Statement of Ralph Neas, On the Senate Vote to Confirm John Ashcroft as U.S. Attorney General

We are grateful for the 42 Senators who did the right thing and not only voted to oppose John Ashcroft's confirmation but also helped to explain to the American people why this was a bad nomination. Every one of those votes had to overcome two powerful traditions within the U.S. Senate - deference to the president on cabinet nominations and Senatorial courtesy toward a former colleague.

I am exceptionally proud of the work that the progressive coalition did in analyzing John Ashcroft's public record and in making our case that John Ashcroft is the wrong man for this job. Never before has such a broad coalition come together in such a short period of time, or done so much work to educate the public and help people get their voices heard. People For the American Way delivered petitions from nearly a quarter of a million Americans opposed to the confirmation of John Ashcroft - and tens of thousands more letters, postcards, e-mails, and phone calls came from other coalition groups.

Together we changed the debate. We pointed out John Ashcroft's very disturbing record on civil rights, reproductive rights, environmental protection, equality for gay Americans, and more.

And we pointed out the many ways in which John Ashcroft's testimony under oath was at odds with the facts of his own public record.

Today is not the end of our work together. During the past five weeks, the progressive coalition has sent an exceptionally strong message to President Bush: When his administration tries to turn back the clock on our rights and freedoms, we will stand and fight.

People For the American Way is launching eyeonbush.org. We will remember the promises made by John Ashcroft and other nominees. We will look closely at the people who are put in positions of power.

And we are going to be very very busy. It is becoming clear that the White House Counsel's office and the Department of Justice are being turned over to Federalist Society lawyers - a bastion of the far-right legal thought that is reflected on the Supreme Court in Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. From these important power bases within this administration, the far right will wield enormous influence over nominations to the federal courts and the administration's legal agenda. Clearly this administration is staking out a position well to the right of both the first Bush administration and the Reagan administration.

Turning back the clock is their specialty. Standing up and fighting for constitutional rights is ours.

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