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John Ashcroft
January 1, 2001 11:32 PM   Subscribe

John Ashcroft :Another one of Dubya's "compassionate conservatives"? Confederate lover, or just a good 'ole racist?
posted by owillis (33 comments total)

 
Joshua Marshall broke this story in Talking Points a few days before AP. I'd love for some conservatives to explain why their favorite politicians give interviews to creepy racially incorrect publications like Southern Partisan. Is the romanticization of the Confederacy so important to people like Ashcroft that the political cost of alienating African-Americans doesn't matter to them?
posted by rcade at 8:19 AM on January 2, 2001


These and many more are the reasons Missourians like myself voted for a dead man last election.
posted by droob at 9:07 AM on January 2, 2001


From the article:

"In reality, a review of White's nomination... provides no evidence of racism by the man who would be America's top law enforcement officer [Ashcroft]"

Next time you plan on accusing a man as good as John Ashcroft of racism, at least try to be honest about your supporting sources.

posted by gd779 at 9:52 AM on January 2, 2001


oops... I didn't mention it, but I'm of course the quote comes from to the same article that supposedly indicates that John Ashcroft is a racist.
posted by gd779 at 9:53 AM on January 2, 2001


owillis: Next time, try to use sources a little more objective than the left-leaning Washington Post and the "obviously neutral" [that's sarcasm, folks] Salon Magazine.

This is what irks me about American politics today. I enjoy a good, intellectually honest debate about policies and the facts, but this kind of biased mud slinging isn't about finding the truth... it's about smearing your opponents good name.
posted by gd779 at 9:58 AM on January 2, 2001


rcade: Even your Talking Points link doesn't provide so much as a scrap of evidence that indicates that Ashcroft is a racist. In fact, all it says is that we shouldn't let him off of the hook because, for all we know, he MIGHT be. Well, that same logic applies to you, rcade. For all we know, you didn't vote for Alan Keyes (I assume) because YOU'RE a racist. For a charge as serious as racism, let's up the required level of proof, shall we?

But I like your next statement best. Is the romanticization of the Confederacy so important to people like Ashcroft that the political cost of alienating African-Americans doesn't matter to them?

First of all, anyone who knows anything about the civil war knows that it was NOT fought over slavery or racism. It was fought over states rights. These are the principals that the Confederacy fought for, and these are the principals that, IMO, are the cornerstone of American democracy.

But, as you imply, [see your above quote], we wouldn't want to put principal over a large voting demographic, would we?
posted by gd779 at 10:08 AM on January 2, 2001


gd779: Actually the Salon post is from the "obviously" left leaning AP. And I suppose you want me to go with the unbiased reporting of outlets like Washington Times, Fox News Channel or Matt Drudge?
posted by owillis at 10:13 AM on January 2, 2001


In a 1998 interview, Ashcroft criticized efforts by some historians to portray early Americans, like slave-owning George Washington, as racist, calling them "malicious attacks" and "revisionist nonsense." -- from the Salon article linked above.

For an examination of Southern Partisan's racism, see here. Racism is a disease and John Ashcroft is sick.
posted by sudama at 10:29 AM on January 2, 2001


That's true-- the war was fought over state's rights....

TO OWN SLAVES


don't kid yourself buddy. while there are a host of issues connected to the Civil War, the one that matters (and this is the point Rcade was making) is slavery. Without it, there is no war, period. And pretending it was a secondary issue to "state's rights" is to deny the importance of that great victory for this nation.
posted by cell divide at 10:38 AM on January 2, 2001


Yup, missed the AP citation on the Salon piece. I apoligize. Although the AP is still left-biased in my opinion, most news sources are, just because of the personality of the industry.
posted by gd779 at 10:50 AM on January 2, 2001


While I see the media as right leaning more often than not, it seems everyone sees media bias
posted by owillis at 11:06 AM on January 2, 2001


First of all, anyone who knows anything about the civil war knows that it was NOT fought over slavery or racism. It was fought over states rights.

Let's pretend for a moment that the Civil War was about states rights, and the right to own slave didn't even register on the consciousness of the secessionist Southerners, despite the fact that they believed human inventory was crucial to their agricultural economy.

The Confederacy isn't just about states rights today. If you don't believe me, here's a quote from a column by Reid Buckley published in Southern Partisan:
"Can anybody tell me of a Latin nation that has successfully practiced democracy even as a formal system....No. Well, then, we must ask why. It is because the basic principles of democracy are secret? Tampoco. (No, senor, there ees no meesteree about eet. You geeve the vote to avery paisan, and then you shoot the estupidos who vote against you.) The difference is in the temperament of the people, and that is racial. Negroes, Asians, and Orientals (is Japan the exception?); Hispanics, Latins, and Eastern Europeans; have no temperament for democracy, never had, and probably never will."
Here's another quote from a 1987 article on South Africa:
God led [Afrikaners] into the Transvaal, it was with God that they made their prayerful covenant when they were besieged by bloodthirsty savages on all sides."
Here's a quote from Southern By the Grace of God, a book by Michael Andrew Grissom that received a positive review in the magazine:
No one can doubt the effectiveness of the original Ku Klux Klan. Without it we might never have shaken off the curse of the carpetbag/scalawag governments which bound us hand and foot."
Southern Partisan is a breeding ground for racist animosity, and yet numerous conservative politicians such as Ashcroft, Dick Armey, Trent Lott and Jesse Helms interviews with the magazine. Pat Buchanan has even been one of its senior advisors.

What explains the attraction among conservatives to this 20-year-old publication of race hate? I'm trying to be charitable here and not assume that it's motivated by fear of a black planet.


posted by rcade at 11:21 AM on January 2, 2001


gd779, I don't think the issue here is "state's rights" so much as the fact that Ashcroft seems to have high regard for a government that actively sponsored slavery. That the Confederacy wished to continue slavery, and the Lincoln Federal government wanted to slavery to end -- are you really denying that such was the case? I think that's the real issue re: Ashcroft.
posted by Bootcut at 11:27 AM on January 2, 2001


Let's talk about John Ashcroft again. My point here is that, before accusing someone of being racist, we ought to have sufficient evidence to support it. So far, there has been no clear evidence of John Ashcroft being a racist, yet many seem content to paint him that. If it helps, John Ashcroft voted in favor of 23 out of 26 of Clinton's black appointements.

Who knows how many MeFi readers will look at the initial post without bothering to explore further? From that point on, the name John Ashcroft will be associated with "racist". That's not fair or right, IMO. [full disclosure: I worked on John Ashcroft's campaign this year].


posted by gd779 at 12:05 PM on January 2, 2001


About slavery, racism, and the civil war:

As far as the Civil War: yes, slavery was AN issue... but the fact remains that 1) Northerners did not have the need for slavery to sustain their economy that the South did. Their economy was predominately factories, etc.... not so much manual labor. and 2) IF they were the farmers they would've had slaves. The North was not "less racist" than the South simply because they didn't have slaves. Why is this important? To imply that the Civil War was a heroic attempt from the North to eradicate racism is to indicate a very poor knowledge of history. Most Northerners were MORE racist than the South. AT LEAST in the South, where they owned slaves, because they group up with blacks, many times they became almost a part of the family. You'll find that after the war, blacks who stayed with the plantation family were often better treated and more respected and loved than those who fled to the North where they couldn't get a job, etc... because whites wouldn't hire them when a white man could be hired.

Second:
Since the beginning of history groups have enslaved other groups. You will find many cultures, many races, and many types of slavery... and it is not all rooted in race. Many times prisoners of war are enslaved. The one trend is that it is always one group that somehow has the power to enslave and enforce slavery. Looking to American history, blacks aren't the only ones who were ever enslaved. More importantly, whites weren't the only ones to enslave them.

A few years ago, Alabama wanted to pass a law that no public institution could be named after a former slave owner. BUT OOPS!!!! The FIRST EVER public school in America to be named for a black man, was named for a black scientist and physician in Alabama (I can get more info if I dig it up)... who happened to be a slave owner. The African Americans in Alabama decided that they wanted to continue to honor him, so they dropped the law. Was he racist?

Further, if you study the process involved in American slavery, you will find that it was blacks themselves who sold the slaves to Americans. Were they racist? No, they were greedy and out for a profit.

Did Washington enslave blacks because a) he hated blacks or because b) he was a business man? If the answer is 'b'... then I believe he did something that we now understand to be morally corrupt, but was done out
of greed- not hate. The proof: look to how he treated his slaves. I have his writings on the matter, at home though, but he didn't beat them and believed it was important to treat them well. This is not racism- it's slavery.

Further, look to the fact that there were black men under his command in the American Revolution: he did promote them in the military, did treat them the same as whites, and DID give them freedom after the war. A racist would not have done this.

Slavery is taking advantage of a subordinate group, claiming ownership of them and forcing them to work for you, without pay. It is hateful and selfish, but not necessarily and act of hatred toward one group.

Racism is hating because of, and only because of, race---- and hating all in their race.
posted by gd779 at 12:11 PM on January 2, 2001


Um, okay, gd779. You are entitled to your position.

However, my point remains: Ashcroft, and for that matter, you, seem to carry some regard for a government that advocated slavery. Whatever rhetoric one might use to buttress Confederate slavery within a larger racial consciousness, is it that hard to to understand how praise for the Confederacy might be greeted with heated suspicion?

Even if one grants your rather tenuous claim that slavery was not in itself "racist," what's with the the suprise and alarm you bring to the discussion of Confederate revisionism? Slavery was not an abstract wrong.

In your mention of George Washington, you concede the wrongness of slavery. Now if only you could concede that in demoting the evil of slavery -- as merely "greed" or, worse, as the work of "businessmen" -- you are wrong.

posted by Bootcut at 1:06 PM on January 2, 2001


Of course, one might ask why "the party of Lincoln"--as Republicans insist on reminding us--contains all these people with a passion for the Confederacy. Lincoln, I think, would not be amused.
posted by thomas j wise at 1:38 PM on January 2, 2001


Joshua Marshall has a column in today's New York Post about Ashcroft.
posted by rcade at 1:40 PM on January 2, 2001


Ah, the sweet rhetoric of rationalization: the South was a group of freedom fighters (not for their slaves though), the South needed slaves because of economics (they seem do be doing fine without them), racism isn't real until it's proven and Ashcroft isn't racist because it isn't proven.

What a load of shit.

Owning slaves is a racist act because it discriminates against people — just because Washington didn't like doing it doesn't mean he wasn't racist. He obviously was. Slave owners don't value human life equally. That's discrimination.

Racism is real: its all around us all the time. Even in this thread, sadly, conservative apologia muddies the discourse. There's no reason we shouldn't be talking about how to keep racists out of government, instead we're talking about its existence. Conservatives who shore up one another's backwards thought on social issues are no better than the self-conscious slave owners in the 1800s — they know it's bad but don't support abolition. Today they say racism is bad, but they refuse to acknowledge it when surfaces. I don't understand the mind that can hold this striking dissonance.



Metafilter has seen an influx of conservatives lately. Is Free Republic not taking anymore applications?
posted by capt.crackpipe at 1:47 PM on January 2, 2001


Not too interested in discussing the issue at hand, but I am curious to know why there are no rules for secession? It seems to me that the founders were all pretty leery about forming a country, why didn't they give themselves a way out?
If Code of Honor (one of my favorite left coast bands) had their way, the Metafilter server would be located in the independent nation of California.
I wonder what parties the founders would belong to if they were alive today??? Jefferson as the Libertarian party candidate in 04?
posted by thirteen at 1:48 PM on January 2, 2001


It's so cute that people like gd779 cling to the notion that the Civil War was fought over an abstraction like "states' rights". What right, exactly, were the seceding states concerned with protecting? Why, I guess that would be ...

THEIR RIGHT TO WRITE LAWS THAT DEFINED OTHER HUMAN BEINGS AS PROPERTY.
posted by dhartung at 1:54 PM on January 2, 2001


Okay, that was already said. I've caught up with the thread.

gd779, you are clinging to the idea that racism is about animosity and hatred. "I don't hate X, therefore I am not a racist."

Racism includes race prejudice, but racism as a criticism is about institutions, structures, power, and money. Are blacks personally liked by most Americans? Sure. Are as many opportunities open to blacks in America? I say no, though it's a damn sight better than a generation ago. Crackpipe has it right. Racism is found in people's actions, not their words.
posted by dhartung at 2:02 PM on January 2, 2001


Racism is found in people's actions, not their words.

Precisely, Dan. The National Review Online catalogs some of Ashcroft's actions as Governor and Senator:

Sen. Ashcroft voted for 90 percent of the dozens of black judicial nominees to be nominated on his watch. As Missouri governor, Ashcroft signed the law making Martin Luther King Day a holiday. Also, he appointed the first African-American for the state court of appeals in Kansas City and selected numerous other blacks for judgeships.

I believe it is possible for non-racists to find things about the Confederacy they admire, just as it is possible for non-Communists to find things about China or Russia to admire. There is no actual evidence that Ashcroft harbors any racist views or intentions. Political operatives who would paint him as a racist would do so as a smokescreen for other things they find objectionable about him - his religious faith, his abortion stance, his party affiliation. They know better, as do their compatriots in the Senate who will vote to confirm him, despite their disgreement with his views.

posted by mikewas at 2:30 PM on January 2, 2001


Cool. I'm an "operative" now. Do I get the secret decoder ring and password now?

Anyway. Here's Mr. Ashcroft's record and which organizations he voted with.

gd779, you lost to a dead guy? Crap. That's gotta suck.
posted by owillis at 2:43 PM on January 2, 2001


wilis, the password is “nader”. Don’t tell anybody.

That votesmart link is great. Ashcroft is just another anti-minority, anti-labor, anti-gay, religious conservative bought out by big business. No wonder Bush loves him.
posted by capt.crackpipe at 3:27 PM on January 2, 2001


Metafilter has seen an influx of conservatives lately.

Excuse me? Only ultra-liberals are allowed? Only 'your kind' is allowed? If so, who are the true bigots here?
posted by aaron at 11:32 PM on January 2, 2001



Excuse me? Only ultra-liberals are allowed? Only 'your kind' is allowed? If so, who are the true bigots here?

C'mon, Aaron. You know as well as I do that you would complain loudly if liberals started showing up at your klan meetings.
posted by rcade at 11:59 PM on January 2, 2001


Thank you for proving yourself to be a total and complete asshole, Rogers. How dare you attempt to link me to a hate organization like the Klan, you arrogant bastard. And how dare you insinuate that only people who think just like you are allowed on MeFi.

The politics of demonization roll on, eh?
posted by aaron at 12:17 AM on January 3, 2001



Yeah, I was a little snippy there wasn’t I? Sorry if I pissed anyone off. I’m just used to a little more refinment in my conservatives. I like the ‘Safires’ of the right. I thought southern revisionism and race hate was (thankfully) ghettoized to the radical right.

Rcade, I think if you said "Ayn Rand book club" that might've been funny.

Because we're going to meet up at the espresso shack and burn some flags, aren't we?
posted by capt.crackpipe at 2:25 AM on January 3, 2001


Simmer down, children. Play nice.

"What right, exactly, were the seceding states concerned with protecting? Why, I guess that would be ... THEIR RIGHT TO WRITE LAWS THAT DEFINED OTHER HUMAN BEINGS AS PROPERTY."

Sort of, but not really. The politics of the time revolved around the precarious balance of power in Congress between the slave-holding and free states. Lincoln wouldn't have had the political clout to push a bill through Congress that abolished slavery outright. What the Southern States were really worried about was that the Republican Party wanted to nullify the Compromise of 1950 and make slavery illegal in all the territories. When the territories entered the union as states, they would then tip the balance of power in Congress in favor of the free states.

Look--wars are very rarely fought for grandiose ideological goals like "freedom" or "states rights", really. You don't really think we bombed Iraq because of those poor enslaved Kuwaitis, did you? The Civil War, like most wars, was fought over power--who had it, who wanted it, and who was going to get it. It's an oversimplification to claim that the Civil War was either some sort of a noble crusade against slavery or the last desperate gasps of states trying to assert their sovereignty in the face an overbearing federal government.
posted by shylock at 2:27 AM on January 3, 2001


That's the Compromise of 1850, methinks. But other than that minor date-tail, well put.
posted by allaboutgeorge at 4:22 AM on January 3, 2001


Thank you for proving yourself to be a total and complete asshole, Rogers. How dare you attempt to link me to a hate organization like the Klan, you arrogant bastard. And how dare you insinuate that only people who think just like you are allowed on MeFi.
The politics of demonization roll on, eh?


It was a joke, Aaron. I've avoided any impulse to demonize you in around 100 threads prior to this one, so I figured the ;-) wasn't necessary. My bad.
posted by rcade at 7:46 AM on January 3, 2001


Because we're going to meet up at the espresso shack and burn some flags, aren't we?

Sorry ... I've got a Fair Play for Cuba meeting tonight, and after that I'll be busy writing my weekly letter to Mumia abu-Jamal.
posted by rcade at 7:48 AM on January 3, 2001


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