The Case Against the Confirmation of John Ashcroft As Attorney General of the United States: Part II

Appointments and Nominations

While Governor of Missouri, particularly during his first term, Ashcroft was criticized for favoring political friends and campaign contributors in making judicial and executive appointments. For example, Edward D. "Chip" Robertson, Jr. was Governor Ashcroft’s chief of staff and had served as a top deputy when Ashcroft was Missouri Attorney General. When appointed by Ashcroft to the Missouri Supreme Court, Robertson was 33 years old, had been out of law school for only eight years, and had no judicial experience. Ashcroft chose Robertson over two other highly qualified candidates who were sitting appellate court judges.

In 1989 a survey by the National Women’s Political Caucus revealed that Ashcroft was the only governor in the country with an appointed Cabinet that did not include any women, ranking Ashcroft last among the nation’s governors. In 1990, after serving as Governor for five years, Ashcroft had one woman in his Cabinet.

With respect to the appointment of African Americans, Ashcroft’s record was mixed. Ashcroft supporters have released a 1991 letter from an African American bar association thanking Ashcroft for appointing an African American woman to an appellate court post, stating that "there is still much that needs to be done to increase the number of minorities and women on the bench," and stating that the appointment and Ashcroft’s record in the area are "positive indicators of your progressive sense of fairness and equity." Other Missourians, however, have criticized Ashcroft on this score. A former member of one judicial commission commented that the judicial selection process was "still a white male bastion." The head of the National Association of Blacks Within Government noted in 1988 that there was one black member in Ashcroft’s cabinet, but that in "most offices in Jefferson City, it’s an ocean of whiteness."

In 1985, Governor Ashcroft nominated Springfield, Missouri newspaper columnist Joan Hart to the Missouri Commission on Human Rights, the agency responsible for enforcing the state’s anti-discrimination laws. The nomination provoked much criticism, since Hart had taken extreme right wing positions in her columns. For example, Hart claimed that the ERA would "not provide equality, only enslavement to the feminist philosophy." She opposed abortions, favored prayer in public schools, supported elimination of Miranda warnings, and referred to "radical feminists and homosexuals" as "anti-family groups." She wrote that Rev. Jesse Jackson had a "lack of intelligence in believing that the American people would ever consider him a viable candidate for any public office."

The conclusion is inescapable: John Ashcroft should not be entrusted with the safeguarding of Americans’ most precious and fundamental rights and freedoms. He should not be confirmed as Attorney General of the United States.

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