Fair enough, Jonah. I have a similar reaction when Bush says “compassionate conservative” (my wife gets it when he says nucular … but that’s my cross to bear). All the pols use these nostrums occasionally.
BUT, I did law school “prosecuting terrorism” panels before and after 9/11, and it was only under Ashcroft (and later Gonzales), not Reno, that anyone suggested that, as a DOJ lawyer, I was a member of the “American Taliban.” It seemed to be a rather obvious difference to the people in the audience – as it was to me since I pretty clearly understood what these profs would do differently if they, rather than Ashcroft, were in charge. I think people vote on that stuff … as they should.
When Reno was AG, in the Dickerson case, DOJ filed a brief on behalf of a defendant — arguing that his conviction should be overturned for failure to give Miranda warnings and declining to defend an act of Congress (18 USC 3501) which said a Miranda violation could be forgiven as long as the defendant’s will was not overborne (DOJ argued that the statute was unconstitutional, over the objection of the US attorney whose district convicted the guy). No way the Ashcroft or Gonzales DOJ go that way. The court voted with DOJ, as it usually does in criminal cases when the government takes an anti-prosecution position. It should make a difference to voters which party is in charge.