There is no doubt that the Ashcroft Attorney General legacy will be largely viewed through the prism of the war on terrorism. Ashcroft became famous for his press conferences and advocates and detractors continue to argue whether the policies he introduced were fighting terror or fighting the rights of ordinary Americans.
But let’s not forget that John Ashcroft was also a lightning rod of a different sort. He has, even after September 11, focused a lot of effort on going after the porn industry. He has also fought against the use of medical marijuana. On Tuesday, he asked the Supreme Court to allow federal agents to punish doctors who assist patients under Oregon’s right to die law.
The terrorism-related law changes and the press conferences that irked the White House will long be debated. But there was, one should remember, this other side of Ashcroft. He was driven by religion. He was in many ways the first bomb lobbed in the battle to crack the walls between church and state. He was a guy who held daily prayer sessions in his office at the Justice Department. And who can forget his bizarre need to attack the culturally endowed when he ordered a Justice Dept statue to be covered because her copper breastswere exposed (maybe he though brass boob jobs looked better)?
Terrorism dominated the first Bush term. But John Ashcroft as the nation’s sheriff in chief was W’s first faith based program.