Let's admit it: didn't we all kind of snicker when John Ashcroft had the statutes of Lady Justice covered up at the U.S. Department of Justice? Didn't we think that this was just typical of Ashcroft, to be more concerned about a nude statute than the civil rights of Americans? Well, it turns out that John Ashcroft was an Attorney General who stood up to Bush, resisting this Administration's lawlessness on more than one occasion.
The Washington Post ran a story today about Ashcroft which points out that "Ashcroft also opposed holding detainees indefinitely at the U.S. military base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, without some form of due process. He fought to guarantee some rights for those to be tried by newly created military commissions. And he insisted that Zacarias Moussaoui, accused of conspiring with the Sept. 11 hijackers, be prosecuted in a civilian court."
He clashed with Duck Hunter Cheney and Rumsfeld and for his loyalty to the Constitution he was considered expendable by the Bushies. His replacement was a man who was more than willing to turn the Department of Justice over to the likes of Karl Rove. The result is a Department of Justice that is shot through with dissension, has a low morale, and is seeing experienced attorneys leave and being replaced by radical, right-wingers.
So, like Senator Charles Schumer who is quoted in the Post article, we must admit that we have developed a grudging admiration for Ashcroft. Was he conservative? Sure. Would he have been our choice for Attorney General? Not at all. But in his own way, John Ashcroft was dedicated to the rule of law, and that dedication puts light years ahead of Alberto Gonzales.