Thursday, February 1, 2001

The assault on John Ashcroft’s nomination for attorney general reflects the left’s growing intolerance of political diversity. The apostles of inclusion would consign social conservatives to second-class citizenship.

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted (largely along party lines) yesterday to send the nomination to the full Senate. For Republican nominees, the days when confirmation hinged on credentials and character are long gone.

Ashcroft is pro-life, anti-gay rights, in favor of the death penalty, opposed to racial quotas and skeptical about the need for more gun control. In the eyes of his critics, these positions (which happen to be the same as the man who nominated him) automatically disqualify the ex-senator.

“The background record of this nominee is not mainstream on the key issues,” charges Sen. Diane Feinstein, D-Calif. Thus, his views “make him an enormously divisive and polarizing figure.” Unlike, say, former Attorney General Janet Reno, who brought us together — over the ashes of Waco and the capture of Elian Gonzalez.

After a grueling 11 hours of interrogation at his confirmation hearings, Ashcroft was asked to answer more than 350 written questions. Since most of the committee members served with him for six years, you’d think they’d already have an inkling of where he stands.

The left insists that, as attorney general, Ashcroft can’t be trusted to enforce national abortion laws. Will he seek to overturn Roe vs. Wade, they anxiously ask? (By appointing himself to the U.S. Supreme Court?)

Savor the irony. They’re the ones who believe that conscience absolves them from obedience to the laws of the land, a principle they embraced during the ‘60s. We’re the ones who say, “Well, we may not like it, but until we can change it, it is the law.” Yet we have to swear that we won’t ignore statutes and rulings we find objectionable. They’re given a pass.

Contrast the Ashcroft inquisition with the treatment of Clinton nominees. From her tenure as director of the Arkansas Health Department, there was ample evidence that, as surgeon general, Jocelyn Elders would be a divisive and polarizing figure.

She was on record attacking Catholicism as a “celibate, male-dominated church” and sneering at right-to-lifers for their “love affair with the fetus.” It was obvious that Elders would use the office to proselytize for the Penthouse Forum philosophy — precisely what she did. Yet the Senate confirmed Elders by a vote of 65 to 34.

Reno was confirmed unanimously. No one demanded to know if she’d enforce the federal death statute, in light of her stated opposition to capital punishment.

The Florida Family Association complained that as state attorney for Dade County, Reno had a “deplorable record” of prosecuting pornographers, despite the state’s tough anti-obscenity laws.

None of the senators seemed interested in whether Reno — a free-speech absolutist — would enforce federal anti-porn statutes.

In fact, federal pornography prosecutions declined 86 percent in the Reno years. In its March 2000 issue, The Adult Entertainment Monthly boasted that the smut industry was enjoying “benevolent neglect … under Janet Reno.”

In a brief filed in U.S. vs. Knox, Reno’s Justice Department sought to make it harder to prosecute child pornography, a move that drew a unanimous rebuke by the Senate.

But, I forget — it’s only conservative social positions that are extreme. Those who defend a procedure that former Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan called “four-fifths infanticide,” believe there’s nothing unique about the union of a man and a woman, think capital punishment is murder but would make self-defense with a handgun a crime, and believe the way to combat racism is with racial discrimination are normal and inoffensive.

Liberals have decided that those who take the opposite positions — including John Ashcroft and a significant segment (in some cases a majority) of the American people — are, in the words of the American Conservative Union’s David Keene, “definitionally disqualified” from holding high appointive office.

The left hasn’t as yet figured out a way to keep us polarizing, divisive types from seeking elective office or voting. Give them time.

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