No Great Conservative Hope

Email Print
FacebookTwitterShare

Ted
Kennedy, whose belief in federal corpulence corresponds to his own
indulgence, opposes John Ashcroft's confirmation as Attorney General.
Senator Chappaquiddick's opposition tends to be a trusty indicator
of sound policy. (Look at what a fine justice Clarence Thomas turned
out to be.) Alas, a reasoned assessment of Ashcroft's suitability
requires more investigation than Senator Chappaquiddick's views.

Ashcroft
looks like a solid man of the right: pro-rule of law, anti-affirmative
action, even respectful of the ephemeral Confederate republic. He's
probably the most conservative nominee individuals on the right
can expect, and there's the rub in this hullabaloo.

Joseph
Farah of World Net Daily writes, "Ashcroft is a good man, a
decent man, a man of principle, character and virtue." I don't
take issue with any of this and particularly respect Ashcroft's
familial affection, especially for his wife. ("After rebuffing
me several times, my persistence overcame her better judgment. She
has stuck with me for thirty-three years. Members of the Committee,
her name is Janet Ashcroft. I'm privileged to have her with me today.")

Unfortunately,
Ashcroft on the whole does not emerge as uniquely or even predominantly
conservative. Consider this anaphora in his opening statement:

"No
American should be denied access to public accommodations or a
job as a result of a disability. No American family should be
prevented from realizing the dream of home ownership in the neighborhood
of their choice just because of skin color. No American should
have the door to employment or educational opportunity slammed
shut because of gender or race."

Ashcroft
subsequently cited these gubernatorial accomplishments: "I
signed Missouri's first hate crimes statute. By executive order,
I made Missouri one of the first states to recognize Martin Luther
King Day." He stated on the second day of his hearing, "Abraham
Lincoln is my favorite political figure in the history of this country."

Since
John Ashcroft is a good man of principle and character, I don't
believe he's dissembling, which means he's a far cry from mainstream
conservatism. (By mainstream, I mean philosophically, not operationally.)

We
can infer Ashcroft's support for the following laws from the previous
sentences:

"No
American should be denied access to public accommodations or a job
as a result of a disability" (The Americans with Disabilities
Act).

"No
American family should be prevented from realizing the dream of
home ownership in the neighborhood of their choice just because
of skin color" (The Fair Housing Act).

"No
American should have the door to employment or educational opportunity
slammed shut because of gender or race" (Titles II and VII
of the 1964 Civil Rights Act).

Ashcroft's
gubernatorial deeds become easy to understand in this light. It
would be ridiculous to call Ashcroft a leftist, but this record
cannot be reconciled with federalism or property rights. None other
than E.J. Dionne Jr. recently noted how "the Civil Rights Act
of 1964 consciously [emphasis added] overrode both states'
rights and property rights."

Like
the man who nominated him, Ashcroft is what may be termed a traditionalist
nationalist. They affirm a Biblical worldview and invoke the rhetoric
of conservatism (adding an alliterative quality to it, i.e., "compassionate
conservatism"). Their attractive syllables do not yield conservative
substance, though.

It's
indisputable that John Ashcroft considers Roe v. Wade to
have been improper adjudication and objects to quotas. It's also
indisputable that he accepts and defends an antidiscrimination apparatus
antagonistic to constitutional order and proprietary discretion.
As for his favorite American political figure, suffice it to say
Abraham Lincoln was less than superlative in preserving, protecting,
and defending the Constitution.

When
a Senator, Ashcroft approvingly quoted James Madison's observation
in Federalist No. 46 regarding "the advantage of being armed,
which the Americans possess over the people of almost every other
nation." He and the Republican Party in general would do well
to consider another piece of Madisonian wisdom from Federalist No.
54: "Government is instituted no less for protection of the
property than of the persons of individuals."

January
19, 2001

Myles
Kantor lives in Boynton Beach, Florida.

Email Print
FacebookTwitterShare
  • LRC Blog

  • LRC Podcasts