Sunday, January 07, 2001

Cynical agenda: Kicking Ashcroft

        If John Ashcroft did not exist, liberals would invent him. George W. Bush's nominee for attorney general is their perfect bogeyman.

        NOW can't tolerate Mr. Ashcroft's failure to approve of dismembering unborn children.

        The ACLU will accuse him of being a Christian.

        Gay groups loathe anyone who doesn't love “hate crime” laws.

        And Al Sharpton (look who's talking) dropped the “racist” dime on Mr. Ashcroft for not saluting affirmative action.

        In other words, Mr. Ashcroft is what most
Bush voters hoped for: a conservative. Get used to it.

        “The real game is to soften up the Bush administration and make them gun-shy when they send up nominees for the Supreme Court,” said Sen. Mike DeWine, R-Ohio, a Senate Judiciary Committee member.

        For a sample of the hysterical name-calling Mr. Ashcroft can expect, see the Bob Herbert column on Page 2. But here's a story you won't hear from the left-wing vigilantes who lynched Robert Bork and Clarence Thomas. I found it in clips from the News Tribune in Jefferson City, Mo.

        On Dec. 10, 1991, an ordinary nightmare of domestic violence went out of control in Jamestown, Mo., when James Johnson, a Vietnam veteran and expert marksman, beat his stepdaughter, held a gun on his wife, then shot a deputy who came to the door.

        “I'm in trouble now,” the killer told his family. Then he calmly stepped outside to finish off the moaning deputy, and went on a blood-spattered rampage.

        He fired through a picture window, killing his step-daughter's teacher as she was reading a Christmas story to a Bible study group in her living room. Pam Jones was also the wife of the county sheriff.

        Next he killed the sheriff of a nearby county and a woman deputy. Another deputy was riddled with bullets but lived.

        James Johnson lives, too, on death row in Missouri — a case for capital punishment if ever there was one.

        But one justice on the Missouri Supreme Court, Ronnie White, tried to overturn his death penalty.

        That outraged Missouri law officers enough to protest when Justice White was nominated by President Clinton to the St. Louis Federal District Court.

        A petition by Moniteau County Sheriff Kenny Jones, whose wife was killed by James Johnson, was signed by 72 of 114 county sheriffs. Several police chiefs and prosecutors also objected.

        And so did then-Sen. John Ashcroft, R-Mo., who said Justice White was a “pro-criminal” judicial activist who set a record for opposing executions.

        Missouri's other senator, Kit Bond, opposed the nomination after hearing from the sheriffs, and the Senate rejected Justice White on party lines.

        “It's very unusual that you have the bulk of the law enforcement in a state against a nominee, along with both senators,” said Sen. DeWine. “That just hardly ever, ever happens.”

        After the vote, the White House called it “a disgraceful act” and “strong evidence . . . that the Senate treats minority and women judiciary nominees unequally.” Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., accused Republicans of using “a color test.”

        Justice White is black. So Democrats played the race card. And now they can't wait to deal a whole deck of race cards to Mr. Ashcroft.

        As Missouri governor and attorney general, Mr. Ashcroft appointed several black judges. “Any reference that John Ashcroft is racist is so absurd you just laugh at it,” Sen. DeWine said.

        But the lynch mob is liquored up on 100-proof Old Demagogue, ready to kick some Ashcroft.

        “It's not about John Ashcroft,” Sen. DeWine said. “It's about liberal agendas. It will get pretty ugly.”

        Peter Bronson is editorial page editor of The Enquirer. If you have questions or comments, call (513) 5768-8301, or write to 312 Elm Street, Cincinnati, Ohio 45202.


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