The most controversial of Bush's cabinet candidates is John Ashcroft, the former governor and senator of the state of Missouri, the darling of the extremist Christian right, who is the candidate for attorney general. During the course of the Bush campaign, the Christian right kept to the side so Bush junior could pretend to be a representative of the moderate school of American society. Now, however, it's payback time and Ashcroft is the bill. The attorney general controls the FBI, the Department of Justice, the Immigration and Naturalization Service as well as other government agencies. What is more, the agencies under the control of the attorney general represent the Government in cases before the Supreme Court and take part in the appointment of federal judges at various levels. For the purposes of the Christian right, which has been trying for years to change laws, including the Constitution, to ban abortion, there is no better cabinet position and no better man than John Ashcroft.
John Ashcroft is a religious fanatic, the son of a Pentacostal preacher, who opposes not only abortion but also contraception. What is more, Ashcroft was active in opposing racial desegragation; in every office he's held he's shown a tendency in what in political circles is euphemistically termed "racial insensitivity" and better known as racism. A few years ago, in a speech at Bob Jones University, an extreme right Protestant school which banned racially mixed couples until last year and considers Catholics to be "a satanic sect", John Ashcroft, upon accepting a honorary doctorate, said: "Alone among nations, America has recognized that its origin is divine and eternal, and not secular and ephemeral. And because we have understood that our origin is eternal, America is different. We have no king but Jesus Christ." It is almost unnecessary to recall that America is not inhabited solely by Christians. It is even less necessary to recall that not so long ago, in our native land, those who, like Ashford, believed that their nation was divine and eternal left behind them a cultural legacy consisting of death camps and mass graves.
Ashcroft, like all candidates, must be approved by the Senate after a hearing by the Senate judicial committee. It appears quite likely that Ashcroft's nomination will be approved even though there is a broad coalition of various citizens' groups that oppose Ashcroft. Ashcroft will pass partially because it is customary for candidates for the president's cabinet to be approved without fuss, unless they are mixed up in some sort of very illegitimate goings on, and partially because the Senate is an exclusive club of which Ashcroft is a member.
What is most notable in all this is Bush's idiotic impudence. After winning an election in which the majority of voters did not vote for him, many people expected Bush to show a tendency toward compromise. Besides, the Senate is split right down the middle: 50 Republicans, 50 Democrats (in the lower house, the Republicans have a majority) and so many people thought that Bush would be forced to compromise. Many people - whoever they are - made a big, damned big mistake. Bush gathered extremists around him, representatives of political interests that were, for the most part, pushed aside during the rhetorical kissing up to "ordinary" Americans. It is already obvious that Bush spat out the line on how he is "the unifier, not the divider" before he even got to be president. In other words, the elections serve the function of a quiet putsch and America is faced with a dictatorship of the Christian rightist avantgarde.
When the nationalist parties won the elections in Bosnia in 1990, I - to my shame, I must admit - was not that concerned. Even though the evil stupidity of the nationalist parties was apparent, I thought, on the one hand, that their own idiocy would make them ineffective while, on the other hand, that despite their stupidity, they would be forced into cooperation because who would be crazy enough to wage war on his own neighbors. Maybe experience is the reason why I am afraid of Bush and Ashcroft. The magic formula - stupidity plus racism plus the conviction of many that the politicians will come to an agreement - is completely applicable in the freethinking United States and I have no doubt that it will come to no good. I only hope that one day I can be a citizen of a country which is not ruled by enemies, mine and of all the people I love. As a citizen of two countries, I have a double dose of enemies and my back is beginning to break a little already. Can we let good triumph just once so I can die in peace?