That Krugman opener is a classic example of liberal historical amnesia. One gets the sense that Krugman didn’t even bother to look at a list of former of AGs before he declared Ashcroft is the worst. It’s the pragmatic liberal’s use of history, if your version works, it’s true enough. What about A. Mitchell Palmer? He was the architect of a massive society-wide clamp down on political dissent. Indeed, he was the mastermind of precisely the sort of clamp down Ashcroft haters falsely claim this administration is guilty of and which was far worse than anything that happened during the McCarthy “era.” Or, for that matter, what about Bobby Kennedy? He was the one who bugged Martin Luther King — which we are always told is the highwater mark of government perfidy (they just leave out who was responsible).
Meanwhile, maybe the reason Ashcroft hasn’t had too many successful terrorist convictions on his watch is that he’s too concerned with preventing more terrorist attacks. There haven’t been any on American soil since 9/11 — which would have shocked everybody three years ago, including Krugman. But I’m sure he’s forgotten that too.