Carol Platt Liebau: Thank you, John Ashcroft

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Thank you, John Ashcroft

Late this afternoon, the news broke that the Attorney General had resigned.

Of all the members of the Bush cabinet, John Ashcroft has been treated the most harshly and unfairly. The spin continues even as The New York Times reports on the resignation. (Big surprise).

The opprobrium has been unjustified (see a very refreshing defense of Attorney General Ashcroft here). In fact, most of us will likely never know all the measures and all the tough calls the Justice Department has had to make over the last three years -- and how much those calls have mattered in keeping us safe from terrorism.

Why has Attorney General Ashcroft been treated so unfairly? Two reasons: (1) His firm conservative views; and (2) His religiosity. He is a member of the Assembleys of God, and does not drink or dance. For his critics (many of whom are among the congenitally anti-religious), those facts alone are deeply threatening.

But the portrait that has been painted of him is deeply flawed and entirely misleading. Through my limited contact with him (I served as a consultant on Crime and Judiciary issues for his 1994 Senate campaign), I came to respect John Ashcroft deeply. He is a kind man with a sense of humor -- a good Dad, and a good husband.

And he is a public servant who takes the public trust seriously. When I first interned on Capitol Hill (spare me the jokes) for Senator Bond of Missouri (another excellent public servant!), I was shocked to find Senate employees sitting around in the lunchroom at about 10:30 am, having a coffee break and smoking cigarettes. After all, you wouldn't find that in the private sector. But John Ashcroft treated the taxpayers' money with respect -- he ran his office as though it was part of the private sector, without the wastefulness and sloth that can be found a little too often in some parts of government.

And unlike too many elected officials, who hire only from among the ranks of donors' children, he was committed to excellence when it came to hiring staff. John Ashcroft worked hard himself, and attracted a staff that was just as committed to public service. Several of them are my friends from my old days in Missouri politics -- and if all government employees were like them, even small government conservatives would find nothing to complain about. They are people of honor, who have well served an honorable man.

It seems that John Ashcroft is one of those politicians who works hard and achieves much without any real recognition. In a sense, he's the anti-Clinton (who did little but achieved a lot of recognition along the way). He has stood by his religious principles and he has lived his faith.

John Ashcroft is not perfect. But America has been blessed to have him during these trying times, whether many Americans realize it or not. History will be kind to John Ashcroft.


Blogger Theo p. said...


My sentiments exactly. Although I could only observe the AG from a distance, John Ashcroft was an excelent public servant in my estimation. He also took the brunt of the row kicked up by the hard but neccesary shift in the Security Civil Protections balance after 9/11. I hope he has a chance to rest and enjoy his family then on to new and better things. Supreme Court?

12:25 PM  

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