I must admit to some grudging appreciation of Attorney General John Ashcroft.
First, I feel compelled to list some complaints against his Justice Department upfront. For starters, in his first months on the job, he let his IRS absolutely steal a church — seized by force of arms, specifically the Indianapolis Baptist Temple. This was, to put it mildly, unconscionable. This seems particularly inexcusable for a supposed evangelical Christian. On the other hand, you could consider it a mitigating factor that he merely seized the building, rather than burning it down with the congregants inside. I suppose that constitutes an improvement over the previous AG. That's really setting the bar rather too low, though.
Also, he's got people out trying to prosecute plain old porno - using the Patriot Act. I guess he's fighting the insidious porno-terrorists. Shut the hell up. Are there no real crimes needing investigated? Don't you people have some Al Qaeda cells to monitor?
I'm not real thrilled with his gung-ho support of the Patriot Act in general. It's not the Third Reich or anything, but this unquestioning support of a badly put together gobbledygook expansion of police powers doesn't indicate the greatest care for constitutional liberties.
Please excuse me if I seem a bit overly suspicious. For the sake of argument, let's say we trust Ashcroft's good will not to abuse these new powers. I'm just not thrilled with what kind of precedents and expanded powers for abuse are going to be handed to the next Janet Reno that comes down the pike.
Lastly in complaints, he's got Tommy Chong in a federal prison for selling glass pipes. If the Bush administration has something for Tommy Chong, it should be an arts award at the Kennedy Center, not jail time.
Moreover, Ashcroft is just plain creepy. Watching him, I get the idea that he doesn't go home and unwind: kiss the wife, have a little drink and some dinner and a video. He's all dark and dour and obsessive.
I saw him testifying before a senate committee June 8 or 9, dryly detailing various scenarios of possible terrorist attacks. I had visions of him sitting in a rocking chair in the dark for hours by himself, obsessively gaming things out night after night, having Revelations of the Apocalypse, like John on the Isle of Patmos.
Then they got to the real meat of the hearings, with Democrats grilling him about news reports saying that his people had written advisory memos for the president and/or the military suggesting something like that there might be some loopholes or leeway in laws against "torture." Ashcroft absolutely LAUGHED at the question, before politely and repeatedly deflecting the question- executive privilege or whatnot. There's your answer: non-denial. Actually, that seems like a pretty clear answer to me.