ARC's 1st Law: As a "progressive" online discussion grows longer, the probability of a nefarious reference to Karl Rove approaches one

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

John Ashcroft rehabilitated

Jonah has an excellent article in NRO today, detailing political rehabilitation in modern day Washington, specifically with regards to John Ashcroft. Jonah delivers well deserved praise:

Former deputy attorney general James Comey’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee electrified Washington last week. With almost cinematic drama, Comey recounted a story of grasping Bush administration officials trying to badger then-attorney general John Ashcroft — in his hospital bed — into authorizing sweeping domestic-surveillance powers that had already been deemed unlawful by the Justice Department. Ashcroft strained to lift his head off the pillow and castigate then-White House counsel Alberto Gonzales and chief of staff Andrew Card for trying an end-run around Comey, the acting attorney general. Ashcroft and his aides reportedly threatened mass resignations if the White House didn’t address their concerns. President Bush apparently did that, defusing the crisis.
[...]
In 2001, Sen. Charles Schumer (D., N.Y.) led the Democratic opposition to Ashcroft’s nomination, casting Ashcroft as a terrifying religious zealot lacking the integrity, temperament and racial “sensitivity” to be attorney general. Last week, Schumer saluted Ashcroft’s “fidelity to the rule of law.” The liberal website Wonkette praised Ashcroft’s “heroic stand.” The Atlantic Monthly’s Andrew Sullivan, who has become a Jeremiah about the dangers of the Christian right that Ashcroft has long personified, dubbed him “an American hero.” Ashcroft’s rehabilitation was sealed by a Washington Post story about how the former AG was often the only firebreak against the Bush White House. Even Ralph Neas, the hyperpartisan president of People for the American Way, managed to mumble to the Washington Post that Gonzales had managed to make Ashcroft look like a “defender of the Constitution.”
[...]
In almost every way, Ashcroft was the Bush administration’s most exemplary Cabinet official. An undisputed hawk on the war on terror, he was nonetheless immune to the groupthink that has plagued the Bush White House. From the sound of it, that independence improved administration policymaking.

It also improved Bush politically. In his first term, Ashcroft was the face of the Christian Right in the Bush administration, serving as a valuable lightning rod, making Bush seem, and perhaps be, more reasonable. In his second term, Bush picked Gonzales, a quintessential yes man, to replace Ashcroft’s useful contrary voice. This only reinforced the bunker mentality that has so ill-served the White House.


I concur. John Ashcroft was precisely the man to have "on the scene" at the AG office on the morning of 9/11 and in the aftermath. The democrats using his "bedside stand" for political points against Gonzales is pure politics.

The final paragraph from Jonah is telling:
Lastly, history — even freshly minted history — has a remarkable way of erasing conventional wisdom. If in 2002 I had written that by 2007 Democrats would be singing Ashcroft’s praises as a man of integrity and sound temperament, I would have been laughed out of the room. Right now, predicting a rehabilitation of George W. Bush elicits similar guffaws from the same crowd. But the fact is, if Ashcroft can be rehabilitated, anyone can be.
Your Co-Conspirator,
ARC: Brian