Our Loopy Attorney General

What is it with John Ashcroft? There doesn't seem to be any of our liberties that this maniacal, messianic autocrat will not gleefully assault.

Excuse me for noticing, but I dare say that Bush's attorney general is an extremist sicko. Like a demented street preacher whacking his Bible and shouting damnations at libertines, Ashcroft seems to hate America's liberties. This is the guy who crudely threw a blue burka over the justice department's "Spirit of Justice" art deco statue shortly after he took office. This is the guy who rammed through the decidedly unpatriotic "USA Patriot Act" just days after September 11th, erasing essential elements of our First and Fourth Amendments. This is the guy who decreed that the FBI can resume spying on our churches and political groups. This is the guy who has instructed agency heads to deny We the People access to information under right-to-know laws. This is the guy who has ordered prosecutors to seek executions in every case where the death penalty is available, even when local authorities don't think it's warranted.

And now -- heeeere he comes again -- this time commanding prosecutors to bring the most severe charges possible against everyone accused of a crime and to stop using plea bargains as a tool to achieve justice. Ashcroft's order removes discretion from local prosecutors, further centralizes power in Washington, and imposes an inflexible, one-size-fits-all prosecutorial system that inevitably will be unjust -- while also requiring a massive, multi-billion dollar judicial bureaucracy to handle the tsunami of trials that would result.

But practicality, decentralization of power, and justice itself are but trifling nuisances to Ashcroft, an ideological mad-dog who's out to impose his own hellish autocracy over our democracy.

It's time to start saying the obvious: Ashcroft is dangerously nuts -- and he's got to go.

Jim Hightower is the best-selling author of "Thieves In High Places: They've Stolen Our Country And It's Time To Take It Back," on sale now from Viking Press.

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