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Lessons From a Father to His Son, by John Ashcroft
(Click for Amazon book review)
OnTheIssues.org BOOK REVIEW:
Here's the author's explanation of the purpose of this book: "This is a book that celebrates the fundamental, the quiet, and the routine. It's the story of a father's faith, a mother's mercy, and a son's aspiration. " (p. 3) The book's title, "Lessons From a Father to His Son", hints at that "father's faith," but the book focuses much more on the "Lessons."
Evidently Lesson One from Ashcroft's father to his son was "Be Sanctimonious." The book reeks--REEKS!--of sanctimony from cover to cover. Self-righteousness, holier-than-thou-ism, pompous piety--it's all here!
Look, it's great to admire your dad. But admiring yourself isn't a virtue--and most of the father-worship looks to me like thinly veiled self-worship. To wit: "He raised us to govern ourselves according to the Judeo-Christian principles of the Bible and with an understanding that our choices have consequences" (p . 135). Ashcroft then justifies the death penalty based on that.
It feels like a cop-out that his justifications are rooted outside himself: "We do not have to figure out Scripture--we just have to do it" (still p.135). Ashcroft credits his father with instilling that, but really he's saying is something like, "What I believe is right and you can't change my mind because I base it on God and on my father." That's nice for a preacher--which Ashcroft's father was--but dangerous for a government official.
That sort of religious fundamentalism permeates Ashcroft's book. Ashcroft "invites God's presence into whatever I'm doing--including the world of politics" (p. 205). Then he tells the reader how he favors extremism over moderation: "I don't apologize for being unyielding when I speak on behalf of a balanced budget or in opposition to big government or in favor of protecting the unborn" (pp. 191-2). How is that different than the Taliban's notion of ruling by Shari'ah? How would Ashcroft's ideal of America differ from the Islamic fundamentalist ideal in Afghanistan?
The problem with sanctimony is enforcing it upon others. Ashcroft says, "It is against my religion to impose religion on people" (p. 209). But he DOES impose his religion --as official government policy--in every act he takes: "inviting God into politics" means imposing one's religion.
Ashcroft would be an inspiring preacher. His writings on his brother's untimely death (pp. 112-5) are moving, and have stuck with me personally for years. But inspiring preaching does not qualify one for high office. Ashcroft as a pastor is inspiring. Ashcroft as a politician is dangerous.
-- Jesse Gordon, OnTheIssues editor-in-chief, March 2003
Page last edited: Feb 14, 2019