When I heard the news, I went out to buy a bottle of champagne. I came back with a bottle of vodka instead, but regardless of the method, the idea was the same; I was going to get blasted celebrating the retirement of a man who, during his time, gave me more reason to question the first Bush administration than George Bush himself. America, this week you are a little bit safer. John Ashcroft has tendered his resignation. This column is dedicated to reflecting on Mr. Ashcroft’s term in office as the Attorney General of the United States.
Some may remember Mr. Ashcroft as the Missouri senatorial candidate that lost in 2000 to Democrat Mel Carnahan, who died three weeks before the election. When a majority of Missouri voters picked a dead guy over Ashcroft, George Bush should’ve realized something was up. Instead, he invited the man into his cabinet.
Over the last four years, Ashcroft is singled out primarily for two things: the USA PATRIOT Act and his constant condemnation of anyone who went against his policies.
For those unfamiliar with it, the USA PATRIOT Act is a bill penned in the immediate aftermath of September 11. As summarized by Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.), Mr. Ashcroft’s creation’s signaled a “loss of commitment in the Congress and the country to traditional civil liberties.” Feingold, like most intellectuals, sees the PATRIOT acts as one of the most unconstitutional pieces of legislature in modern history.
Feingold states that “there is no doubt that if we lived in a police state … that allowed the police to search your home at any time for any reason … that allowed the government to open your mail … that allowed the government to hold people in jail indefinitely based on what they write or think, or based on mere suspicion that they are up to no good, then the government would no doubt discover and arrest more terrorists.” He concludes, however, that it “would not be a country in which we would want to live. And that would not be a country for which we could, in good conscience, ask our young people to fight and die. In short, that would not be America.”
Ashcroft will also be remembered for his lack of understanding for the American system of government. Ashcroft has repeatedly implied that anyone who questions his policies is helping the terrorists. In his first public statement since announcing his resignation, Ashcroft attacked the whole of the judicial branch of government for questioning the decisions of the executive branch and the president.
It is shocking to hear the Attorney General of the United States make a statement that basically negates the whole system of checks and balances all Americans are told about from the time they’re in first grade. For his whole term in office, Ashcroft has basically gone back to the politics of Sen. Joseph McCarthy and managed to label anyone who doesn’t agree with his ideas to be un-American.
Ashcroft’s resignation this week was coupled with the bold-faced lie that “the objective of securing the safety of Americans from crime and terror has been achieved.” For one, every candidate in the recent elections understood the war on terror is far from over and that Americans are still at risk. To believe otherwise is an exercise in naivety.
If Ashcroft really believes he has made Americans safer, it’s because he follows the ideology that some people witnessed in Afghanistan. The Taliban made Afghanistan safer, but in the words of one Afghani quoted in Peter Bergen’s Book “Holy War Inc.,” “You can be safer in a prison.”
With Ashcroft gone, maybe America can get back to remembering and respecting that piece of parchment called the Constitution. Goodbye John. And good riddance.
-The writer, a sophomore majoring in international affairs, is a