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Letters to the Editor

Ashcroft's extremist right-wing politics too radical for attorney general post

Laura Vanderkam '01 is correct in her Jan. 10 column titled "A Conservative, Not a Zealot" when she states that a wide variety of liberal activist groups have "declared war" on former Sen. John Ashcroft and his nomination for attorney general. Yet her insistence that Ashcroft merely represents typical conservative values overlooks some of the most disturbing aspects of his ideology. Liberal groups are upset about Ashcroft not because he is a dedicated conservative, but because he represents an extremist form of right-wing politics that is incompatible with a position such as attorney general.


As Vanderkam states, it would be hard to imagine a conservative attorney general who deviated from an anti-abortion and anti-gun control stance. But in both of these respects, Ashcroft's opinions are extreme. While President Bush, for example, supports abortion in cases of incest and rape, Ashcroft's views on abortion are so sweeping that he is even in favor of banning certain varieties of contraceptives. As for gun control, Ashcroft has received an "A" rating from the National Rifle Association because of his total commitment to opposing legislation such as the proposed ban on assault weapons. Furthermore, Ashcroft possesses an "insurrectionist" interpretation of the Second Amendment, meaning that he believes the Constitution protects militia groups that stockpile weapons in case the need to violently overthrow the government ever arises. I should hope these are not mainstream conservative views.

In regard to the allegations that Ashcroft is a bigot, I agree with Vanderkam that there is little substance to the charge that Ashcroft denied a black judge a seat on the federal bench because of racist motivations. A more troubling fact, however, is that in 1999 Ashcroft accepted an honorary degree from Bob Jones University, a school that prohibits interracial dating and whose faculty members have described Catholicism as a cult. President-elect Bush also accepted an honorary degree from Bob Jones, but he later issued a public apology for doing so, claiming that he was unaware of the school's policies. Ashcroft issued no apology, but instead sent Bob Jones a Christmas card stating that his visit was the highlight of his year.

Vanderkam's column does a good job of making liberals look silly, but only by conveniently leaving out key facts concerning Ashcroft's background. Liberal groups have no need to "invent a litany of sins" regarding Ashcroft. His actual views and political career speak for themselves. Jeremy Sher '01