- The Washington Times - Friday, January 19, 2001

John Ashcroft's public ordeal is almost over, and a good thing, too.

He promised to reinvent himself to bipartisan specifications, to leave Roe v. Wade alone, to learn to hate guns and obey all laws dear to Democratic hearts. He dutifully said he thinks slavery "abhorrent," as if who doesn't, applying a $2.98 adjective that Democratic panderers had not themselves thought to use. He even mused that if he had been a Missouri man back in 1861 he would have signed up to fight with Ulysses S. Grant against that scamp Robert E. Lee.

So eager is Mr. Ashcroft to please that if Arthur Murray calls he can probably sign up John and Janet Ashcroft for a crash course in how to dance the fox trot. One more day and John will even drink to that.

Maybe, with an evenly divided Senate boiling in a climate of ideological intimidation and partisan terror, this is the only way a man of conscience and character can assure himself of confirmation by a Senate infested with moral frauds. It's nevertheless enough to make an honorable man throw up, and a pity he can't throw up on Chuck Schumer and Teddy Kennedy (who probably wouldn't notice).

The Democratic obsession with waving the bloody shirt over an ancient war and an evil eradicated 135 years ago would astonish a rational man who does not understand the game. Not since the 1950s has Congress imposed a loyalty oath on candidates for office. Democrats opposed it then as an insult to free men, but John Ashcroft may yet be required to answer when the committee asks: "Are you now, or have you ever been, a slaveholder, and have you ever given aid and comfort to a Confederate soldier?"

Actually, the Democratic senators know the issue is a phony one, but with patronizing contempt they encourage ignorant and uninformed blacks to believe that unless John Ashcroft is stopped it's back to toting barges and lifting bales for everyone of a shade darker than Jennifer Lopez. Even if racists are running amok in the United States Senate, secretly organizing cells of the Ku Klux Klan, Chuck and Teddy and Patrick Leahy know that John Ashcroft is not one of them. If the ignorant can be frightened to the polls, why not? And who are the real racists here?

The man who wants to be attorney general could be forgiven if he is having second thoughts about participating in this smarmy exercise. Can any job be worth taking this kind of hazing? Having his moral code publicly audited by the likes of Teddy Kennedy in a Senate hearing, and by Barney Frank as a talk-show end man on national television, is as galling as it can get. The diminishing number of Democrats of good faith are humiliated as well, that their party is so bereft of qualified critics that the job must fall to a motley gang of slime-slingers.

Sen. Kennedy, puffed up like a swamp toad on steroids, poses as Sir Gallahad, riding to assist unwary pregnant women in search of abortionists. Pity the ladies. Much worse than unwanted pregnancies violent death and rape, for example can happen to women when Teddy wanders into the neighborhood. Barney Frank, rebuked only yesterday by his congressional colleagues for operating a whorehouse in his Capitol Hill apartment, gets to scold John Ashcroft on ABC-TV for not measuring up to Barney's high moral standard. Chuck Schumer derides the candidate's faith, suggesting that devout Christianity is enough to unhinge a man's mind. Joe Biden, spooked by the written word when his presidential candidacy in 1988 collapsed after he got caught stealing speeches from other pols and caught again lying about it, reproves the candidate for granting an interview to a magazine with "pro-Confederate" sentiments. Joe, like those congressmen who fled the Manassas battlefield a century and more ago with hats, handbags and picnic hampers flying, is forever looking over his shoulder. "The wicked flee when no man pursueth." (John Ashcroft can explain that to him.)

The slime-slingers brought in Judge Ronnie White yesterday to testify how Mr. Ashcroft wronged him by blocking his nomination to a federal judgeship, and told how as a boy in segregated St. Louis the white kids threw milk and food on him. What happened to Mr. White, said Teddy, "was 10 times worse than anything that's happened to Senator Ashcroft in the current controversy."

What happened to the young Ronnie White was indeed shameful, and we can all be thankful that the days when that kind of behavior was tolerated are behind us. It's an interesting concession by the senator from Massachusetts, that what he and the other Democrats did this week to John Ashcroft was at least 10 percent as bad as what happened to the child Ronnie White. The chief slime-slinger may feel a little shame himself.

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