Editorial: Ashcroft hearings a bit fishy

Former Missouri Sen. John Ashcroft shouldn't be crucified for his decision not to appoint Missouri Supreme Court Judge Ronnie White to a federal judgeship. And he shouldn't lose the appointment to U.S. attorney general because of his position on abortion.

The debate about President-elect George W. Bush's nominee for attorney general has taken the place of election coverage on news broadcasts and front pages across the country. And it should, but not for the reasons stated above.

Much of the national media, several liberal organizations and many Democratic politicians are treating Ashcroft like he's a man-eating shark. He's not — a piranha, yes, but not a man-eating shark.

Many have taken to calling the former Missouri governor, attorney general and senator a racist. They base those opinions on Ashcroft's push against the nomination of White, a black man, to a federal district judgeship. Ashcroft's position on this nomination may have been politically motivated, but it wasn't racist. White said as much at the Senate Judiciary Committee's hearing this week. And Ashcroft supported 26 other black judicial nominees.

Many Ashcroft opponents also point to the politician's stance on abortion, which he opposes in all cases except when the life of the mother is at risk. Although this belief goes against the current law of the nation, it shouldn't lead senators to oppose his nomination.

Attorney General Janet Reno is staunchly opposed to the death penalty, but many agree that her stance did not impede her duties in the past eight years. She upheld the law of the land even though she disagreed with it. There is no reason to believe Ashcroft wouldn't do the same. Besides, if Ashcroft's nomination is killed, there is little doubt Bush will nominate another abortion opponent.

But again, Ashcroft is no mere goldfish.

Although many have given him undeserved heat, the Republican has been under some much-deserved fire.

As Missouri's attorney general, he tried to prevent nurses from distributing contraception in state health clinics. This was clearly an abuse of his powers, as well as a move not in line with Missouri law.

Ashcroft also has given an interview to a magazine sympathetic to the Confederacy, in which he said the magazine was doing a lot for the country and he wished he could follow its lead.

Although many side with the Confederacy solely in its fight for states' rights, does this country really want its top cop defending a group that was known for its pro-slavery stance? Whether the Civil War was mainly about slavery is something for history professors to argue, but politicians should know better than publicly allying with a group commonly associated with racism.

There's no one reason the Senate shouldn't approve Ashcroft's nomination, but there is one main reason: He's a divider, not a uniter.

He's staunchly opposed many gun laws because, he says, guns are needed to protect people from a "tyrannical government."

More people in America didn't vote for Bush than did. The Senate is split between the two main parties and the House of Representatives is separated by just a few seats. This is not the time to appoint one of the most extreme conservatives to hold office in the past decade. At this point, after this election season, Bush should be looking to moderate conservatives to appoint to such major Cabinet positions, not to a man whose extreme religious beliefs forbid him even from doing the cha-cha.

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