OK, it wasn’t a meeting, it was a near meeting. Like the time I was five feet from Oliver North in the lobby of the Mayflower Hotel, or the time I literally brushed elbows with Bob Barr at the Atlanta Airport. Or the time I actually shook hands with Ralph Reed.

I was walking across the broad sidewalk in front of the temporary quarters of the Democratic National Committee and saw, sauntering slowly toward me from up the street a man I immediately recognized as a senator – but which Senator? – and as he came a few feet closer I realized . . . oh, wait – a former senator, now Attorney General, John Ashcroft.

Having no calico cat handy to fling in his path – fortunately, because I would not do well in Guantanamo – I just kept walking. I was reminded of this over the weekend when I read that the Justice Department had banned its gay and lesbian employee group’s traditional Gay Pride event.

Last year, reports the New York Times, Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson – the second-ranking official at the department – spoke to about 150 people at the event in the Great Hall of the department. Not any more. ‘Every other association at the department has its recognized month and event,’ the Times quoted the group’s leader, ‘except us.’

It almost makes you wonder whether Ashcroft was truthful at his confirmation hearing when he denied that his motivation for blocking James Hormel’s ambassadorial confirmation was Hormel’s being gay.

(As with Martha Stewart, it is not the alleged act that bothers me so much as the possibility that Ashcroft may have lied to the government. Like the seven tobacco executives who never got in trouble with the Republican Congress for swearing under oath that they did not believe tobacco was addictive.)

‘I find it particularly outrageous,’ Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) wrote Ashcroft, ‘that the Department of Justice, whose mission is to ensure fairness for all Americans, would deprive its own staff members of the right to gather on public property.’

According to a report in Newsday, ‘Lautenberg noted that Ashcroft was asked by Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., during his confirmation hearing in September 2001 whether he would continue to allow DOJ Pride to hold its annual meeting at the department’s headquarters, as other groups and minority employees are permitted. Ashcroft responded, ‘It would be my intention not to discriminate against any group that appropriately constituted in the Department of Justice.”

I worry about the possibility of four more years of Bush/Ashcroft.

In just two and a half years, President Bush has managed to turn massive surpluses into massive, long-term structural deficits . . . has managed to shift the balance of wealth and power significantly further in favor of the already wealthy and powerful . . . and (icing on the cake) has managed to turn a world that largely liked us into a world that largely does not.

So now comes my chance to win a bumper sticker and your chance to have the satisfaction of knowing you are part of the solution. Click here if you can spare a few bucks to help.* It’s set up so that I’ll see that you did, and so that if enough of you give, I’ll get a DNC bumper sticker. (Indeed, if enough of you give, I’ll get tickets to the Democratic Convention in Boston next summer!)

*Visit the RNC website if you’re a Tom DeLay, John Ashcroft fan.


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