John AshcroftMuch like the Nazis in Casablanca, John Ashcroft enjoys a good song -- as long as people remember their place.
Even before September 11, Attorney General John Ashcroft was a disaster waiting to happen. An evangelical fanatic with an agenda, Ashcroft was a man with a dream, or perhaps we should call it a vision, or perhaps it would be more accurately described as an undeniable mandate from God.
After sitting Senator Ashcroft lost his seat to a dead man, Mel Carnahan -- the first time in history this has ever happened -- President George W Bush decided to elevate Ashcroft from his indignity. The collective cringe could be heard all across America, from women, gays, blacks, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, supporters of civil rights, doctors, people who enjoy having sex, Methodists...
And if there's anything worse than an attorney general with an apocalyptic messiah complex, it's an attorney general with an apocalyptic messiah complex at a time when infidels have declared a holy war on America.
And if there's anything worse than THAT... it would have to be an attorney general who writes inspiratational songs and forces his staff to sing them daily, an attorney general whose father anointed him in a messianic ritual when he took office, an attorney general who drafted the biggest rollback of individual rights in American history and is already planning a sequel...
Jesus Loves Me... But I'm Not So Sure About YouUnderstanding John Ashcroft starts and probably ends with the Assembly of God, the evangelic Christian sect that spawned him. In his autobiography, Ashcroft said he woke every morning to a "magisterial wake-up call" of his preacher-father's noisy prayers.
Among the Assembly of God's teachings: Homosexuality is evil and causes disease; Christians should not make friends with non-Christians; people should avoid all "sexually suggestive forms of media and entertainment"; speaking in tongues is a necessary component of salvation; Jesus isn't just coming, he's coming to take over the world; mixed-gender dancing leads to evil and should be avoided; and government and laws should be predicated on the teachings of the Christian bible.
Some verbatim quotes from the Church's teachings include:
Principles in PracticeSure, you might argue that this sort of doctrinal dissection could be applied to just about any religious person in politics, and you'd be right.
Except that unlike most politicians, Ashcroft fervently believes every word of it and is willing to put that belief ahead of political expediency. It's just our luck that the one principled politician in the history of the United States would have to have principles like these.
"The source of freedom and human dignity is the Creator," Ashcroft testified to a Bible-thumping audience of religious broadcasters in February 2002. "The guarding of freedom that God grants is the noble charge of the Department of Justice." No, sir! You won't catch John Ashcroft getting blow jobs from interns in the cloakroom! You're much more likely to find him accepting mandates from God in the sort of ritual one associates with the Freemasons.
Every time Ashcroft has stepped up to take a political office, he has been anointed with holy oil "in the manner of King David," as he specified in his autobiography. His father did the job during his terms as a Senator. On one occasion, the 24-hour quickie mart was out of holy oil, so Crisco was substituted at the last minute. When Ashcroft was selected to be Attorney General, reputed porno-purveyor Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas did the honors.
The religious significance of anointment (particularly in the context of King David) is a little broader than one would like -- the word "Messiah" means "anointed one" in Hebrew, based on Old Testament prophecies, and is also widely considered a signpost relevant to the second coming of Christ.
Another of Ashcroft's highly principled acts involved a crackdown on public nudity. The bare-breasted lady in question was a statue of Justice. Ashcroft ordered curtains hung in the Justice Department's press room in order to remove the giant iron nipple which loomed so salaciously, enticingly, over his head. (Good thing Michelangelo's David wasn't looming back there. Sexual provocation and homoerotic subtext is a twofer in the Assembly of God...)
Then there's the music (one of the few "fun" things allowed under Assembly precepts). While in Congress, Ashcroft took part in a barbershop quartet called "The Singing Senators," but his commitment to musical excellence didn't end there.
In the post-September 11 environment, Ashcroft decided to inspire his Justice Department employees by starting each day with song. But such godless standards as the "Star Spangled Banner" just wouldn't suffice. Ashcroft wrote his own song, "Let the Eagle Soar," and forced his hapless subordinates to join him in a daily caterwaul of defiance to such outmoded concepts as "separation of church and state":
"Let the eagle soar,
When interviewed by a British paper, an anonymous Justice Department lawyer summed up her objections to this cruel and unsusual practice thusly: "Have you heard the song? It really sucks."
A Self-StarterBut Ashcroft's crusade doesn't start and end with making an ass out of himself in harmless and amusing ways. The Attorney General is deadly serious about his job.
When the conservative with a messiah complex took office, a lot of people were understandably concerned, based on his track record, that these would be dark years in such areas as abortion rights, gay rights, civil rights, affirmative action, anti-trust, environmental and corporate crime, and so on. Amazingly, Ashcroft managed to give us bigger problems to worry about.
After 9/11, Ashcroft flew like a bat out of heaven to "repurpose" the Justice Department for what he perceived as a new and excitingly apocalyptic reality. Ashcroft's enthusiasm couldn't be contained. He was so eager to start his crusade that he didn't even bother to consult with his boss before making the announcement.
"Defending our nation and defending the citizens of America against terrorist attacks is now our first and overriding priority," Ashcroft said in early November 2001, as he laid out his plan to reorganize the department for the voracious Washington press corps.
The new Justice Department would no longer bother with such trivial tasks as enforcing and interpreting federal law, ensuring the rights of citizens, protecting consumers and keeping rein over big business. Terrorism was now Job One, and Jobs Two through Eleven as well.
A couple days later, CNN's Larry King asked Ashcroft whether he had discussed this sweeping reorganization plan with Bush before announcing it. Whoops! Ashcroft carefully explained that Bush "noted" the announcement after the fact. "I don't want to say that the president and I have conferred about every aspect of this," he said.
And really, why would the president want to micromanage a little project like a total re-invention of America's federal justice system? He's a busy man!
PATRIOT GamesAshcroft's greatest -- uh, let's go with "highest profile" -- accomplishment to date was the rolling back of individual rights by several decades, under the guise of fighting terrorism.
The provisions of the PATRIOT Act taken as a whole are enough to make civil libertarians scream; the average citizen can usually find at least one provision worthy of alarm. Sponsored by the Bush administration, the PATRIOT act gave sweeping new powers to Ashcroft and his department, including:
Ashcroft has yet to even convict "20th hijacker" and raving lunatic Zacarias Moussaoui, who is representing himself. Moussaoui's court filings, handwritten on legal paper, tend to run along such lines as "Ashcroft must be sent to Alexandria jail so I can torture him. After all torture is now part of the American way of life," complaints about his lack of Internet access and requests to travel abroad in search of evidence which will exonerate him.
Moussaoui's trial has been indefinitely postponed because the defendent called witnesses who are currently being held incommunicado and without charge by the federal government, which doesn't want to cough them up.
John Ashcroft may be one hell of a singer, but he's been legally outmanuevered by a madman with virtually no knowledge of the U.S. justice system -- even as Ashcroft is angling to ask for an incease in his already unprecedented power to subvert due process and constitutional protections. What's wrong with this picture?