Let's say a
few more words about John Ashcroft's nomination before he's confirmed tomorrow.
First, I like Chris Dodd, the senior senator from Connecticut. But what the hell is he thinking? Thus far the people who have come out in support of Ashcroft have mostly had decent reasons. I don't agree with them. But there's at least been a logic.
Kent Conrad and Byron Dorgan come from an overwhelmingly Republican state. I wish they'd decided differnetly. But I can see where they're coming from.
Zell Miller clearly wants to cover his right flank by sucking up to George W. Despicable, but understandable.
Russ Feingold? Well, Russ is sort of the beloved, honorable freak of the Democratic caucus. People give him credit for campaign finance reform and other than that have no idea what to make of him.
But what the hell is Chris Dodd's excuse? Beside his car, his houses, his stock portfolio, and the rest of his possessions he owns one more piece of personal property: a senate seat from Connecticut! Dodd owns that seat. He inherited it from his dad!
I have to imagine that Dodd decided to vote for Ashcroft out of some sense of senatorial traditionalism and courtesy. But this ain't bingo we're playing here! A lot of senators are suffering the trials of the martyrs over this (Landrieu, Cleland, etc.). Senate Democrats are going to need to stick together in some really tough situations over the next two years. And the leadership is going to have to ask some Dems from Republican-leaning states to swallow hard and cast some very difficult votes. Why should they put themselves on the line when Dodd won't even do the right thing when it's a gimme? Dodd really has a lot of explaining to do.
Hopefully the Democrats will surpass forty votes tomorrow. But let's pause for a moment to say what was important about stopping this nomination. This was not only about whether John Ashcroft gets to be Attorney General. It was important for the Democrats to defeat this nomination in order to make clear that George W. Bush is not the same as other presidents. Simple as that.
Right-wingers will probably react to that statement as though I've made some sort of fatal admission. But there's nothing to hide. Democrats had to, and still have to, make this clear. I'll say it again - that George W. Bush is not the same as other presidents.
This is not payback or vengeance or pettiness. It is simply reaffirming reality. And it's an important reality to reaffirm.