I might have made another mistake.
You may remember a few weeks ago I admitted my analysis of the weapons of mass destruction (search) situation was wrong because it was wrong. I believed the CIA. I should have been more skeptical.
My admission stunned many people that a TV analyst would actually admit to a mistake. That says a lot about the world of TV news. Anyway, the experience was so pleasant for me, that I've decided to own up to another analytical mistake.
From the beginning of the Bush administration, I felt that Attorney General John Ashcroft (search) was not the right guy for the job. I thought Ashcroft was a zealot who would do the political bidding of the president. My idea of a good attorney general is an aggressive crime fighter, a crusader who wants to right wrongs. So Mr. Ashcroft did not seem that.
But it looks like I was wrong.
Let's start with national security. Under Janet Reno, perhaps the worst attorney general in history, the FBI became a disorganized mess. And that was demonstrated by the intelligence failures before Sept. 11. But since that disaster, the FBI has completely turned around and it is now an effective protective force, as proven by the lack of follow-up terrorism inside the USA.
Ashcroft deserves some credit for that, as does FBI chief Robert Mueller. Also as far as we know, Ashcroft has been able to keep federal authorities from abusing its power under the new Patriot Act. You hear a lot of whining about that, but abuse cases are almost non-existent. That shows discipline on the part of the feds.
But the most important part of Ashcroft's resume is his prosecution of the robber barons, corporate criminals who under the Clinton-Reno regime ran wild in this country, causing tremendous damage to everyday investors.
So far the Justice Department has nailed Enron's CFO Andrew Fastow, his greedy wife. And Enron CEO Jeffrey Skilling faces life in prison if he's convicted. Top dog Ken Lay is still un-indicted, but things are closing in on him.
In addition, the corrupt Arthur Andersen accounting firm, which aided Enron's criminality, has been destroyed. Ashcroft has also succeeded in convicting WorldCom executives and Sam Waksal, the Imclone boss, as well as his pal Martha Stewart.
Dozens of other corporate crooks are also in the process of facing justice.
So from my vantage point, it looks like John Ashcroft has been an effective attorney general, especially in comparison to Janet Reno, who spent much of her time trying to get crooks off, especially those illegal campaign finance people.
Mr. Ashcroft is now in the hospital recovering from surgery. We wish him well and send along regrets for underestimating him.
And that's The Memo.
Most Ridiculous Item of the Day
Time now for the Most Ridiculous Item of the Day, which stars our pal, Naomi Wolf, the feminist who told the "Today" show that Martha Stewart's problem was being single.
Said Naomi, "There is a special taboo against women being too powerful without being attached to a man. I think if she was married, it would have mitigated this."
Ridiculous? You make the call.
--You can watch Bill O'Reilly's Talking Points Memo and "Most Ridiculous Item" weeknights at 8 & 11p.m. ET on the Fox News Channel. Send your comments to: firstname.lastname@example.org