diversity.” In 1992,
they cheered when presidential candidate Clinton said, “I want an
administration that looks like America.” Clinton proceeded to pick a
“diverse” cabinet, composed of not only white males, but females and
But look at Clinton’s “power positions,” those with clout and
influence, such as attorney general, secretary of state, secretary of
defense, chief of staff, press secretary, national security adviser,
White House counsel, and chairman of the Board of Economic Advisers.
Notice anything missing? In nearly eight years in office, Clinton failed
to appoint a single black to any of the so-called power positions. Not
Compare Clinton’s “diversity” with that of President-elect George W.
Bush’s announced administration choices. Bush nominated former chairman
of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Colin Powell, a black, to the position of
secretary of state. Bush tapped Condoleezza Rice, a black woman, to
serve as national security adviser. Bush also selected Alberto Gonzales
for the influential position of White House counsel.
But never mind. For Bush selected that “vile” conservative, Missouri
Sen. John Ashcroft for the position of attorney general. Under Sen.
Kennedy’s expanded, nouveau definition of “civil rights,” Ashcroft’s
nomination becomes, voila, a “civil rights issue.”
It’s gonna be a long four years.