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Web posted Thursday, January 11, 2001

photo: general

  John Ashcroft is shown in Austin, Texas, on Dec. 22.
Associated Press Photo

Ashcroft invites God on decisions

The Associated Press

WASHINGTON -- Attorney General-designate John Ashcroft says he tries to "invite God's presence" while making crucial decisions and compares his political victories and defeats to resurrections and crucifixions.

The former Missouri governor also wrote that he was anointed before each of his gubernatorial terms and on the evening before he was sworn into the U.S. Senate a friend brought out Crisco cooking oil for anointing when no holy oil could be found.

In his 1998 book, "Lessons From A Father To His Son," the son of a pastor makes clear his deep devotion to Christianity and details how it has shaped his lengthy public career -- from his view on race to his staunch opposition to abortion and support for the death penalty.

Since President-elect Bush selected the defeated Missouri senator to be America's next chief law enforcement officer, civil rights groups and abortion rights supporters have mobilized to oppose his nominations based on some of his views.

Ashcroft's book offers a plainspoken reply to such criticism.

"It is against my religion to impose religion on people. ... But I also believe that I need to invite God's presence into whatever I'm doing, including the world of politics," wrote Ashcroft, who is Pentecostal.

The mixing of politics and faith is embraced by many public officials, according to the Rev. Jerry Falwell. Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., an Orthodox Jew, often spoke of his faith during his campaign for vice president and strictly observed the Jewish Sabbath from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday.

"There are more today in high places who unashamedly express their faith in God than I have known in my 50 years in the ministry," Falwell said. "John Ashcroft is one of the most genuine and committed Christians I have ever met."

Ashcroft's book is a tribute to his late father, J. Robert Ashcroft, who was a pastor and college president. The former senator credits his father with teaching him the moral values that shaped his life as a state and federal officeholder.

"My theory about elections is mirrored in what I hold about all of life: for every crucifixion a resurrection is waiting to follow -- perhaps not immediately, but the possibility is there," Ashcroft wrote.

He used the same analogy to describe his first defeat for Congress in 1972.

"My congressional election loss did not end at a crucifixion; it became a resurrection, and an open door to my lifelong vocation of public service. But other crucifixions lay ahead."

Ashcroft, a former Missouri attorney general, addresses in the book some of the issues he would face in the Justice Department and at his confirmation hearing next week before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Ashcroft is criticized by black leaders for his role in halting the nomination of Missouri Supreme Court Judge Ronnie White, the first black on the state's high court, to a federal judgeship. White has agreed to testify.

Of race, Ashcroft wrote that he learned discrimination was wrong when he asked his father, "What would you say if I told you I wanted to marry a black woman?"

His father replied: "John, what would be trouble was if you married someone who didn't share your faith." Ashcroft recalled, "This was my father's way of telling me that what really mattered was not skin color but the condition of a person's heart."

The Cabinet designee has said he considered White to be soft on criminals, and noted he had supported 23 of the 26 nominations of black judges during his Senate tenure.

The man who would have a major say in selecting judicial nominees was harshly critical of judicial activists.

He wrote that such jurists "refuse to accept the inactivity of the legislature or the silence of the framers of the Constitution as evidence that the ignored issues should not be addressed or were purposely not covered by the law or the Constitution."

"What these activist judges fail to see is that where the Constitution is silent, that silence expresses the will of the people."

As governor, Ashcroft said, his religious beliefs did not prevent him from allowing executions -- even when a condemned prisoner went through a religious conversion.

"Just because a murderer has learned to love the Lord does not mean the state should pardon him," Ashcroft wrote. "As a Christian, I am willing to forgive him; but as governor, it would have been inappropriate for me to pardon him unless a mistake had been made in the judicial proceedings."

Ashcroft likened his two gubernatorial inaugurations to Jewish kings David and Saul, who "were anointed as they undertook their administrative duties."

On the eve of his becoming a senator, Ashcroft remarked to a group of family and friends, "It's too bad we don't have any oil."

"Let's see if there's something in the kitchen," his father suggested.

Someone brought out a tiny bowl of Crisco oil.

"We chuckled about that, but my father assured us, 'The oil itself isn't important, except as a symbol of the spirit of God," Ashcroft wrote.

"Say what you will, it means nothing,totally empty and nothing more than an insult to the will of the AMERICAN peoples already beset with trouble.May thier hearts not be further burdened by such arrogance. May they be less decieved by your foolishness."
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