Ashcroft’s Record Too Extreme for Justice


Contact: Nathan Richter or Tracy Duckett at People For the American Way

Email: [email protected]

Phone Number: 202-467-4999

New Report Analyzes Votes & Views from His Senate Term

Washington, D.C. –

A review of just the last six years of Senator John Ashcroft’s record as a public official should be enough to lead the U.S. Senate to deny him confirmation as U.S. Attorney General and head of the nation’s Justice Department, according to a new report released here today by People For the American Way.

The 22-page report is entitled “The Case Against the Confirmation of John Ashcroft as Attorney General of the United States: Part One – An Overview of the Senate Years.” It examines votes and positions taken by Attorney General nominee Ashcroft from 1995 to the present as junior Senator from Missouri. It concludes that he has consistently put his allegiance to far right ideology before the interests and rights of the people and the nation and concludes that he has failed to demonstrate a deep commitment to equal justice under the law, respect for individual rights and the Constitution, and sensitivity to the injustices suffered by women and minorities – all qualities that should be considered a prerequisite for the nation’s top lawyer and principal enforcer of civil rights and other federal laws.

“John Ashcroft is the wrong man for the job,” said Ralph G. Neas, President of People For the American Way. “His record places him at the far right edge of the political spectrum, out of the conservative mainstream within his own party. On the key criterion of commitment to equal justice under the law, Ashcroft’s record simply does not measure up to the standards the American people have a right to expect from the person entrusted with protecting their rights and their Constitution. John Ashcroft’s record shows him to be a man who has not earned the people’s high trust but has used his power and position to advance a far right agenda at the expense of Americans’ fundamental rights and liberties.”

The report examines Ashcroft’s Senate record, focusing especially on issues that would be likely to come before him if he were to be confirmed as Attorney General, both in his role of bringing cases to and through the courts and as a participant in the screening and selection of federal judicial nominees, including nominees to the Supreme Court.

The criticisms leveled at Ashcroft in the report include:

He distorted and misrepresented the record of a highly qualified African American Missouri Supreme Court Judge, Ronnie White, and misled his colleagues in the Senate in order to sabotage White’s nomination to a federal district court.
He has led attempts to amend the Constitution and pass legislation that would virtually eliminate a woman’s reproductive rights by banning abortions, even for rape and incest victims.
The abortion ban he proposes is so extreme that it could be used to outlaw widely accepted and commonly used birth control methods including the Pill and IUDs.
He engaged in extremist rhetoric to enforce an anti-abortion litmus test against a highly qualified African American physician, Dr. David Satcher, who, despite Ashcroft’s attacks, won confirmation by a two-thirds majority as Surgeon General in 1998. During the Senate debate on Dr. Satcher’s nomination, Ashcroft accused him of being “someone who is indifferent to infanticide.”
Similarly, abortion was the litmus test Ashcroft applied in helping to block Dr. Henry Foster’s confirmation as Surgeon General in 1995.
He employed another litmus test issue, affirmative action, to help block a full Senate vote on the nomination of Asian American Bill Lann Lee as Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights, a position under the direct supervision of the Attorney General.
Ashcroft has opposed legislation designed to end workplace discrimination (the Employment Non-Discrimination Act) and to protect vulnerable groups of Americans against hate crimes (the Hate Crimes Prevention Act).
He has given public praise to the far right magazine Southern Partisan, a neo-Confederate fringe publication that promotes the view, among others, that slavery was beneficial to the enslaved Africans.
He cast the sole vote in 1999 against a continuing resolution to keep the federal government running and has voted with big tobacco, with gun manufacturers, and against a national drunk driving standard.
He consistently receives top ratings and endorsements from far right groups such as the National Rifle Association and the Christian Coalition, a distinction conferred only on their most dependable allies.
Ashcroft takes a cavalier attitude toward the Constitution, as evidenced by his frequent efforts to amend it. In just six years in the Senate he introduced or sponsored seven attempted amendments. One of the most radical of these was one he proposed in 1996 that would have changed the Framers’ original framework in order to make it much easier to amend the Constitution, thus opening the way for disastrous political and ideological mischief.
The National Journal wrote that, “Ashcroft’s record in 1997 and 1998 put him in a tie as the most-conservative Senator, according to the National Journal’s rankings.” According to that analysis, Senator Ashcroft was even farther to the right than Jesse Helms.

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