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Monday, 4 March, 2002, 23:41 GMT
Ashcroft rallies troops with song
Attorney General John Ashcroft
Mr Ashcroft was part of a singing group in Congress
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By Katty Kay
BBC Washington Correspondent

America's Attorney General, John Ashcroft, has taken his fondness for morning prayer meetings at the US Department of Justice one step further - he is asking his staff to start the day by singing patriotic songs he wrote himself.

The move has alarmed employees, who seem less than taken with their bosses' musical skills.

Mr Ashcroft himself gives a gutsy rendition of his own tune, Let the Eagle Soar, whose title reflects the song's patriotic spirit.

Have you heard the song? It really sucks

Department of Justice lawyer

The deeply Christian attorney general, fired by the country's wartime spirit, has begun distributing printouts of the lyrics to his tune at Justice Department meetings so that his staff can join in.

Spanish speakers are being recruited to translate the song, which has curious shades of Neil Diamond in its tinkly country and western rhymes.

With more jingoism than subtlety the song continues...

"Oh she's far to young to die
You can see it in her eye
She's not yet begun to fly".

Enough of that, I am sure you get the gist.

Playing to poor reviews

But Mr Ashcroft, who is a member of the Congressional singing quartet and is well known for impromptu bursts of singing, has a problem with Let the Eagle Soar.

His employees, it seems, are not enamoured with their new morning duty and many are refusing to sing along.

When asked why she objected to her boss's patriotic gesture, one Justice Department lawyer replied, "Have you heard the song? It really sucks."

Mr Ashcroft is well known for his conservative views. His appointment sparked a fierce debate in Congress and his confirmation hearings were peppered with criticism from Democrats who opposed his anti-abortion stance.

Since 11 September he has emerged as one of the unlikely stars of the Bush administration's war on terror, winning grudging respect from his former foes.
Attorney General John Ashcroft
Mr Ashcroft ordered a partially nude statue to be covered

But even his campaign against terrorists has produced the odd political curiosity.

In January a Justice Department statue of the Spirit of Justice was coyly draped in clothing after Mr Ashcroft objected to the statue's naked breast, which appeared over his left shoulder during televised press conferences.

The cover-up prompted a fair degree of tittering from the Washington press corps who found Mr Ashcroft's Puritanism mildly amusing.

But that is more than the attorney general's staff think of his patriotic singing campaign.

The BBC's Katty Kay
"Mr Ashcroft has a problem with his soaring eagle"
See also:

16 Jan 01 | Americas
Profile: John Ashcroft
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