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Jewish World Review Jan. 22, 2001 / 27 Teves, 5761

David Limbaugh

David Limbaugh
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Consumer Reports


Ashcroft: Principle above self


http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- WHAT IS IT that liberal interest groups and certain Democratic senators fear about a Bush-Ashcroft Justice Department? What is driving Ted Kennedy to threaten a filibuster against Ashcroft's confirmation?

Though there seems to be a subtle charge of racism in the air, Democrats are denying any such implications. "It's the rule of law they're worried about," they say. Given Ashcroft's "extreme views," will he be able to enforce laws with which he strongly disagrees?

I think it's fair to ask, with all due respect, about the Senate Democrats' newfound affinity for the rule of law. I don't want to be sarcastic here, but these are the same senators who, without exception, consistently refused to bring Clinton to account. They all but ridiculed Republicans for their stodgy invocations of "the rule of law."

These senators haven't been worried about enforcing the existing campaign finance laws during the past eight years, nor the existing gun laws. Rampant violations of both are instead used as ammunition in fighting for yet more laws.

No, it's not the rule of law they are agonizing over; it's not law enforcement. It's using the law and our political institutions to selectively enforce the laws to which they are ideologically wedded. They certainly don't advocate vigorous enforcement of laws with which they disagree.

Indeed, Attorney General Janet Reno, whom the Senate unanimously confirmed, virtually turned the Justice Department into a political rather than a law enforcement institution. The examples, from Waco to Elian to the latest alleged collusion with the IRS to thwart the Independent Counsel's investigation of another Clinton appointee, Henry Cisneros, are too numerous to detail in this column.

Regardless, we mustn't dismiss out of hand their stated concern about the rule of law, which is a legitimate concern. The proper response from Ashcroft supporters is not that turnabout is fair play, that Republicans are now in power so they are entitled to selectively enforce and politically interpret the law. It is that they will put the interests of the law above the interests of their party. They will strive to make the office of the attorney general and the Department of Justice exemplars of that which it is their solemn duty to dispense: equal justice under the law.

So senators -- including Democratic senators -- have every right, indeed a duty, to ensure that the nominees they confirm for attorney general, among other positions, will dispassionately enforce the law. Most Senate Republicans certainly agree, which is why they fiercely opposed Clinton's appointment of Bill Lann Lee to head the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department.

Lee was committed not to enforcing the law, as set out by the courts, but as he believed it ought to be. Sen. Hatch and others rejected Lee's nomination because they believed that he would use the power of his office to impose race-based employment preferences, even though the United States Supreme Court has all but outlawed them. Lee, during his illegal tenure in the position, has vindicated the senators' concerns. Senate Democrats, it should be noted, were unconcerned with Lee's unique approach to civil rights law enforcement -- which is to say his insistence, in some cases, on enforcing laws deemed unconstitutional by the United States Supreme Court.

But what about John Ashcroft? Are Democrats' anxieties about him legitimate? Emphatically not, if it is truly a commitment to the rule of law they seek. Ashcroft himself gave the clearest answer as to why he represents no threat to the rule of law. He testified that there was absolutely no way his principles could interfere with his willingness or duty to enforce the law, because enforcing the law was among his highest principles. That, my friends, is a quintessential affirmation of the rule of law.

Ashcroft reveres the law itself. He deeply believes that we are a nation of laws, not men, meaning that the law is bigger than he is, that the Constitution and the rights it guarantees are more hallowed than his own personal opinions.

What Senate Democrats most fear is that John Ashcroft will operate the way some of their appointees do -- subordinating the rule of law to his political ends -- only on the opposite ideological pole. If Ashcroft were so inclined, they would be justified in opposing him, notwithstanding their hypocrisy. But he isn't. So they should withdraw their objections and ratify President Bush's appointment of this honorable man.



JWR contributor David Limbaugh is an attorney practicing in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, and a political analyst and commentator. Send your comments to him by clicking here.

Up

01/17/01: Justice for Riady?
01/15/01: Ashcroft: A hill to die on
01/10/01: Returning to the supply side
01/08/01: Reasons for optimism
01/03/01: Bush's daunting challenges
12/28/00: Ashcroft: A triumph for the rule of law
12/26/00: A tinge of revenge?
12/20/00: GOP: Breaking the race barrier
12/18/00: Civility doesn't require surrender
12/13/00: Al Gore: Innocent victimizer
12/11/00: Judicial restraint and ordered liberty
12/06/00: The four years war
12/04/00: Debunking Gore myths
11/29/00: Defending the smaller principles
11/27/00: Albert O'Gore and the little people
11/22/00: Doing 'anything to win'
11/15/00: Enough is enough, Mr. Gore
11/13/00: Al Gore: Thy country or thyself?
11/08/00: Bill and Al: Your time is up
11/06/00:The impending Bush mandate
11/01/00: Can't stop thinkin' 'bout tomorrow
10/30/00: George: Give Gore the ball back
10/25/00: Mr. Gore: A few more questions
10/23/00: It's the big government, stupid
10/18/00: Gore's down, so will he panic?
10/16/00: We're fresh out of new Al Gores
10/11/00: Gore: Fuzzy math = dirty politics
10/10/00:Gore: Renaissance man or unbalanced?
10/04/00: Where have you been, Albert Jr.?
10/02/00: Clintonís fragmented presidency
09/27/00: Liberal media doth protest too much
09/25/00: AlGore: Turning dreams into nightmares
09/20/00: Something fishy's going on
09/18/00: It's the liberalism, stupid
09/13/00: An open letter to open-minded cynics
09/11/00: The virtues of going negative
09/06/00: On a mission for marriage
09/04/00: Al Gore's 'Trivial Pursuits'
08/30/00: Lieberman and the paradox of liberal 'tolerance'
08/28/00: A campaign divided against itself
08/23/00: Al Gore's trickle-down populism
08/21/00: Prosperity without a clue
08/16/00: AlGore can run but he can't hide
08/14/00: When hate speech is OK
08/09/00: Bush: The pundits' enigma
08/07/00: GOP convention: Live or Memorex?
08/02/00: The first attack dog
07/31/00: The Cheney taint?
07/26/00: The anti-gun bogeyman
07/24/00: The raging culture war
07/19/00: Is Hillary 'Good for the Jews'?
07/17/00: How dare you, George?
07/12/00: Jacoby's raw deal
07/10/00: The perplexities of liberalism
07/05/00: Big Al and big oil
07/03/00: Partial-birth and total death
06/28/00: Some questions for you, Mr. Gore
06/26/00: Supreme Court assaults religious freedom
06/21/00: Waco: We are the jury
06/19/00: "Outrage" just doesn't quite cut it anymore!
06/14/00: Al Gore: Government's best friend
06/12/00: Say goodbye to medical privacy
06/07/00: Elian: Whose hands were tied?
06/05/00: Who, which, what is the real Al Gore?
06/01/00: Legacy-building idea for Clinton
05/30/00: Clinton: Above the law or not?
05/24/00: Not so fast, Hillary
05/22/00: Gore's risky, fear-mongering schemes
05/17/00: Can Bush risk pro-choice running mate?
05/15/00: Right to privacy, Clinton-style
05/10/00: Patrick Kennedy and his suit-happy fiddlers
05/08/00: Don't shoot Eddie Eagle
05/03/00: Congress caves to Clinton, again?
05/01/00: The resurrection of outrage
04/28/00: A picture of Bill Clinton's America
04/19/00: President Clinton: Teaching children responsibility
04/17/00: Elian, Marx and parental rights
04/12/00: Elian, freedom deserve a hearing
04/10/00:The fraying of America
04/05/00: Noonan: End Clintonism now
04/03/00: Bush: On going for the gold
03/29/00: Phantasma-Gore-ia
03/27/00: Treaties, triggers, tobacco and tyrants
03/22/00: Media to Bush: Go left, young man
03/20/00: Stop the insanity
03/15/00: OK Al Gore: Let's go negative
03/13/00: Deifying of the center
03/08/00: The media, the establishment and the people
03/01/00: McCain's coalition-busting daggers in GOP's heart
02/28/00: Bush's silver lining in McMichigan
02/24/00: A conservative firewall, after all
02/22/00: Bush or four more of Clinton-Gore?
02/16/00: Substance trumps process
02/14/00: The campaign finance reform mirage
02/09/00: President McCain: End of the GOP as we know it?
02/07/00: From New Hampshire to South Carolina
02/02/00: SDI must fly
01/31/00: Veep gores Bradley
01/26/00: The issues gap
01/24/00: GOP: Exit, stage left
01/20/00: Nationalizing congressional elections
01/18/00: Do voters really prefer straight talk?
01/12/00: Media's McCain efforts may backfire
01/10/00: Conservative racism myth
01/05/00: Just one more year of Clintonian politics
01/03/00: McMedia?
12/27/99: Al Gore: Bullish on government
12/22/99: Bradley's full-court press
12/20/99: Bush: Rendering unto Caesar
12/15/99: Beltway media bias
12/13/99: White House ambulance chasing
12/08/99: Clinton's labor pains
12/06/99:The lust for power
12/01/99: In defense of liberty
11/29/99: Are Republicans obsolete?
11/24/99: Say you're sorry, Mr. President
11/22/99: Architects of victory
11/17/99: Trump's tax on freedom
11/15/99: GOP caves again
11/10/99: Triangulation and 'The Third Way'
11/08/99: Sticks and stones
11/03/99: Keyes vs. media lapdogs
11/01/99: Signs of the times
10/27/99: The false charge of isolationism
10/25/99: A matter of freedom
10/20/99: Clinton's mini-meltdown
10/18/99: Senate GOP shows statesmanship
10/13/99: Senate must reject nuclear treaty
10/11/99: Bush bites feeding hand
10/06/99: Jesse accidentally opens door for Pat
10/04/99: Clinton and his media enablers
09/29/99: Reagan: Big-tent conservatism
09/27/99: The Clinton/Gore taint?
09/22/99: Have gun (tragedy), will travel
09/20/99: Hillary's blunders and bloopers
09/15/99: GOP must remain conservative
09/13/99:Time for Bush to take charge, please
09/10/99: Bush's education plan: Dubya confounds again
09/07/99: Pat, savior or spoiler?
09/02/99: Character doesn't matter?
08/30/99: Should we judge?
08/25/99: Dubyah's drug question: Not a hill to die on
08/23/99: Should Dubyah start buying soap ... for all that mud?
08/16/99: 'W' stands for 'winner'
08/11/99: The truth about tax cuts
08/09/99: Hillary: Threading the needle
08/04/99: What would you do?
08/02/99: No appeasement for China
07/30/99: Hate Crimes Bill: Cynical Symbolism
07/26/99: Itís the 'moderates', stupid
07/21/99: JFK Jr. and Diana: the pain of privilege
07/19/99: Smith, Bush and the GOP
07/14/99: GOP must be a party of ideas
07/12/99: Gore's gender gap
07/08/99: Clintonís faustian bargain: our justice
07/06/99: The key to Bush's $36 million
06/30/99: Gore: a soda in every fountain
06/28/99: 'Sacred wall' or religious barrier?
06/23/99: GOP must lead in foreign policy
06/21/99: Crumbs of compassion
06/16/99: Compassionate conservatism: face-lift or body transplant?
06/10/99: Victory in Kosovo? Now What?

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