Ashcroft, Kennedy, Reno And Racial Justice

Ashcroft, Kennedy, Reno And Racial Justice
Posted by FoM on January 18, 2001 at 20:31:13 PT
By Arianna Huffington
Source: Arianna Online
The best news about the Ashcroft confirmation hearing is that, at least, we are not talking about his nanny. It's high time we stopped assuming that the only legitimate way to challenge a nominee is through the unearthing of private scandals -- drink, drugs, sordid sex and the occasional undocumented Mary Poppins. Instead of indulging in the politics of personal destruction, let's by all means engage in the politics of personal convictions and drop the pretense that the Senate's ``advise and consent'' does not extend to a nominee's beliefs. 
It is much more edifying -- and healthier for our democracy -- to be debating Ashcroft's political philosophy and record than to hear the reasons why he sings but doesn't dance. I worked with John Ashcroft in the mid-1990s when he was on the board of The Center for Effective Compassion, which I had co-founded to help develop community solutions to fighting poverty. At the time, he was a leader in the Renewal Alliance, a caucus of 30 Republican senators and congressmen committed to addressing neglected social problems, and the architect of the charitable choice provision in the welfare reform bill. Not bad. Nothing in our interactions prepared me for his acceptance of an honorary degree from Bob Jones University in 1999 or his defense of the Confederacy in Southern Partisan magazine in 1998. But Ashcroft made those decisions, and such decisions matter. Discussing them is not a ``personal attack.'' My surprise was compounded by the memory of a conversation I wrote about during the 1996 presidential campaign in which Ashcroft criticized Bob Dole for turning down an invitation to speak in front of the NAACP, and stressed how important it was for Republicans to reach out to African Americans. Since I'm convinced that no policies under the purview of the Justice Department will have a deeper impact on African Americans than how we conduct the war on drugs, what most troubles me about Ashcroft's nomination is his medieval perspective on our disastrous drug policies and his willful blindness to their consequences. After all, among his official duties as the country's chief law enforcement officer would be overseeing the Drug Enforcement Agency. Yet here is a sampler of his drug war record: champions mandatory minimums, even co-sponsoring bills that expand them; opposes ending the crack and powder cocaine differential; favors interdiction over treatment, going as far as voting against a treatment-funding bill co-sponsored by Strom Thurmond and Orrin Hatch -- hardly a cabal of bleeding-heart liberals. Even a Ford Administration retread like Donald Rumsfeld told Congress at his confirmation hearing that illegal drug use is ``overwhelmingly a demand problem'' and that our current focus on interdiction is misguided. More troubling still is the fact that, as governor of Missouri, Ashcroft allowed his state police to keep the proceeds from forfeited drug assets that were supposed to go to public schools. Even after a 1990 Missouri Supreme Court decision found their actions to be in violation of the state Constitution, the police continued to keep money earmarked for education by turning its forfeiture cases over to federal law enforcement, which would seize the funds and then generously kick back a share of the booty. In 1998, the U.S. Court of Appeals found that the Missouri Highway Patrol and the Drug Enforcement Agency had ``successfully conspired to violate the Missouri Constitution.'' ``President-elect Bush,'' Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., said during his questioning, ``has asked us to look in Senator Ashcroft's heart. ... But actions speak louder than words.'' That, of course, is completely true. But one of the greatest ironies of the controversy surrounding Ashcroft is that on the watch of the current attorney general, the number of African-American men in state prisons has doubled, and we have been incarcerating black men at eight times the rate of white men. I'm only looking at Janet Reno's actions, not her heart -- but if her record were Attorney General Ashcroft's, does anyone doubt that it would be presented as proof positive of his racism? The Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that a black male born today has a one in four chance of serving time in state or federal prison. It is fair to ask Senator Ashcroft what he would do to reverse the trend in the racially discriminatory sentencing that has escalated in the last decade. But it is equally fair to ask the current attorney general whether Ashcroft's friends at Southern Partisan could have come up with a more destructive policy for African Americans than her own department? Race, we have been told, will be the determining issue in the Ashcroft nomination battle. The problem is that if we judge by results rather than intentions -- as Sen. Kennedy asked us to do -- our criminal justice system is unequivocally racist. I know that it's not the attorney general's job to change unjust laws. But given how many of our drug laws are unjust, shouldn't we be looking for someone to head the Justice Department who, at the minimum, is cognizant of that fact? And who will, therefore, allocate the department's limited resources accordingly? That would rule out John Ashcroft -- but it would also rule out Janet Reno. If only Zoe Baird had paid her nanny on the books. Source: Arianna OnlineAuthor: Arianna HuffingtonPublished: January 18, 2001Copyright: 2001 Christabella, Inc.Mail: 1158 26th Street, P.O. Box 428 Santa Monica, CA 90403Contact: arianna ariannaonline.comWebsite: Articles:Cops Said Ashcroft Agreed To Look The Other Way Ashcroft Roll Back Drug Policy Reform? to a Failing War on Drugs
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Comment #2 posted by cya on January 20, 2001 at 06:15:05 PT
Earth Mother
Arianna, I watched you on Riveria Live the other night and I must say you look beautiful since you threw away your make-up white pearls and harsh red coat. I could'nt belive geroldo said we will talk about the drug war later. You are great the way you dont let them change the subject. Keep up the good work. PS will you marry me? :)
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Comment #1 posted by kaptinemo on January 19, 2001 at 07:23:45 PT:
Once again, she's bang on target.
If I didn't stand foursquare against involuntary servitude of any sort, I'd start a movement to draft Ms. Huffington for a Cabinet position. God knows, with the choice of partly to fully-ossified gray matter that the B2 Administration is coming up with to stock it's Brain Trust, she could run rings around 'em.
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