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As John Ashcroft's Republican primary opponent for U.S. senator in Missouri in 2000 (I have since moved to California), I agree with almost everything in James Ridgeway's article "Clear and Present Danger" [January 16].
Indeed, Ashcroft "doesn't dance": Having fun is a sin, and Ashcroft is not a fun guy, except for when he's serving his homemade ice cream at Republican fundraisers. But I don't think he's as racist as he's being portrayed. Being against affirmative action doesn't make you racist. And I don't think Ashcroft's opposition to Justice Ronnie White was related to race. Quite frankly, there are no competent judges on the Missouri Supreme Court, black or white.
For Ashcroft, there's only one true religion, and that's his own. He isn't going to protect rights he considers to be sinfulunless the sinners contribute to the Republican Party (as in alcohol, tobacco, and firearms). Ashcroft is very much an "us vs. them" personality, and there's no room in his world for those who believe differently than he does.
Those of us who lived in Missouri in the 1980s remember Ashcroft as the attorney general involved in the landmark Nancy Cruzan "right to die" case. Nancy Cruzan was in a persistent vegetative state for eight years after being injured in a car accident. Ashcroft fought the family's efforts to remove her feeding tube all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, where he eventually lost. He essentially used the Cruzan family as a prop to position himself as a hero in a life-saving fantasy.
I think that John Ashcroft is better suited to follow in his father's footsteps and become a preacher, and not use the office of U.S. attorney general to force his religious views on the rest of us.
San Francisco, California
The Ashcroft Principle
Although I am not a Republican, I think that John Ashcroft was unfairly pounced upon by James Ridgeway in the article "Clear and Present Danger." Every attorney general is asked to enforce laws that he or she may not espouse, just as every attorney is inspired by ethic, if not gain, to represent clients whose guilt is suspected or known. That is the nature of adversarial law.
The people of a majority of the states voted for the conservative George Bush, who was opposed by most voters in dense urban areas. So? The Republicans have won the prerogative to select conservatives who do not agree with the previously dominant administration position on such matters as abortion, gay rights, and gun laws.
John Ashcroft acted with principle and with sensitivity after he narrowly lost the Missouri senatorial election to the late governor Mel Carnahan. Extrapolating from his behavior in that situation, he might be expected to become one of the most fair and upright attorneys general we have ever had. Let's lay back and see how this plays out. The country doesn't need constructed subjunctive problems; we have plenty of real problems that require our concentration.
Dale J. Milnes
For Christ's Sake
Re James Ridgeway's piece on John Ashcroft: As a Christian, I am no more what Ridgeway calls a "Christer" than a person of color is a "nigger" or a Jew is a "kike." Ridgeway's word choice is unbelievably offensive and morally reprehensible. I understand that not everyone shares my faith, but I know better than to call those who don't "damned" or "sinners." One of the biggest problems in U.S. politics today is the tendency of the adherents of opposing views to demonize each other.
North Hollywood, California
Who is this left-wing radical Rouven Gueissaz, and why is he spewing so much hate against John Ashcroft?!? [Gueissaz did additional reporting on the Ashcroft article.] Don't your reporters even pretend to be objective?
Steven M. Volchko
Peace of Mind
Todd Gitlin blames the "naive purists" of the peace movement for Richard Nixon's election in 1968 and a million Vietnamese deaths that followed [Letters, January 9]. He overlooks a million deaths that came before.
We naive purists actively backed Lyndon Johnson in 1964. By mid 1968 he had increased the U.S. presence in Vietnam to its peak of 550,000 and was submitting Indochina to the heaviest bombing in history, to chemical warfare, and to countless crimes like My-Lai. Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy, who favored withdrawal, had been assassinated. In Chicago, Hubert Humphrey ignored the police pogrom and the anti-Semitic mouthings of Mayor Richard Daley and accepted the nomination. Until the last week of the campaign, he went along with LBJ's effort to "bomb Hanoi to the negotiating table." So he lost the election.
To lay the blame on the peace marchers is abominable.
John L. Hess
Editor's Note: John L. Hess wrote about the Paris peace talks for The New York Times from 1968 to 1972.
Back to the Rock
Over the last few days, I've taken some time to read Jennifer Gonnerman's article, "Roaming Rikers Island" [December 19], or as I call it, The Rock. I say a few days because every time I pick it up and read a few paragraphs, I stop and put it down as visions of the three years I spent there play back in my mind.