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Ashcroft's words, deeds examined

John Ashcroft once hailed Confederate war heroes as patriots, refused to sign a report on minorities in America and rented his fundraising list to Linda Tripp at the very moment he was sitting in judgment of President Clinton at the impeachment trial.

Now the conservative views of President-elect Bush's choice to be attorney general _ a former state law enforcement official and governor _ are being laid out in public as his soon-to-be former Senate colleagues weigh his nomination.

An Associated Press review of his writings, speeches and interviews found that Ashcroft:

Opposed federal money for drug treatment, saying government assistance shouldn't further the "lowest and least" conduct.

Advocated an increased role for charities in assisting the needy.

Fought vigorously against abortion rights.

Ashcroft's Democratic critics have made clear they intend to focus on his views on race and civil rights _ issues which he addressed over a quarter century in public service.

In a 1998 interview, Ashcroft criticized efforts by some historians to portray early Americans, like slave-owning George Washington, as racists, calling them "malicious attacks" and "revisionist nonsense."

"Your magazine also helps set the record straight," Ashcroft told the Southern Partisan, a 2-decade-old periodical that has published articles defending Confederate figures and once sold a T-shirt commemorating Abraham Lincoln with the phrase his assassin uttered, "Thus always to tyrants."

"You've got a heritage of . . . defending Southern patriots like (Gen. Robert E.) Lee, (Gen. Stonewall) Jackson and (Confederate President Jefferson) Davis," Ashcroft said. At the time, he was courting conservatives for a possible presidential candidacy.

"We've all got to stand up and speak in this respect or else we'll be taught that these people were giving their lives, subscribing their sacred fortunes and their honor to some perverted agenda," he added.

During the campaign last winter, Bush's campaign criticized John McCain for using a consultant who wrote for and helped edit Southern Partisan, calling the consultant's writings in the magazine "offensive" and "out of line."

But a Bush spokeswoman offered words of support and explanation for Ashcroft's contribution to the same magazine.

As Missouri governor from 1985 to 1993, Ashcroft signed into law a state holiday honoring Martin Luther King Jr., the slain civil rights leader; established musician Scott Joplin's house as Missouri's only historic site honoring a black person; created an award honoring black educator George Washington Carver; named a black woman to a state judgeship; and led a fight to save Lincoln University, which was founded by black soldiers.

And when he considered becoming GOP chairman in 1993, he urged Republicans to be tolerant and to avoid being "mistakenly portrayed as . . . mean-spirited."

John Ashcroft

George W. Bush's nominee for attorney general

Born: 1942, in Chicago

Education: B.A. Yale Univ.; law degree, Univ. of Chicago


1967-72: Taught business law, Southwest Mo. State Univ.

1967-73: Private law practice

1973-75: Mo. state auditor

1975-77: Mo. assistant attorney general

1977-84: Mo. attorney general

1985-92: Mo. governor

1993-94: Private law practice

1995-present: U.S. senator, Mo.

Achievments: Chair, National Governors Assn. 1990; wrote several books; gospel singer and song writer