Attorney General John Ashcroft may be starting to find out what President Eisenhower's Attorney General, Herbert Brownell, famously said about the job: "It's just one goddamn thing after another." (Not, of course, that Mr. Ashcroft would use such language.)
Reports are starting to circulate that he's been losing his temper — even with his FBI security detail.
He was said to be annoyed that he was being charged for the detail's time when they accompany him on personal errands.
One version of the story had him informing the agents, "I don't think I need you any more!" Another version had him saying he would take the matter up with FBI Director Louis Freeh.
One source said he wants his wife to travel with him at government expense and is annoyed at regulations that forbid it. A longtime career employee expressed sympathy that the attorney general is required by his job to have security, but then must repay the government when they accompany him, for example, to pick up the dry cleaning.
This official also pointed out there is sometimes a difficult transition for former members of Congress accustomed to the perks of Capitol Hill when they join the executive branch.
Spokeswoman Mindy Tucker has been unable to respond to these accusations thus far.
Meanwhile, plans are proceeding for Ashcroft's formal swearing-in or investiture.
Rather surprisingly, it's been scheduled for a Sunday — March 18 to be precise. No one can remember any attorney general ever being sworn in on a Sunday before.
Tucker says the reason is he wanted out-of-town friends and family to be able to attend. One source said he's sent out 500 invitations, even though the Great Hall only seats 300.
One former top career official, however, asserted the real reason for having it on a Sunday is precisely because he did not want department employees in attendance.
That's all very well, but opening the building up to that crowd on a Sunday is going to cost more than $10,000 in overtime, according to the former official.
First Official Complaint
Ashcroft has become the subject of a complaint filed with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) by Common Cause, which alleged his former campaign committees violated election law.
When Ashcroft briefly considered running for president, he set up a political action committee known as "Spirit of America PAC." Apparently, the PAC gave a donor list, which had cost it $2 million to develop, to his Senate re-election committee, which turned around and raised $116,000 by renting it out to others (including Linda Tripp).
Common Cause President Scott Harshbarger asserts that the PAC had already contributed the maximum allowable amount, $10,000, to the committee.
Spokeswoman Mindy Tucker referred all calls to the PAC's executive director, who released a statement saying the PAC was in full compliance with the law, concluding, "We are confident that the FEC will agree and find that the complaint is without merit."
Where Are The Women?
At his press conference this week, I pointed out that Ashcroft had achieved remarkable diversity in his appointments announced thus far, in terms of African-Americans and one Asian-American, but that we had not seen one single female appointee yet.
Ashcroft's spokeswoman, Mindy Tucker, is the first woman ever to hold that position, but it is not a presidential appointment that requires Senate confirmation.