John Ashcroft's first year as attorney general has mirrored the rest of his decades in public life. He has aggressively promoted his right-wing ideology at the expense of the Constitution. He has undermined the constitutional framework of checks and balances, scorning judicial review and congressional oversight of the executive branch. He has used the power of his office to undermine constitutional rights and freedoms and to bully opponents into acquiescence or silence. And he is supporting efforts to achieve right-wing dominance of the entire federal judiciary, the critical first step in the far right's efforts to turn back seven decades of legal and social justice progress.
There is no doubt that the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 and the subsequent anthrax attacks through the mail have made the attorney general's job even more difficult and demanding. But they have also made the job even more important. At this critical point in the nation's history, we need an attorney general who is deeply committed to the Constitution and to the values of our free society.
In January 2001, it was clear that John Ashcroft was the wrong person for the job. In January 2002, the threats posed by Ashcroft as attorney general are even clearer. Extensive and intensive action to monitor Attorney General Ashcroft's activities, and to challenge them when necessary, is crucial to protecting our civil rights and civil liberties.