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John Ashcroft on Civil Rights

Former Attorney General; Former Republican Senator (MO)


Don’t scare people with phantoms of lost liberty

Ashcroft faced a senate panel that would, he expected, ask him some impertinent questions about his department’s emerging draconian policies. Ashcroft memorably declared, “To those who scare peace-loving people with phantoms of lost liberty, my message is this: your tactics only aid terrorists, for they erode our national unity and diminish our resolve. They give ammunition to America’s enemies, and pause to America’s friends. They encourage people of good will to remain silent in the face of evil.”
Source: Fanatics and Fools, by Arianna Huffington, p. 63-4 , Apr 14, 2004

USA Patriot Act is respectful of civil liberties

Gore called for the repeal of the USA Patriot Act. “These constant violations of civil liberties promote the false impression that those violations are necessary in order for them to take every precaution against another terrorist attack,” Gore said. “But the simple truth is that the vast majority of these violations have not benefited our security at all; in fact, they have hurt the effort to improve our security.”

“I believe that the Patriot Act has turned out to be, on balance, a terrible mistake, and that it became a kind of Tonkin Gulf Resolution conferring Congress’ blessing for this president’s assault on civil liberties,“ Gore charged.

In a series of speeches this year, Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft defended the administration’s actions as being respectful of civil liberties and effective in disrupting potential terrorist attacks. ”The Patriot Act,“ Ashcroft said this summer, ”gives us the technological tools to anticipate, adapt and outthink our terrorist enemy.“

Source: Ronald Brownstein, Los Angeles Times , Nov 10, 2003

As Attorney General, upholds law; no longer an advocate

Sen. Schumer [to Ashcroft]: Will you now use, as United States attorney general, that office to continue crusading against those you passionate and fervently disagree with? Senator Ashcroft, the issue boils down to this: When you have been such a zealous and impassioned advocate for so long, how do you just turn it off?

A: I know that if confirmed, on my shoulders will rest the responsibility of upholding American justice, a tradition that strives to bring protection to the weak, freedom to the restrained, liberty to the oppressed and security to every citizen.

I understand the responsibility of the attorney general’s office, I revere it, I am humbled by it. And if I am fortunate enough to be confirmed as the attorney general, I will spend every waking moment, and probably some sleeping moments as well, dedicated to ensuring that the Justice Department lives up to its heritage, not only enforcing the rule of law but guaranteeing rights for the advancement of all Americans.

Source: Senate confirmation hearing , Jan 17, 2001

No American should suffer based on skin color

From racial profiling to news of unwarranted strip searches, the list of injustice in America today is still long. Injustice in American against any individual must not stand. This is the special charge of the US Department of Justice. No American should be turned away from a polling place because of the color of her skin or the sound of his name. 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 homeownership 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. And no woman should fear being threatened or coerced in seeking constitutionally protected health services. I pledge to you that if I’m confirmed as attorney general the Justice Department will meet its special charge: injustice against individuals will not stand, no ifs, ands or buts, period.
Source: Senate confirmation hearing , Jan 17, 2001

Opposed Ronnie White on qualifications, not on skin color

Some have suggested that my opposition to the appointment of Judge Ronnie White, an African- American Missouri Supreme Court judge, to a lifetime term on the federal bench was based on something other than my own honest assessment of his qualifications for the post. As governor, I was the appointing authority for judges. I exercised the power with special care to promote racial diversity on the Missouri bench. [In the Senate] I voted to confirm 26 out of 27 African- American judicial nominees.

My opposition to Judge White was well-founded. Studying his judicial records, considering the implications of his decisions and hearing the widespread objections to his appointment from a large body of my constituents, I simply came to the overwhelming conclusion that Judge White should not be given lifetime tenure as a US District Court judge. My legal review revealed the troubling pattern of his willingness to modify settled law in criminal cases. 53 of my colleagues reached the same conclusion.

Source: Senate confirmation hearing , Jan 17, 2001

Against affirmative action

Ashcroft is against affirmative action, and opposed the nomination of Bill Lann Lee as President Clinton’s civil rights chief, citing Lee’s support for the policy. He’s also reviled by black leaders for spearheading a movement to shoot down the appointment of a black Missouri judge, Ronnie White, to the federal bench. But Ashcroft’s stance on issues like voting rights, racial profiling and alleged voting irregularities in Florida remains unclear.
Source: ABCnews.com, “An Ashcroft Justice Department” , Dec 23, 2000

Blocked appointment of black judge in Missouri

Ashcroft’s single-handed campaign to block African-American Missouri judge Ronnie White from getting a U.S. District Court seat angered black voters. Ashcroft only got 17 percent of the black vote in November’s senatorial election, and his support among self-described moderates also slipped.
Source: ABCnews.com, “An Ashcroft Justice Department” , Dec 23, 2000

Voted NO on expanding hate crimes to include sexual orientation.

Vote on an amendment that would expand the definition of hate crimes to include gender, sexual orientation and disability. The previous definition included only racial, religious or ethnic bias.
Reference: Bill S.2549 ; vote number 2000-136 on Jun 20, 2000

Voted NO on setting aside 10% of highway funds for minorities & women.

Vote to table, or kill, an amendment to repeal the Disadvantaged Business Enterprise [DBE] Program, which requires no less than 10% of highway construction projects funded by the federal government to be contracted to 'disadvantaged business enterprises'
Reference: Bill S.1173 ; vote number 1998-23 on Mar 6, 1998

Voted YES on ending special funding for minority & women-owned business.

This legislation would have abolished a program that helps businesses owned by women or minorities compete for federally funded transportation.
Status: Cloture Motion Rejected Y)48; N)52
Reference: Motion to invoke cloture; Bill S.1173 ; vote number 1997-275 on Oct 23, 1997

Voted YES on prohibiting same-sex marriage.

The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA): Vote to prohibit marriage between members of the same sex in federal law, and provide that no state is required to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states. Define 'marriage' as 'between one man and one woman.'
Reference: Bill HR 3396 ; vote number 1996-280 on Sep 10, 1996

Voted NO on prohibiting job discrimination by sexual orientation.

Would have prohibited job discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Status: Bill Defeated Y)49; N)50; NV)1
Reference: Employment Non-Discrimination Act; Bill S. 2056 ; vote number 1996-281 on Sep 10, 1996

Voted YES on Amendment to prohibit flag burning.

Approval of a constitutional amendment which would prohibit desecration or burning of the U.S. flag.
Status: Joint Res. Defeated Y)63; N)36
Reference: Flag Desecration Bill; Bill S. J. Res. 31 ; vote number 1995-600 on Dec 12, 1995

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Page last updated: Jul 12, 2013