Attorney General John Ashcroft’s recent decision to ban the Justice Department’s annual Gay Pride observance from department facilities certainly rang the old hypocrisy alarm.
It was the summer of 1999, before I was a full-time journalist and when Ashcroft was making noise about running for President. In fact, he had already set up a campaign exploratory committee. In those days, Ashcroft was a leading opponent of the Clinton administration’s proposal to give the FBI practically unfettered access to encryption keys used to encode sensitive e-mail and phone calls. The system, called Clipper Chip, was finally withdrawn. However, Ashcroft actually emerged as one of the major critics of across-the-board attempts by the FBI to monitor private communications. He even decided to oppose the FBI’s attempt to establish a national wiretap center, called “Net Center.”
It is interesting to compare then-Senator Ashcroft’s policies with those of Attorney General Ashcroft. Not only has Ashcroft championed all the FBI’s original proposals for increased surveillance capabilities but he has provided the FBI with electronic snooping powers far beyond anything ever envisaged by the Clinton administration. Ashcroft’s metamorphosis from an anti-surveillance Dr. Jekyll to a Big Brother Mr. Hyde should be the subject of every psychiatric text book.
But back to 1999 and Ashcroft’s nascent presidential run. The Senator’s opposition to Clinton administration attempts to ban the export of strong encryption technology earned him the appreciation of America’s largest software companies, especially those that bundled strong encryption capabilities with their programs. And the fact that the American Civil Liberties Union attended anti-Clipper strategy meetings in Ashcroft’s own Senate office made him appear less menacing to the more liberal computer companies on the West Coast.
In fact, some of these software companies, located mainly in the San Francisco Bay Area, were so thankful for Ashcroft’s stance, they offered him $100,000 for his presidential campaign. In those days I was doing part-time consulting for some of these companies, so I became the “bag man” to make the approach to the Ashcroft campaign.
After approaching a few GOP functionaries I knew and making a couple of phone calls, I was invited to the Monocle restaurant, a big time lobbyist hangout located just behind the Hart and Dirksen Senate office buildings near Union Station. There, I met Kirk Clinkenbeard, a campaign adviser to Ashcroft. We finally got around to the bottom line: some San Francisco area software moguls were interested in donating money to Ashcroft’s presidential run and it was to the tune of 100 grand!
But then there was the big catch. Some of these high-tech millionaires worked for companies that either had gay investors or gay executives and Ashcroft’s previous statements on homosexuality could be a problem.
The answer: No problem. Senator Ashcroft had just been in San Francisco. A gay man walked up to Ashcroft and, obviously trying to engage the senator in a debate about gay rights, revealed his orientation to Ashcroft. The senator said while he thought homosexuality was a sin, he still “loved” the man. In essence, I was told Ashcroft had to cater to his fundamentalist base in Missouri, the constituency that previously elected him as state Attorney General and Governor, in addition to Senator. Ashcroft’s rhetoric and what he would actually do as president were two different things.
In retrospect, we now know that Ashcroft’s rhetoric and his actual policies are one and the same. Ashcroft doesn’t “love” gays, but he was more than willing to accept money from businesses invested in by gays to help propel himself into the White House.
It’s pure Ashcroft hypocrisy. When I was told the beers I was drinking at the Monocle were on Ashcroft’s tab, I asked, “as a Pentacostalist, isn’t Senator Ashcroft a teetotaler?” Answer, “no problem, the senator doesn’t drink but he doesn’t mind if others do.” Sure, especially when someone is dangling $100,000 in front of him. And Ashcroft’s temperance certainly hasn’t stopped him from taking money from the Coors and Schlitz brewing companies.
Then there is Ashcroft’s wife, Janet Roede Ashcroft, a native of New Jersey who has taught at the Business School of Howard University, a historically African-American college. Her husband has long championed groups devoted to the Confederacy and opposed to affirmative action and civil rights. Shortly after Ashcroft was nominated by President Bush to be Attorney General, Janet admitted to ABC’s Good Morning America that she had been attacked by a rapist some time ago. Washington insiders report the rape did not happen over 35 years ago as stated by Mrs. Ashcroft — while she and John were dating as students at the University of Chicago Law School — but occured much later near their Northeast Washington, DC home near Howard University and after Ashcroft was elected to the Senate. Janet said after the attack, Ashcroft’s “response was absolutely the most caring, considerate response.”
Maybe that was then, but in yet another case of Ashcroft hypocrisy, our moralistic Attorney General, who lambasted President Clinton for his extramarital affairs, reportedly has a roving eye. Perhaps, Mrs. Ashcroft should follow Mrs. Clinton’s lead and write a book about her life with John. Now that’s a book I will be first in line to buy or even ghost write.
WAYNE MADSEN is a Washington, DC-based investigative journalist and columnist. He wrote the introduction to Forbidden Truth. He is the co-author, with John Stanton, of the forthcoming book, “America’s Nightmare: The Presidency of George Bush II.”
Madsen can be reached at: WMadsen777@aol.com