Ron Paul's Texas Straight Talk - A weekly Column

January 22, 2001

The Ashcroft Controversy Exposes Disdain for Conservative Principles

The Senate conducted hearings this week concerning the nomination of John Ashcroft for the position of Attorney General in the Bush administration. As anticipated, the debate has been rancorous and bitterly partisan. The longstanding practice by the Senate of generally approving cabinet nominees, thus allowing a new President the spoils of his victory, has eroded almost completely in the past two decades. The old standard for Senate approval simply was competence for the job, without regard to a nominee's personal politics. Mr. Ashcroft clearly is competent and very highly qualified for the job of Attorney General. In the new era, however, his political views are the primary focus of his opponents. Certain Senators, special interest groups, and the media have made it quite clear: the left will attack and characterize as unfit for high public office anyone who adheres to conservative principles. Their true goal is to create a precedent for the automatic disqualification of future cabinet nominees who disagree with their view of the proper role of the federal government. "Will he enforce all the laws?" they intone endlessly. What they really are asking is: "Will he question our efforts to continually expand the size and scope of the federal government?"
The real question for Mr. Ashcroft or any federal official is simple: will you abide by your oath to uphold the Constitution? The rhetoric from the Senate and the media leads the public to believe the Attorney General has a duty to Congress directly, that he must enforce any law passed by Congress without regard to the Constitution or legal precedents. In truth, however, the Attorney General is counsel for the American people, not Congress or the President. He is sworn to uphold the highest law in the land, the Constitution. Under no circumstances may he enforce a law that clearly contravenes the Constitution, regardless of whether Congress or the President demands it. Would we expect Mr. Ashcroft to enforce a law passed by Congress today suspending First Amendment assembly and speech rights at this weekend's inauguration? Of course not. The possibility of an independent-minded conservative Attorney General threatens the left, however, because they want a federal administration which will rubber stamp the laws they support, many of which are unconstitutional.
The code word used by the left to attack Ashcroft's personal politics is extreme, which is repeated like a drumbeat until it is embedded in the minds of the public. We are told his views on abortion are extreme because he "opposes a women's right to choose," despite the utter lack of any such right in the Constitution, and despite the agreement of millions of Americans with Mr. Ashcroft. We are told he is extreme because he opposes some gun control laws, despite the obvious unconstitutionally of all gun control laws. We are told his support for the death penalty is extreme, although millions of Americans and the Supreme Court disagree. Worst of all, the left has gotten away with using "extreme" as a code word for "racist." The exceedingly thin "evidence" given for the racism allegation is that Ashcroft once voted against the nomination of a federal judge who happened to be black. Never mind that more than 50 other Senators voted with Ashcroft; the left is all to eager to assure us that the only conceivable rationale is that Ashcroft is a racist. This type of smearing, aided and abetted by a complicit media, is at the heart of the left's efforts to demonize conservatives who dare oppose their unconstitutional agenda.
The left will continue to attack those who adhere to a belief in limited constitutional government, in an attempt to redefine "mainstream" politics in America. The pattern is simple: the left continually moves its agenda to the left, fooling America that the center must move with them. Americans like John Ashcroft may be the victims of this unfortunate trend.