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February 23, 2004

Ashcroft profiled
Posted by Teresa at 06:55 PM *

It was improper of Mike Harris to post the entire text of the new Vanity Fair profile of John Ashcroft on his weblog. Perhaps he will have to take it down. But until then, it makes fascinating reading:

And Ashcroft’s obsessions: these too were a puzzle. When, in 1985, a young man named Paul Offner applied for the job of head of Missouri’s social services, Offner tells me, Ashcroft said, without preamble, “Mr. Offner, let me start by asking you if you have the same sexual preference as most men.” Offner considered replying, “I haven’t done a survey,” before settling on a restrained affirmative. Still, he didn’t get the job. (Through a spokeswoman Ashcroft claimed he couldn’t remember the meeting.) Some years later Missouri state troopers were deployed to prevent Pete Busalacchi from ending the life of his comatose daughter, who had no hope for recovery. “It was a matter of one person in a high position inflicting his religious beliefs onto a family,” Busalacchi said. “Is John Ashcroft’s religion better than mine?”

Janet Ashcroft somehow acquired the same high-handed reputation. “It was Mother’s Day, a Sunday, 1990, when I was called by my staff; who told me Mrs. Ashcroft wanted the Missouri State Library opened,” recalls Monteria Hightower, who was then state librarian. Assuming the governor’s wife wanted to show visitors around (“and that I could make a pitch for new computers,” she adds, chuckling), Hightower left her family at home and hurried to unlock the darkened library. She found Janet, outside in a car with a driver, accompanied only by a boy of 12. With astonishment, she heard Janet’s reason for her Sunday appearance at the library: “I want to find something on the Elizabethan era for my son’s homework assignment.”

Visitors to the governor’s mansion often found themselves expected to join in prayer, and on one such occasion ó it was a dinner gathering of lawyers, waited on (as is customary in the Missouri governor’s mansion) by local prisoners who had earned the privilege ó Ashcroft gave a family values speech. “In the course of this he said, ‘Women in the workforce have become so prevalent that a man’s role has been reduced to a sperm donor,’” reports one of the guests.

No one could believe it, says this lawyer. Everyone knew Janet Ashcroft had written a textbook on business law with her husband indeed, she would later teach law at Washington, D.C.’s traditionally black Howard University. Even their daughter, Martha, was attending law school. And yet, says the dinner guest, “he was serious. He didn’t mean to be amusing.”

Only the governor’s wife appeared unfazed. Perhaps she was used to such opinions. (Last year, she declared in Missouri, “I have to behave myself, and I have to spoil him rotten, and that makes my life unbelievably stressful.”) The night of the dinner, she was dressed girlishly, in a floral summer dress, with matching flowery sandals. Her earrings were roses modeled out of pink clay. The young lawyer complimented her on a particularly decorative artifact. “It’s bolted down,” Janet Ashcroft said meaningfully.

“Bolted down ó I’m sure you know who the waiters are,” echoed the governor, giving a swift glance at the prisoners, all within earshot, who served them. “You know how they are.”

And the waiters? I wonder. What was their reaction?

“Stone-blank,” replies the lawyer. “Stone, stone, stone. The waiters, who were all African-American, had to have heard. I love to pray, but what business did we have praying in the governor’s mansion? That night I thought, We started this out with a prayer to God, and this is the way you end the evening? It makes me sick to think I prayed with him.”
Comments on Ashcroft profiled:
#1 ::: Lis ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2004, 07:58 PM:

Wow, it appears that abuse of libraries and librarians runs in the family!

#2 ::: --kip ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2004, 08:11 PM:

" was a dinner gathering of lawyers, waited on (as is customary in the Missouri governorís mansion) by local prisoners who had earned the privilege..."

"'The waiters, who were all African-American, had to have heard.'"

Dinesh D'Souza can kiss my ass. To quote Atrios.

#3 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2004, 09:14 PM:

" was a dinner gathering ... waited on (as is customary in the Missouri governorís mansion) by local prisoners who had earned the privilege..."
You don't feel a stiletto go in, the injury penetrates your awareness some time later. Do you think they have foodtasters at the mansion?

Things like that -- even not closely resembling it, but the inner idea -- always bring a whiff of that scene near the start of Frank Herbert's Dune where the newly arrived Atreides discover the customs attending the former Harkonnen governor's dinners & change them.
Despite faults, there is a lot of good in those books (have only read first 3), some of it only coming clearer with time (tho' I can be slow) which to me is a mark of quality.

#4 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2004, 09:35 PM:

waited on (as is customary in the Missouri governor's mansion) by local prisoners who had earned the privilege

Somehow this seems like the most bizarrely appalling thing in the quotation. And that's saying something.

#5 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2004, 10:50 PM:

Y'all, I still apologize we didn't vote him in as governor, we voted for the dead guy (Mel Carnahan) because we already KNEW what a jackass he was....


#6 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2004, 10:53 PM:

Oops that's voting him in as one of our Senators. Sorry! He's still a jackass.

#7 ::: Marrije ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2004, 04:59 AM:

I'm reading "Catch 22" at the moment, and the prayer bit about Ashcroft is straight out of that book! Eerie. It's an eerily relevant book today anyway.

#8 ::: Adam Lipkin ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2004, 10:02 AM:

The rest of the profile is pretty appalling also (and just strange in some places. I mean, really, what's wrong with calico cats?). And then what does it say about W., who thought Ashcroft was a good choice for the post?

Also, off-topic, but in MSIE6, the text stops at the bottom of the ads (but if you view the source code it's all there). I'm doing this from Netscape.

#9 ::: Frank ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2004, 10:51 AM:

An OT thanks for reminding people about copyrights.

And an OT to Adam: it also looks fine in Opera, which you should try...

#10 ::: LNHammer ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2004, 11:57 AM:

Huh — in IE6 (SP1, running on Win2K) it looks fine to me.


#11 ::: Adam Lipkin ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2004, 03:19 PM:

Frank-- I use Opera a lot (right now, for example), but I tried Netscape first because Opera still has trouble sometimes with nontraditional html. But it's working fine. IE still truncates though. Maybe I have a setting wrong all of a sudden. Ah well.

#12 ::: mattH ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2004, 04:04 PM:

Ashcroft sinks behind his drape covered statue and you don't hear about him for a while, and you forget just how anachronistic his ideals about the world are. That someone like this is running our Justice department makes me wonder what things will be found after he leaves; what he's decided isn't worth prosecuting or even commneting on. Scary man.

#13 ::: Marith ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2004, 10:13 PM:

Must squelch urge to write a story with a fictionalized Ashcroft as the main character, just to see if the words "laughably improbable" appear in the rejection notice.


That's better. Though now I want a "LAUGHABLY IMPROBABLE" rubber stamp. It'd make reading the newspaper more fun these days.

#14 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2004, 01:27 AM:

Adam Lipkin: Isn't that truncation the problem that hitting "F11" twice is supposed to fix?

#15 ::: Adam Lipkin ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2004, 11:34 AM:

David-- by gum, it is. And it worked. Thanks. It pays to read, don't it.

#16 ::: ginny ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2004, 11:24 PM:

File under "laughably improbable" and now cross-reference under "stranger than fiction." There's a Ngaio Marsh mystery called "Tied Up In Tinsel" that's your basic "English cozy" or manor house mystery. This particular lonely manor house on the edge of Dartmoor features a household staff that consists of convicted (paroled) murderers. Naturally, after a bizarre murder, they're all under suspicion. I always thought it was really contrived and unrealistic. But now this fact about Ashcroft's days in the governor's mansion reminds me what a truly bizarre and frightening man he is to be running Justice.

And quick aside re: Mrs Ashcroft... yikes! Got cognitive dissonance much, ma'am?

#17 ::: Skinny ::: (view all by) ::: April 04, 2004, 09:43 PM:

Our government doesn't lie, the fat pigs deny.

#18 ::: Julia Jones finds comment spam ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2004, 02:36 AM:

*Really* blatant comment spam by one Frank...

#20 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2004, 11:08 AM:

For Jeopardy: "The clue is 'Sex, drugs, rock and roll, and libraries."

[buzzer] "What four aspects of Freedom has the Ashcroft family sworn to destroy?"

And what does God tell General Ashcroft to say about this:

Cannabis May Help Combat Cancer-causing Herpes Viruses

Tampa, FL (Sept. 22, 2004) -- The compound in marijuana that produces a high, delta-9 tetrahydrocannbinol or THC, may block the spread of several forms of cancer causing herpes viruses, University of South Florida College of Medicine scientists report....

I'd guess that would depend on what music is playing at the time.

#21 ::: cd sees comment spam ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2004, 07:49 AM:

Again... But this one seems to be actually, you know, advertising for a "service", not just DOS-ing.

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