Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Ding Dong, the witch is dead

Ashcroft testifies before Congress in 2003 Posted by Hello

Well, he's not really a witch, but Attorney General John Ashcroft has resigned. That's either wonderful news, because it means someone more reasonable and less crazily conservative will get that job (probably shouldn't count on that from the Bush administration). Or it's terrible news because someone even more conservative and worse, more competent, will get the job.

Ashcroft was at least partly responsible for the gem known as The Patriot Act, which gives the government permission to electronically snoop wherever it wants to. He was a big proponent of sweeping everyone who looked Arabic into prison and keeping them there for months with very little indication of wrongdoing. He also was personally offended by the bare breast of a statue that stood behind him during Justice Department briefings, spending thousands on a drape to cover her appalling Greek nudity.

The fact that Ashcroft even won the post was surprising, considering that he wasn't a popular member of the Senate and he wasn't even that well-liked in his home state, Missouri. He lost his bid for reelection to a dead man, Gov. Mel Carnahan, who died tragically in a small plane crash with other members of his family just weeks before the 2000 election.

According to CNN and the New York Times, possible candidates to replace him are Rudy Giuliani, former New York Mayor, Marc Racicot, former Bush campaign manager, and Alberto Gonzales, White House counsel. The most-favored candidate is former assistant AG Larry Thompson. Thompson just took a lucrative post at Pepsi, so why would he come back unless a) he really believes he owes the country his public service or, more likely, b) his ego likes the idea of being on the news every other day. And who would blame him? Ego makes the world go round. Or at least places like Washington, New York and Los Angeles.

President Bush recently joked with Thompson during a celebration of the anniversary of the Patriot Act in Buffalo: "We miss you over there. Don't get too comfortable up here."

The administration is supposed to announce a successor fairly soon, indicating that he (or she) has been lined up for a while. It was well-known that Ashcroft was going to resign, since neither he nor Bush apparently was happy with Ashcroft in the job. Ashcroft was too controversial and polarizing for even Bush.

Thompson wouldn't arrive with a squeaky clean record. According to the Times: "Mr. Thompson, who has been a visiting professor at the University of Georgia law school and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington, came under scrutiny in 2002 when a conservative public interest group, Judicial Watch, filed a lawsuit that accused Mr. Thompson of helping artificially inflate the stock of the Providian Financial Corporation when he was a director there. Mr. Thompson, who made at least $1 million from the sale of his stock, denied any wrongdoing. "

If Martha Stewart does it, she goes to jail. If administration officials do it, they get promoted.

In any case, this is an opportunity for the Bush Administration to install an AG that understands both the need to fight terrorism and the need to preserve the American people's constitutionally-given rights to make their own decisions about how they exercise their civil liberties. I wish I had more faith that this is an opportunity that will be taken.

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