Week of January 17, 2001

Whatever else he may be, Mr. Ashcroft is not the "strict constructionist" he would have us believe. In his quest for political power, he may embrace this language for its political appeal, but he clearly is willing to overlook the law when it conflicts with his narrow religious beliefs.
Donald D. Meyer
Labadie, Mo.

At least Ashcroft wouldn't have torched the Branch Davidians: Please let me introduce this screed by saying you are to be respected for what you attempt to do each week with the paper and also by saying you suck completely (more specifically, where the "Calendar" feature begins each issue and thereafter, more specifically still, where the gay-bi-curious ads start and then, infinitely more specifically -- sucking, that is -- with the Dan Savage commentary).

I am continually amused when Ray Hartmann sniffs at the wind to determine and expound upon what left-leaning constituents perceive as threatening rather than listening to his inner pinko to guide him. An excellent source of such amusement was fortuitously provided in "Justice for John Ashcroft?" [RFT, Dec. 27]. The fatuous premise was that Ashcroft should get his comeuppance in confirmation hearings based on his "special heartlessness for African-Americans." Ray is not obviously black -- perhaps spiritually so -- but I digress. Ray really has not had it in for Ashcroft over the years based on Ashcroft's racism, per se. I mean, there were no RFT cover stories on "John Ashcroft as Grand Wizard."

Rather, what there was, and is today, are numerous stories, blurbs and asides portraying Ashcroft as Torquemada. Ray's real problem is that Ashcroft is out-and-out unfailing in his religious beliefs to the extent that as governor, Ashcroft would not (could not?) dance. He probably would not (could not) jump either, but Ray never expounded thusly. See, that is Ray's essential hangup: it's the religion. A textual analysis of Ray's commentary supports the thesis explicitly; his mixed adverbial descriptions of Ashcroft's conduct are most apt as criticism of religiosity -- "zealously" and "piously," sayeth the Ray. By the leitmotif of the Golden Rule, Ray assails Ashcroft in a clever paradox whereby the religious zealot is shown to be a hypocrite. And finally, Ray exposes Ashcroft/Christian Coalition litmus tests, which are, one assumes, proxies for the institution of a church-state. That is to say, Ray asserts that abortion restriction and death-penalty expansion are at the heart of right-wing extremism (despite the accepted fact that a majority of Americans polled support such matters as an expression of policy).

Religious persons of any racial extraction have misgivings about abortion on demand, the exception being the type of "religion" foisted upon RFT reader -- a paltry admixture of ethicalist-minimalist-humanist-modernist-"I'm-OK-you're-OK" drivel. Janet Reno is the exact religious paradigm with which Ray can comfortably cope. She was not a religious person but, rather, a spiritual one. Very New Age, very serious, very "I-won't-interfere-with-you-because-of-what-God-said." If Reno is an adequate religious presence and Ashcroft is a dangerous religious presence, that should have been Ray's edge against the nomination. Seems perfectly persuasive but for the fact that Reno was in Baltimore on the day the order went forth in Waco to expurgate the religious beliefs of a small nonmainline Christian sect and, in the process, immolate certain captive children.

Say what one will about Torquemada, none of his victims were killed on videotape. So, dear readers, has Ray been the one to cast the first stone? Or has he been content to hide behind the vocal minority opinion about Ashcroft? Let Ray say what he really thinks, and let the truth prevail.
Brian T. McCarthy
St. Louis

Please, be kind: I hope you will be fair in your criticism of John Ashcroft. He is obviously a man of principle and integrity. He is being charged and defamed with accusations that are not fair nor true. Surely you are above such smear tactics. Our media has overlooked shameful and illegal behavior by our president but is lying and exaggerating about a man of integrity. Please consider carefully what is being put out by your reporters and your "fact" finders.
Jeanne Gruender
via the Internet

Raising the Bar
We deserve better mayoral candidates: It is disappointing, following a national election where the bar of public expectation for elected leaders was dragged to a new low, that locally we may be faced with similar options to lead us into the new millennium [D.J. Wilson, "The New Wisdom of Boz," RFT, Jan. 3].

Only three serious mayoral candidates, including incumbent Clarence Harmon, have stepped up to run. Former Mayor Freeman Bosley Jr. is running on the "Forgive me for being a bad mayor" platform. As any present or former resident of Washington, D.C., will attest, this is a poor foundation upon which to bring together a city often divided by economics and race. Board of Aldermen President Francis Slay seems to be running on the divisive "I can't be as bad as the last two mayors" platform, promoting narrow downtown real-estate development interests, harming any potential future relations outside his South St. Louis base.

Neither will serve our need to create accessible economic opportunities and bring together a city often divided by economics and race. Both challengers, like President-elect Bush, are running on weak platforms and vague promises based on assumptions that we are currently failing. Such negative political prophecies significantly hinder running effective government once elected.

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