What one group considers obvious and the right way may not look that way to others
By Tony Staley
The debate over Pres. George W. Bush's appointment of John
Ashcroft as U.S. Attorney General raised interesting issues.
One complaint of critics was that Pres. Bush had promised to
unite the nation, but he nominated an attorney general they see
as highly divisive.
The problem with that argument, is that it's hard to imagine an
attorney general who would not be divisive. We are at a time in
our history when there are many legitimate disagreements on many
issues that could fall under the jurisdiction of the attorney
general. For example, how should hate crimes be prosecuted? What
positions should the federal government take on minority or
gender quotas in hiring, awarding contracts or university
admissions in the courts or before Congress?
There certainly is no national agreement on these and numerous
other issues. These differences in belief can stem from
legitimate philosophical reasons - or for some, they may be
caused by hatred, or for others, overly paternalistic attitudes.
Beyond that, there are times when it's important to rouse people
for change, no matter how divisive that may be. For example, in
1961, Pres. John Kennedy appointed his brother, Robert, to be
Attorney General and to push for equal rights for black Americans
in the South. He knew that was a divisive move that would anger
millions of Americans in the North and South, but he did it
anyway because it was the right thing to do.
Pres. Bush has indicated he appointed Ashcroft because he too
wants to bring about change. Over the next months, we'll be able
to determine the wisdom of that appointment. But whether the
selection of Ashcroft was good or bad is a completely different
issue than whether the President was entitled to choose someone
who is divisive rather than some imaginary national unifier.
Sadly, Ashcroft's critics seem to be exhibiting an attitude that
they are always correct - and the only ones who are correct - on
issues facing our nation. We see much the same attitude in
concerns raised about Pres. Bush's plan for government funding of
faith-based groups to deliver social services.
Yes, there are possible problems because of the church-state
issue or because it could promote a belief that only church and
community groups are responsible for dealing with society's
problems. But, it would be well if those who are alarmed about
the government paying for the spread of religion were as
concerned about the government financing propagation of Planned
Parenthood's "religious tenets."