CNN PEOPLE IN THE NEWS
Profiles of Pope John Paul II, John Ashcroft
Aired September 21, 2002 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: Next on PEOPLE IN THE NEWS, millions are looking to him for guidance as sex scandal robs the Roman Catholic Church.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Holy Father is calling us now to be people of light and that's what we have to start to be.
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ANNOUNCER: He stood up to Nazi occupation and communism.
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ROBERT MOYNIHAN, "INSIDE THE VATICAN" MAGAZINE: He brought that empire down, but not with missiles, but just by being a man of faith.
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ANNOUNCER: Now, he faces as new challenge to his church, the lifelong pilgrimage of Pope John Paul II.
Then, he's the top lawman in the land, in charge of security in these times of terror.
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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What he's doing now is a calling.
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ANNOUNCER: As the son of a preacher, politics became his pulpit.
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DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: God created us and created us with purpose.
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ANNOUNCER: He came front and center after 9/11, but his methods have stirred up controversy.
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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's attacking the pillars of freedom. (END VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: A look at U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft, their stories now on PEOPLE IN THE NEWS.
PAULA ZAHN, HOST: Hi, welcome to PEOPLE IN THE NEWS, I'm Paula Zahn. It has been 23 years since Pope John Paul II's first visit to the United States. At the time, he was called "John Paul Superstar," young, tireless, driven. Nearly a quarter a century later, he is still driven, but his age and declining health are concerns. Just last month, there was speculation that he might step down during his emotional visit to his native Poland. Nevertheless, Pope John Paul not only seems determined to continue his legacy, but also to see the Catholic Church through one of its most trying times in its history. Here's Jim Bittermann.
JIM BITTERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): "I believe," Karol Wojtyla said as a young man, "that a tidal wave hits the shore to leave a mark. A tidal wave is a creative power."
POPE JOHN PAUL II: God bless you.
BITTERMANN: The man who became Pope John Paul II is himself a tidal wave that has washed through the last decades of the 20th century and into the 21st, leaving a very large mark on history's shores. Rarely has such a wide combination of talents encountered such rich opportunity, seldom has someone been so suited for his office as John Paul.
Over the course of 24 years, the pope has been tested by communist regimes in Europe, by women who wanted greater roles in the church, even by his own failing health, but one of his toughest challenges yet -- restoring faith in Catholicism after a child sex abuse scandal that cast a shadow of fear and mistrust over priests and the church hierarchy. In an effort to reach out to the faithful who stood by the church and bring new believers into it, Pope John Paul II continues to travel tirelessly, in recent weeks to Guatemala, to Canada, to Mexico, and back to his native Poland. Through it all, he is received like royalty, but he is a pope who comes from very humble beginnings.
Born in a small town called Wadowice in Southwestern Poland, May 18, 1920, Karol was the second son of a frail schoolteacher named Emilia and a retired military officer for whom he was named. But young Karol would enjoy little of the family life he later so vigorously emphasized as a priest. His mother died of heart and kidney failure when he was 9-years-old and three years afterwards, scarlet fever claimed his older brother.
SZCZEPAN MOGIELNICKI, CHILDHOOD FRIEND (through translator): I would say he lost his childhood at 12, when he lost his brother. There was no youthful folly in him. Even when he played sports, he was very concentrated, but of course, he had a lot of passion. He was a very noble person, and he expressed things in a very noble way, but there was no folly.
BITTERMANN: Childhood friends say Karol's grief was obvious to everyone.
BOJES TEOFIL, CHILDHOOD FRIEND (through translator): He stood out among us. Starting in fifth grade, we were smoking cigarettes and looking at girls, but he was very quiet.
BITTERMANN: Quiet perhaps, but still someone who loved socializing and sports, excelling at skiing, hiking and soccer. Jerzy Kluger, an old friend of Karol Wojtyla, remembers youthful soccer games, Catholics versus Jews. But in the predominantly Catholic town of Wadowice, the Jewish population was small. Kluger says on the playing field, his Catholic friend would volunteer to help even the odds.
JERZY KLUGER, CHILDHOOD FRIEND: There usually was not enough Jews, so somebody had to play on the Jewish team and he was always sort of ready, you know.
BITTERMANN: For the time and place, the friendship between the two men was unusual. Poland was rife with anti-Semitism and Catholics did not often mix with Jews. When the Nazis invaded Poland in 1939, they targeted millions of Jews and intellectuals for extermination.
MARCO POLITI, AUTHOR, "HIS HOLINESS": Many relatives of his closest friends had died in Auschwitz, so he knew these tragedies directly not from the books, not from hearsay.
BITTERMANN: Wojtyla, already by then a budding philosopher and playwright, firmly opposed to the teachings of the Nazis, so he put his beliefs into action. He helped smuggle Jews out of Poland and founded an underground theater company, writing and acting in plays that frequently dealt with oppression.
DANUTA MICHALOWSKA, CHILDHOOD FRIENDS (through translator): He was really talented. He was wise not only in the usual meaning of the word, but also in the artistic sense. He knew what to do with a word. He knew how to say it.
BITTERMANN: In addition to his theater, Wojtyla began secretly studying for the priesthood, even though the Nazis were actively killing priests who opposed them.
MICHAELOWSKA (through translator): The rest of us, we were like most intellectuals at the time, practicing Catholics, but our Catholicism was rather superficial. There was a distinct difference between him and us.
BITTERMANN: Because of his clandestine studies during the war, Wojtyla was able to be ordained a priest barely a year after it had ended. Yet, after the Nazis were defeated, another repressive regime came to power in Poland, a communist one. And one of the pillars of communist philosophy was atheism. Wojtyla, with his strong belief in God, found himself again at odds with the political rulers. Strongly opposed to the government in Poland and its neighboring countries, he was vocal in his resistance.
By the time he was 38, Wojtyla was named bishop, then archbishop. And then, in 1967, Karol Wojtyla made Pope Paul VI's youngest cardinal. In church terms, it was a meteoric rise. In retrospect, perhaps a sign bigger things were in store.
BITTERMANN: When PEOPLE IN THE NEWS continues, speculation that his political stand against communist regimes causes Pope John Paul II to pay a personal price.
ANNOUNCER: And still ahead, America's top cop targeting terrorism and answering his critics.
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ASHCROFT: It's against my religion to impose my religion.
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ANNOUNCER: What drives Attorney General John Ashcroft, ahead on PEOPLE IN THE NEWS.
ANNOUNCER: Welcome back to PEOPLE IN THE NEWS.
BITTERMANN (voice-over): With a white puff of smoke, the Catholic Church made clear its choice of a new pope on an October evening in 1978. And yet, when he stepped out on the balcony of St. Peter's basilica, Karol Wojtyla hardly seemed to be at the right spot at the right time. Few outside church circles even recognized his name or knew anything about him.
The newly elected pope was an unusual and inspired choice. As the first non-Italian chosen in over 450 years, John Paul II with his background in philosophy and activism against fascism and communism brought a new way of thinking to the papacy. One of his first trips as pope was back to his native Poland where he urged his countrymen to be strong and stand up for moral order. Many saw an immediate change among Poles, a change, which would spell the beginning of the end of communism.
WILTON WYNN, AUTHOR, "KEEPER OF THE KEYS": All of a sudden, they realized they had power. They had been subdued and they had been submissive but all of a sudden, they realized they could challenge the regime and get away with it. As one bishop, a Polish bishop said to me then, they crossed the threshold of fear.
BITTERMANN: Less than two years later Poland was on strike.
LECH WALESA, FORMER POLISH PRESIDENT (through translator): We, without him, would have started much, much later, and with a lot of blood.
BITTERMANN: And for the rest of the decade, under the guiding hand of the pope, the Vatican would play a subtle but certain role keeping unrest smoldering in Poland and elsewhere Eastern Europe and not so subtly warning the Soviet Union.
WYNN: Once the Poles got away with it, all the rest of the satellites realized they could do it too and one-by-one, the dominoes fell.
MOYNIHAN: That was the beginning of the end of what we call the Soviet Empire. I think he brought that empire down, but not with missiles and not even with economic sanctions, but just by being a man, by being a man of faith.
BITTERMANN: Many believed the pope's faith was such a threat to Communists that Moscow tried to assassinate him. He very nearly died after Turkish gunman, Ali Agca, fired from the crowds in St. Peter's Square on a sunny day afternoon in 1981.
ALI AGCA, TRIED TO ASSASSINATE POPE: I am Jesus Christ. In this generation, all the world will be destroyed.
BITTERMANN: It took the pope months to recover. Agca came to trial and said he was hired by Bulgarian secret agents. It was a conspiracy the prosecutor could never prove. And later, the pope went to Agca's jail cell to forgive the man who tried to kill him. "What we said to each other is a secret between him and me," the pope told reporters, "I spoke to him as I would speak to a brother whom I have forgiven and who enjoys my confidence."
The pope used his time recovering from his wounds to approve a new Code of Canon Law for the church and orchestrate a campaign to ban nuclear weapons, one of many campaigns during his reign in which he has crossed swords with superpower leaders.
POPE JOHN PAUL II: Peace is not only the absence of war; it also involves reciprocal trust between nations, a trust that is manifested and proved through constructive negotiations that aim at ending the arms race.
BITTERMANN: But he believes strongly in preaching moral justice to the point that Vatican observers believe he has changed the fundamentals of the papacy.
POLITI: Now, the role of the Roman pontiff has become the role of a spokesman for social justice and human rights.
BITTERMANN: Strong discipline has been a hallmark of John Paul's reign. While he initiated numerous consultative bishops' conferences called synods, some of those who attended said dissent was not an option. He did not want his churchmen to confuse believers with different versions of the faith.
POPE JOHN PAUL II: Polarization and destructive criticism have no place among those who are of the household of faith. WYNN: When he came to power and he was elected, he realized that one thing he had to do was to restore clarity to Catholic teaching. And he says, "OK, maybe they won't obey, maybe they don't accept, but at least they'll know what the church stands for."
BITTERMANN: But out on the frontlines, the pope's priestly foot soldiers reported that his fixed teachings on issues such as sexuality, divorce, abortion and the role of women were driving Catholics from the church. Others argued that the pope should not be faulted for his purist interpretations.
HELEN HULL HITCHCOCK, WOMEN FOR FAITH AND FAMILY: Catholics believe what the priest is doing is, in a sense, representing the sacrifice of Christ. He's standing in the person of Christ. He represents Christ in a way. And it makes sense then, that someone who is representing Christ would be male, as Christ was.
BITTERMANN: Even so, some Catholic women continue to fight for a more open dialogue about their rights, but as with other issues, the pope has not budged in his beliefs.
JOHN ALLEN JR., NATIONAL CATHOLIC REPORTER: Karl Rahner, probably the most famous theologian of the 20th century, said in 1984 before he died that this pope came to teach and to preach. He is not a pope of dialogue. And I think that in many ways that's true. I think that captures what John Paul wanted to do as pope.
BITTERMANN: Everywhere the pope goes to preach and teach though, enormous crowds come to see him. The pope, so traditional in his interpretation of doctrine, has never missed an opportunity to take advantage of decidedly modern-day methods like jet-travel and the media to spread the word to the masses.
ANNOUNCER: Available for the very first time...
BITTERMANN: In 1994, for instance, John Paul went pop sanctioning a CD recording of his recitation of the rosary set to music, then came a book deal. John Paul's answers to 20 questions about life and his philosophy, which were published in the same year as the CD. "Crossing The Threshold of Hope" became an international best seller, allowing the pope's views to reach an audience wider still.
He instituted something, which became a tradition, called World Youth Day. And to the astonishment of those around him, young people by the millions flocked to see him even when the generation gap grew as the pope's age and infirmity took their toll.
MOYNIHAN: With the end of the left, of communism, he was left as one of the few voices in the world that was speaking out against everyone who runs things, strangely enough. And so, in the year 2000, two million young people come to Rome and they said, "John Paul II, we love you."
CROWD: John Paul II, we love you! John Paul II, we love you!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: John Paul II, we love you!
MOYNIHAN: It's strange. Who would think that a pope, an old man, who tells people not to do things would be loved by these young people.
BITTERMANN: Next on PEOPLE IN THE NEWS, the revolutionary Pope John Paul II fights to preserve his health, his legacy and faith in the Catholic Church in the wake of a scandal that has shaken the church to its core.
ANNOUNCER: Now back to PEOPLE IN THE NEWS.
BITTERMANN (voice-over): After repeated trips to the hospital to treat a variety of maladies, John Paul's most serious medical challenge began to appear in 1994. A tremor in his left hand soon became interpreted as Parkinson's disease, something the Vatican never fully denied. From then onward, observers have not stopped nattering about the pope's health. But year after year, he's befuddled them all, keeping up a busy schedule with few accommodations for his physical problems.
ALLEN: There is a line in one of the epistles of St. Paul -- "I have run the race" -- and a runner runs until the finish line, then he collapses even though he's tired the whole last lap.
BITTERMANN: There were predictions he would not reach his most cherished goal, taking the church into the third millennium. But when the jubilee year began to mark the 2,000 anniversary of Christ's birth, the pope was leading the celebrations.
And during the year, he accomplished two further goals -- one, a day of atonement, during which Pope John Paul led his clergy to publicly confess for the church's sins and his second goal, a rigorous and politically challenging trip through the Holy Land. There will be no more enduring image of his papacy, then his trembling hand placing a note in Jerusalem's wailing wall, asking the Jewish people to forgive the church for their mistreatment of them over the centuries. But the pope's efforts in the later years of his papacy to reach out to Judaism and other religions met with only mixed success.
There was an even bigger disappointment for John Paul because of a church crisis that left many Catholics feeling betrayed. After nearly two decades of growing concern and outrage, the pope finally took action to address a sex abuse scandal centered mainly in churches in the United States, but which could eventually still have implications for Catholics everywhere. A staggering number of charges were brought against priests accused of molesting children and teenagers. The church was caught in a vicious circle of criminal charges and civil suits as more and more alleged victims came forward.
And if that was not damaging enough, evidence surfaced that the church hierarchy systematically covered up the crimes, protecting sexually abusive priests and allowing them to remain in the their pastoral roles. Only late in the affair did Pope John Paul step in, calling American cardinals to the Vatican, a measure designed to emphasize his commitment to resolving this matter. "No one who harmed children," the pope said, "could be part of the church."
ALLEN: I think perhaps the lesson from that is it's important -- it is important for the pope and the senior officials in the Vatican to be good administrators. It is perhaps even more important for them to be good pastors, that is people who stand with their people when they're suffering. And I think that when the cardinals next get together to elect a pope they will certainly be looking -- and I think this crisis will have encouraged them to look for a very pastoral man.
BITTERMANN: Vatican observers said John Paul, a pastoral man who has made family life a pillar of his papacy, was clearly pained that his own churchmen had brought such harm to their faithful.
(on-camera): Yet, many are certain the pope's reign will be remembered not for its shortfalls, but its achievements. Decades before he became pope, John Paul wrote in his book entitled "The Acting Person" that "a person's actions define what he stand for." It is the epitome of the pope's life.
(voice-over): Late in his pontificate, John Paul once again surprised and befuddled his critics, by naming 44 new cardinals to the College of Cardinals, the exclusive club of high churchmen who will select his successor. Among his choices are independent minds who almost surely will open great debate about who should be the next pope. As well, John Paul clearly shifted the geographic center of the college toward Latin America and the underdeveloped world.
Many church historians believe this will be John Paul's single most important legacy, ensuring his church's future by directing it firmly down the path of tradition at the side of those who like the pope himself, come from humble beginnings and believe faith can help them persevere.
ZAHN: Though Pope John Paul has slowed down, he maintains a relatively demanding schedule. The Vatican isn't even ruling out a return trip by the pontiff to his beloved Poland.
ANNOUNCER: Coming up, Attorney General John Ashcroft front and center in the war on terror.
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NINA EASTON, AUTHOR, "GANG OF FIVE: LEADERS AT THE CENTER OF THE CONSERVATIVE CRUSADE": He believes in evil. He believes in Satan and he believes that he's going to fight it.
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ANNOUNCER: Ashcroft's daunting task and the faith that drives him. We'll be right back.
ZAHN: Welcome back to PEOPLE IN THE NEWS. When there is an arrest in the war on terror or the nation goes on heightened alert, the first person you're likely to see on TV is Attorney General John Ashcroft. The nation's top cop has been a constant presence since September 11 of last year. He has also been a flash point for controversy. CNN's senior political correspondent Candy Crowley has our profile.
ASHCROFT: These heinous acts of violence are an assault on the security of our nation. They're an assault on the security and freedom of every American citizen. We will not tolerate such acts.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With those words, John Ashcroft stepped forward, the 79th attorney general of the United States, and the guardian of the American people.
ASHCROFT: I went straight to the FBI and, frankly, didn't come back to this office to do work for, I guess, about 60 days.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: John Ashcroft's profile has been completely transformed by 9/11. He is front and center, the voice of the administration on counterterrorism, which is the most important issue in the country.
CROWLEY: And his stances on the issue has stirred up debate.
LAURA MURPHY, DIRECTOR, ACLU: I think he's been one of the worst attorney generals in recent history.
SEN. TRENT LOTT (R-MS), MINORITY LEADER: I think he's done an excellent job. John has really thrown himself into it and it's been a tough job.
CROWLEY: A controversial presidential appointee, Attorney General Ashcroft hadn't been on the job for a year when he inherited the daunting task of protecting Americans from terror.
DICK FOTH, FRIEND: It is a daunting task. I don't know that he's daunted by it. You know, someone will do it. He has been chosen.
CROWLEY: Chosen not only by George W. Bush, but according to Ashcroft's beliefs, also by God.
ASHCROFT: I think that things do happen for a reason, I don't think for accidents. It's a matter of belief to me that God created us and created us with purpose. And we should try and work to fulfill that purpose. CROWLEY: John David Ashcroft's journey began in Chicago on May 9, 1942. He was the second of three sons born to Grace and Jay Robert Ashcroft, a Pentecostal minister who had followed in his father's footsteps.
EASTON: John Ashcroft's grandfather began as a traveling preacher after he suffered burns from an explosion, a gas explosion, and he decided to devote himself to evangelizing.
CROWLEY: After selling most of their worldly possessions, the Ashcrofts, like Pentecostals at the time, took to the road to spread their faith.
EASTON: And they would tour all through the eastern seaboard and try to set up revival meetings.
ANNOUNCER: It's revival time on the air coast to coast and around the world.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now is the day of salvation!
CROWLEY: At revivals, it was believed the Holy Spirit was present, sometimes manifested in ecstatic celebration that included spontaneous divine healing and speaking in tongues.
JULEEN TURNAGE, ASSEMBLIES OF GOD SPOKESWOMAN: Glosolalia (ph) or speaking in tongues is the able to pray and to worship God in a language that you have not learned.
CROWLEY: And it's something that Ashcroft has personally experienced.
EASTON: John Ashcroft received the Holy Spirit for the first time at age 11 at a place called the Holy Shrine Mosque in Springfield, Missouri. It was a revival meeting. He doesn't say much about it, but he does say that he experienced a sense of renewal.
CROWLEY: When John was a child, his father took the family to Springfield, headquarters for the Assemblies of God Church, a denomination of the Pentecostal movement.
TURNAGE: Music is very important in Assemblies of God churches.
CROWLEY: Music is also very important to John Ashcroft. On July 1, 2001, he sang his own composition at the pulpit of his own church, Springfield Central Assembly.
ASHCROFT: Only God no other king, let the mighty eagle soar.
CROWLEY: As music played a large part in the young John Ashcroft's life, so did exposure to different cultures. Traveling missionaries often staid with the family.
FOTH: John mentioned that 250 nights of one year they had guests in their home.
CROWLEY: But when summertime came, it was time pick up the family and go spread the word.
ASHCROFT: My father gave himself constantly as a teacher and he spent his time in the summers frequently speaking in camp meetings as a teacher, bible teacher.
CROWLEY: During World War II, Jay Robert Ashcroft was turned down as an armed services chaplain for lack of a formal education. Ashcroft's father was stung by the experience, so much so that he chose to send his middle son to New England's hotbed of intellectualism, Yale University.
FOTH: I think he was probably one of the only people from his kind of background, at least his kind of faith background, who was there at that time.
CROWLEY: And he was probably one of the only students who refused to drink, smoke or dance.
FOTH: I think that it had challenges but I think that he really engaged it.
CROWLEY: One way he engaged it was through sports. John had always been a talented athlete. In high school, his basketball moves were described as balletic. And at Yale, intramural football helped him fit it.
FOTH: Whenever he talks about his experience at Yale -- I think he saw it as something positive and it expanded his world, as it's meant to do.
CROWLEY: When PEOPLE IN THE NEWS continues, John Ashcroft moves into the world, chooses politics over the pulpit, and hits a career rock bottom.
CROWLEY (voice-over): In 1964, history major John Ashcroft graduated from Yale University. For a devout son and grandson of Pentecostal preachers, the next step seemed obvious, but it wasn't.
FOTH: I think when he was coming out of Yale, he was trying to weigh, do I go to law school or got to seminary?
CROWLEY (on-camera): You're sort of the black sheep that took off for parts unknown, went to Yale and then, got into politics, why?
ASHCROFT: Well, I think the opportunity to participate in shaping the environment, government's a place to make that happen.
FOTH: This idea of giving your life to help and to serve is a big theme. It's a huge theme for John.
CROWLEY (voice-over): From Yale, Ashcroft went on to the University of Chicago Law School where he met his wife, Janet.
FOTH: She's very sharp in her own right. She's a good thinker.
CROWLEY: The lawyerly pair went off to teach and author textbooks together at Southwest Missouri State University. And in 1972, at the age of 30, John Ashcroft made his first run at public office for a Congressional seat in his hometown district of Springfield, Missouri.
(on-camera): You've had starts and stops throughout your career. You lost your first election?
ASHCROFT: Yes, I did.
CROWLEY (voice-over): But failure didn't stop Ashcroft from holding each of the top four jobs in Missouri state government, eventually working his way to the governor's mansion.
ASHCROFT: And after I was governor, I offered myself to be the chairman of the Republican Party and I lost that race. And I thought, wow, that's a mandate to stay at home, but then the United States Senate job opened up and I ran for that and won that. So for me, I've had these sort of falling upstairs experiences.
TOOBIN: Ashcroft has one of the most amazing political histories of any politician in America. Four times in his career, he has lost elections and wound up with a better job later. He says often, "For every crucifixion, there is a resurrection."
CROWLEY: John Ashcroft made his mark in Missouri politics with strong stances on issues very important to Missouri's conservative voters.
PROF. RICHARD HARDY, UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI: In Missouri, when you run for public office there are only three issues -- guns, babies and taxes.
CROWLEY: He is a vocal opponent of gun control and unabashedly anti-abortion.
ASHCROFT: ... so help me God.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Congratulations.
CROWLEY: Ashcroft raised eyebrows during eight years in the governor's mansion, not permitting dancing or drinking in accordance with his religious beliefs.
HARDY: When you say the word "straight arrow," I think of John Ashcroft. I often think of John Ashcroft as kind of the Pat Boone of American politics.
CROWLEY: Once in the Senate, Ashcroft made a name for himself as a member of the Singing Senators and as the standard bearer for conservative causes. ASHCROFT: The Democrats want government to big that we don't need families. We want families so strong that they don't need bigger government.
CROWLEY: He once boasted there are two things you find in the middle of the road, a moderate and a dead skunk, adding that he didn't want to be either.
ASHCROFT: No other institution can instill values as the family can.
TOOBIN: He received 100 percent ratings as a senator from virtually all of the conservative organizations and a zero rating from virtually all of the liberal organizations.
CROWLEY: He was the first politician to call for President Clinton's resignation in light of the Lewinsky scandal. Shortly, thereafter, Ashcroft made a run for the 2000 presidential nomination.
HARDY: First, he got a lot of support. He has a natural base. The Christian groups are a natural base for him, but it just didn't seem to catch on. And by the time really he got into it; I think the big money had already gone on to George Bush.
CROWLEY: With the highest office out of reach for the time being, Ashcroft entered into a bitter fight for a second term.
ASHCROFT: Thank you.
TOOBIN: The 2000 Senate race was the heavyweight championship of Missouri politics. You had John Ashcroft, a two-term governor, very popular, against Mel Carnahan, also a two-term governor, Democrat, running for the Senate for the first time.
CROWLEY: The race was neck and neck, when tragedy struck just three weeks before Election Day.
ANNOUNCER: We now interrupt regular programming...
ANNOUNCER: Missouri Governor Mel Carnahan was killed Monday night in a plan crash along with his son and a campaign adviser.
HARDY: When that happened, what are you going to do? What is your strategy? If you continue campaigning, it is seen as absolutely sacrilegious. It is an affront to human decency.
CROWLEY: Ashcroft had no choice but to suspend his campaign.
ASHCROFT: This is a time for us think about things that are most important to us, our families, our faith.
CROWLEY: Then the announcement came that Carnahan's widow, Jean, would take his place.
HARDY: When Mrs. Carnahan came out to announce that she was going to run, I had this feeling that it's all over, there is no way that John Ashcroft's going to one this race.
CROWLEY: When all was said and done, the late Mel Carnahan defeated the very much alive John Ashcroft by 50,000 votes. Allies encouraged Ashcroft to challenge the outcome, but he chose to bow out gracefully.
ASHCROFT: My opportunity to serve in the United States Senate began in January of 1995 and it will conclude in January of the year 2001.
CROWLEY: John Ashcroft's political career came to a screeching halt.
FOTH: Then, all of a sudden, six weeks later, comes a call from Austin and off we go to the races.
ANNOUNCER: Now back to PEOPLE IN THE NEWS.
ASHCROFT: I believe that the will of the people has been expressed with compassion.
CROWLEY (voice-over): It was November of 2000 and Missouri's John Ashcroft was figuring out what to do next. His opponent's widow was heading to the United States Senate to represent Missouri, and he was heading home.
FOTH: After he lost the senatorial race, we sat around for hours and talked about, OK, what do we do now?
HARDY: I don't think there's a politician in this country that could have survived that election and won under the circumstances.
ASHCROFT: Somebody said, "John told his wife, there's not a person alive that can beat me for the Senate."
CROWLEY: But as had happened so many times in his career, after a loss, resurrection. The country's new president was interested in Ashcroft.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Today, it's my honor to send to the United States Senate the name of Senator John Ashcroft to become the attorney general of the United States.
ASHCROFT: That's kind of hard to look at the loss and not say it was a part of my becoming the attorney general of the United States.
HARDY: I think John Ashcroft might see that as divine providence.
CROWD: Two, four, six, eight, down with Ashcroft, down with hate!
CROWLEY: But he was a controversial choice.
CROWD: John Ashcroft's got to go!
TOOBIN: John Ashcroft was probably the biggest surprise in Bush's cabinet. And I think the only rational explanation is that George Bush cares deeply about his conservative constituency.
CROWD: Not the church, not the state, women will decide our fate!
EASTON: And I think the religion scared people. I think he was considered, you know, kind of weird, you know, kind of costalism (ph). I think labels like extremist were easy to just, you know, throw on him.
CROWLEY: Ashcroft also had some very powerful supporters.
LOTT: Thank you.
It seems to me like you'd want somebody in that position that has strong faith and believes in the principles that are taught in religious documents and a lot of people in this city, you know, don't like that.
CROWLEY: Ashcroft's bid to become attorney general was a five- week struggle, capped with four days of contentious testimony in front of the Senate committee.
TOOBIN: The confirmation hearings were not so much about his religion; they were about his record, which is long, distinguished and very, very conservative.
SEN. EDWARD M. KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: I want to give you a fair chance, but we're...
ASHCROFT: But -- Well, but you...
KENNEDY: Go ahead.
ASHCROFT: I thank you for your fairness because when the machine gun of charges comes out, I want to try and respond, to get all of the lead.
FOTH: After one of the sessions, you say, "John, you know, these folks are hammering on you here. How do you feel about that?" And he just looked at me and said, "Dick, there is a tremendous amount of suffering in this world and this isn't it."
CROWLEY: In a vote of 58-42, the slimmest margin since 1925, the Senate confirmed John Ashcroft as United States attorney general.
MURPHY: The question is, can he function as attorney general in a way that makes sure that he is true to his obligation, his sworn obligation to uphold the Constitution and the Bill of Rights without imposing it every turn his personal religious or political beliefs on American citizens.
CROWLEY (on-camera): How much of your religious upbringing comes to this job?
ASHCROFT: First of all, let me say, that it's against my religion to impose my religion. See, I believe that religion and spirituality is a matter of inspiration, not of imposition.
TOOBIN: Before 9/11, John Ashcroft was really a low-key attorney general.
CROWLEY (voice-over): Then John Ashcroft's role changed dramatically. Suddenly, he was the administration's voice on the most pressing issue of the day.
ASHCROFT: Today, we are releasing the photographs of 19 hijackers of the planes.
CROWLEY: It seemed as if John Ashcroft had a renewed purpose.
EASTON: Now, he's driven. He believes in evil. He believes in Satan and he believes that he is going to fight it tooth and nail, whatever it takes.
CROWLEY (on-camera): What is your mission statement now as the attorney general as opposed to 9/11?
ASHCROFT: Well, first of all, we're going to continue to do everything possible to prevent additional terrorist attacks.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These are all our teams that we send in.
ASHCROFT: Prevention is our job.
CROWLEY (voice-over): Only eight days after the attacks, Ashcroft asked that the Justice Department be given broader powers of surveillance and attention.
ASHCROFT: We will not fail to use any tool.
CROWLEY: The proposal was called the USA Patriot Act and it raised some concerns.
MURPHY: There's nothing wrong with being for prevention. But if your idea of prevention is to put everyone under surveillance, knowing that you're more likely to find them guilty, it's just not the American way.
TOOBIN: How do you stop crimes, stop people before they have done anything wrong? It's a struggle that the Justice Department is waging every day.
CROWLEY: And further controversial proposals have come since the Patriot Act passed last October, such as "Operation Tips," which asks ordinary citizens to report suspicious activity.
LOTT: This is a new experience for us. We're going to have to, frankly, give up some of the freedoms and the privileges.
SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D), CHAIRMAN, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Everybody, Democrats or Republicans, want our attorney general to succeed. But they also want to make sure the attorney general does not turn the country into some kind of a police state no matter what the motivation might be.
CROWLEY: Even with concerns over civil liberties, Ashcroft has stuck to his guns.
EASTON: Post September 11, he's come off as decisive, you know, willing to do what it takes to combat terrorism at home. And I think he's gotten points for that.
CROWD: Ashcroft! Ashcroft!
CROWLEY: And points count in politics. So after a 30-year career, it makes sense to ask the question...
(on-camera): Where do you see yourself after your tenure here at the Justice Department? Where does John Ashcroft go?
ASHCROFT: I don't know. I'm working as hard as I can and, frankly, I'm so focused on the road that's immediately ahead of me, I don't have a chance to look very far down the road.
TOOBIN: Privately, Ashcroft has often spoken of essentially a destiny he has for public service in this country, leading up to, and including, the presidency of the United States. There is not going to be a vacancy on the Republican ticket until 2008, but don't count him out when that moment comes.
ASHCROFT: All right. All right.
ZAHN: Attorney General John Ashcroft is obviously passionate about his music, maybe too passionate. Ashcroft's fellow singing senator, Trent Lott, says the attorney general never misses an opportunity to play his piano very loudly and into the wee hours of the morning.
And that is it for this edition of PEOPLE IN THE NEWS. Next week, it is the queen of country and the king of bam, Reba McEntire and Emeril Lagasse. And coming up Monday on CNN's "AMERICAN MORNING," David Caruso, star of the new "CSI: Miami" and full Emmy coverage. I'm Paula Zahn. Thanks for joining us.
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