SharksWithLasers -- Seth Cooper

A CUTTING-EDGE BLOG FOR THE WORLD OF THE 21st CENTURY, Currently operated by Seth L. Cooper, a 27 year-old attorney in Seattle (sethlcooper at comcast dot net)

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

ASHCROFT THE BAD COP TO BUSH THE GOOD COP? Jonah Goldberg's NRO article "Identity Justice" provides a take on the dynamics of former Attorney General John Ashcroft's role in the Bush Administration that I had not heard before. Depending on how one interprets Goldberg, I'm not certain it is true, etiher. Says Goldberg:

Bush's previous — and very loyal — AG, John Ashcroft, was attacked constantly and repeatedly in profoundly personal terms. And Bush never rose to defend Ashcroft. Indeed, the White House brilliantly used Ashcroft in a good-cop bad-cop routine for the entire first term. If I may mangle a metaphor beyond all recognition, Ashcroft was a Medusa's head which Bush could pull out of his bag to petrify the opposition. Or more accurately, to make the opposition go batty in its hysterical Ashcroft phobia.


Ok, I admit the Medusa metaphor makes me laugh. It also causes me to recall the way certain lefty law students at my old school used to go bonkers at the mere mention of Ashcroft's name. (Cue the background ice cream truck music as "Ashcroft" is repeated over and over in a low, echoing voice. Insanity soon sets in.) "John Ashcroft is out of control!" I remember one student saying.

But seriously, would a POTUS deliberately choose to make one of his most important cabinent members a reviled punching bag for his most vehement critics? Especially a cabinent member who is entrusted with the vital role of enforcing laws that keep the nation safe from terrorist threats during a War on Terror? I think that an unlikely course to take--if not a reckless one. It might be more plausible with hindsight, as the war has continued and a second term has been conferred upon the Administration by the American people. But I doubt the Administration would have deliberately encouraged the head of the DOJ charged with an important role in all-important war to take massive PR hits. Why give ardent and vocal leftists--who would rather pull the plug on the prosecution of the war--enhanced opportunities to take down high Administration officals, as well as the Administration itself?

Or perhaps Goldberg meant something a little more benign. What if the Administration, recognizing that Ashcroft didn't have a bubbly and warm public persona with little potential for changing that fact, simply chose to go with Ashcroft the way he was and let him become the locus of criticism by simply doing nothing? This is more plausible to me, but I still have a difficult time accepting that--for the very same reasons I listed above. It makes little sense to let a key cabinent member like an AG sink while the rest of the Administration swims.

Perhaps in the years and decades to come--once the autobiographies, biographies and histories of the Administration are written--we'll have greater insight into this. For now, I'm of the view that Ashcroft simply had PR difficulties, all the while faced with an important job to do and a resentful, largely anti-war left to deal with. No easy task.

(North Seattle--Green Lake, WA)

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