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Godspeed, John Ashcroft

Here's a pretty old post from the blog archives of Geekery Today; it was written about 18 years ago, in 2004, on the World Wide Web.

(Link thanks to Pandagon 2004/11/14. I appreciate the commentary, Jesse, but I could have done without the joke about sexual assault.)

John Ashcroft has never been one to shy away from pushing the envelope; for the latest example, consider his parting words for the judicial branch.

Ashcroft:

Without referring to specific adverse rulings on the treatment of detainees or enemy combatants, Ashcroft blasted activist judges for encroaching on the powers that he insists belong solely to the president in wartime.

The danger I see here is that intrusive judicial oversight and second-guessing of presidential determinations in these critical areas can put at risk the very security of our nation in a time of war, Ashcroft said.

… he spent most of his 30-minute speech defending the administration policies against federal judges critical of the government’s terrorism policies.

Ideologically driven courts have disregarded and dismissed the president’s evaluations of foreign policy concerns, in favor of theories generated by academic elites, foreign bodies and judicial imagination, Ashcroft said.

Slimy judicial activist elites:

Article I

Section 9. … The privilege of the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in cases of rebellion or invasion the public safety may require it.

Amendment IV

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Amendment V

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; … nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; …

Amendment VI

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.

Charges of judicial activism have a long history on the Right. It used to be that judges were denounced as judicial activists for upholding limits to government power that go beyond what is, strictly speaking, spelled out in the Constitution. Ashcroft has an even better idea: now you can denounce judges as judicial activists for refusing to go beyond what is, strictly speaking, spelled out in the Constitution in order to find exceptions to limits on the power of the Executive.

(You may note that there are accomodations for wartime exigencies in Article I §9 and Amendment V; true, but none of those exceptions apply to the current set of cases, and none limit the protection of Amendments IV, VI, or most of the clauses of Amendment V, either. Nowhere are the phrases the president’s evaluation of foreign policy concerns or except when the security of our nation in a time at war is at risk to be found.)

Here’s how the strict constructionists in the audience greeted this exciting new discovery:

As Ashcroft arrived Friday, he received a long and roaring standing ovation from a hotel ballroom filled largely with leading conservative lawyers. In his speech to the Federalist Society’s national convention, Ashcroft made no direct mention of his decision to step down as the nation’s top law enforcement official.

Ashcroft’s stepped down, but no doubt the Right will continue in its campaign against the creeping menace of judicial activism, marching forward as they always have: that is, by denouncing defenders of individual rights and proudly championing the absolute power of the Monarch as ordained by Almighty God.

O it’s time to let mighty the Eagle soar…

Further reading:

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