Stooping to Conquer Mr. Ashcroft

St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Wednesday, February 3, 1999, page B6
© Copyright 1999 St. Louis Post-Dispatch

The Democratic Party is playing in the gutter with its smear of Sen. John Ashcroft as the "white supremacist's presidential choice." Gov. Mel Carnahan should tell his party to cut it out.

Last week the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee issued a too-clever press release linking Mr. Ashcroft to a homegrown racist, Gordon Baum of Bridgeton. Mr. Baum is head of the Council of Conservative Citizens, which grew out of the old, infamous white Citizens Councils.

Mr. Baum has been in the news lately for inviting Sen. Majority Leader Trent Lott and Rep. Bob Barr to speak to his benighted group. Then, in a Jan. 24 interview on CNN, Mr. Baum expressed his admiration for Mr. Ashcroft.  The green political operatives in the Democratic Party issued their press release saying that Mr. Baum's statement "proves his [Ashcroft' s] base of support is the extreme right."

This is guilt by association, pure and simple. It's not good enough for Mr. Carnahan to wash his hands of his party's dirty work. He surely won't be turning down the committee's money next year in his senatorial campaign.  If the Democrats and Mr. Carnahan want to attack Mr. Ashcroft's civil rights record on the merits, that's legitimate. There's plenty to attack. But guilt by association is out of bounds.