Yesterday, former attorney general John Ashcroft spoke at the University of Texas at Austin on the differences between the Obama and Bush administrations in a lecture hosted by the Young Conservatives of Texas and College Republicans. Although “[m]ost in attendance were respectful of Ashcroft’s right to speak,” he was greeted by a group of protesters who waved “signs of dissent” and booed when he first appeared.
During his speech, Ashcroft launched a vociferous defense of both Bush’s career and his own, saying that history will judge Bush well. While he said that the former president made some mistakes, Ashcroft said that his own record was perfect: “I don’t have a mark on my conscience.” From the report by the Daily Texan:
“I think history will be very kind to [former President George W. Bush],” Ashcroft said as he began discussing the powers of the president, drawing cheers and gasps.
Ashcroft acknowledged the fact that Bush is not a perfect man and made some mistakes. [...]
At one point Ashcroft noticed a dry-erase board to the side of the stage and began to describe the overlap of power between Congress and the president to declare war. As Ashcroft made his way to the right side of the stage, one protester made sure to exclaim, “No, it’s not a waterboard!” Ashcroft didn’t hear him and proceeded to draw a Venn diagram. [...]
Ashcroft said he doesn’t regret any decisions he made during his time as attorney general. “I don’t have a mark on my conscience,” Ashcroft said.
Ashcroft’s appearance was part of a blitz by former Bush administration officials to secure a good legacy for their boss. Both Vice President Cheney and former White House flack Ari Fleischer recently tried to justify the war in Iraq by falsely tying together Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda (again). Loyal Bushies have even started a Bush-Cheney alumni association to “help build a lasting legacy.” Karl Rove, the man behind securing Bush’s reputation, plans to release a book that will “name names” of all the Bush haters.
Since Ashcroft can’t seem to remember any of his misdeeds, we’re here to help him out: He was the chief architect of the invasive Patriot Act, and maintains to this day that Bush is “among the most respectful of all leaders ever” of civil liberties. Of course, in 2003, he also approved waterboarding and other torture techniques on detainees.
The Daily Texan notes that the only time the entire audience cheered for Ashcroft was when he “pok[ed] fun at his own political past,” noting how he lost the 2000 Missouri U.S. Senate race to a deceased rival.