Along the Tracks

Friday, August 08, 2003

Dissatisfaction with Ashcroft

Rumblings of dissatisfaction with the way John Ashcroft has handled his duties as attorney-general are rolling through the blog community. The Left, of course, has hated Ashcroft from the start - he’s a devout Christian, after all. Libertarians had some misgivings early as well, and those have been confirmed by the way Ashcroft has handled his job, regularly overruling states in enforcement situations where state and federal law do not align, seeking greater investigative and prosecutorial powers through the Patriot Act and its spin-offs, and strong-arming some plea bargains in terror cases by threatening more serious charges or even turning them over to military tribunals.

Now, conservatives are beginning to come around to the idea that Ashcroft needs to go. The federalism issues and apparent priorities are key here. The “drug war” continues to eat up budget dollars to little effect while Ashcroft tells us there are al Qaeda agents in the U.S. who he can’t find. Now he’s cracking down on porn. I’m not necessarily suggesting there is no place for holding drug dealers responsible, and child pornographers should be locked up forever and a day - but, as the president so regularly tells us, we are at war, and I would think that war gets top priority, including domestic efforts to root out terror cells.

The wild accusations of liberals insulated Ashcroft from a lot of criticism on the right - for a time. But his actions are catching up to him. Last December, during the Trent Lott blowup, Joshua Micah Marshall found a Southern Partisan interview with Ashcroft that was, in my opinion, twice as bad as anything Lott had stated to the magazine - and Ashcroft’s interview came 15 years later! At that point, I was ready to ditch him too. His record as AG has been mixed at best, and the “mix” includes both heavy-handed tactics which threaten civil liberties for ordinary Americans, and a prioritization which comes not from the daily threat assessments, but from the weekly sermon. I have no problem with Ashcroft’s faith - I happen to be a Christian myself - but he’s been appointed to do a job for his country, not for his faith. He’s not meeting that charge.

If not Ashcroft, then who?

Glenn Reynolds (Instapundit) suggests “a William French Smith type who won’t be a magnet for controversy.” That’s a good idea, but with Washington’s partisan polarization, I wonder if such a figure even exists. How about a different tactic - someone who is in the spotlight, and likes it? How about someone who has a strong record in both criminal prosecution and in leadership? How about someone who has great poll numbers - in fact, considered a hero? How about a former Time Magazine Man of the Year?

You guessed it: Rudy Giuliani.

Rudy wants to run for president in ‘08, and a top job in the War on Terror would be a great springboard. George W. seems to have no problem surrounding himself with marquee talent - in fact, I think he likes to be out of the spotlight. His appointees know who is in charge, and that’s good enough for him. Giuliani would be a media magnet, but a popular one, mitigating the mud-throwing which will inevitably come from the left.

The one fly in this ointment is family loyalty. Jeb Bush is almost certain to seek the GOP nod in ‘08, and Giuliani is likely to be a (maybe the) key competitor. Would George W. give Rudy a stage and a chance to prove himself nationally when he knows that could hurt his brother’s odds at winning the nomination?

Only time will tell.

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