Democrats & Liberals Archives

Judiciary Democrats Unite Against Gonzales

In a new display of backbone, every Democratic member of the Senate Judiciary Committee voted against forwarding Alberto Gonzales’ name to the whole Senate for confirmation. The equally united Republican contingent overtook the nays, so that by a 10-8 vote Gonzales will go before the Senate for consideration. That’s right, the author of the apologia for the relaxation of the definition of torture who referred to the Geneva Conventions as quaint, now will be judged on whether he is qualified to serve as our nation’s chief law enforcement officer.

So far media coverage of this event is extraordinarily tame considering Gonzales' arguably strong connection to what have been very controversial prisoner abuse scandals at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay, and elsewhere. Even dissenting Senator Biden didn't seem to understand the utter illogic of having such a pliable ideologue, willing to exempt the administration from the authority of established international law, BECOME the head of the Justice for the United States.

Even voting against him (Gonzales), he's a significant improvement over the attorney general we have there now
Pardon me but Ashcroft, as ideological as he was, did not descend to the level of poor judgment as did Gonzales in his role as President's counsel.

The AP article states "Republicans said Gonzales shouldn't be the scapegoat for what happened to foreign prisoners." Excuse me, but Democrats are not trying to make Gonzales a scapegoat - President Bush is trying to make him Attorney General of the United States! The timidity of the press and of even many ranking Democrats to call attention to the audacity of this appointment puts a lie to the notion that the "mainstream media" is tainted by a liberal bias.

Senator Russ Feingold, on the other hand, who in spite of his liberal voting record otherwise, has heavily respected the concept of deference to the President for selecting his staff, stood out today for his willingness to see this case as different:

As all of my colleagues on this Committee know, I believe that Presidents are entitled to a great deal of deference in their cabinet nominations. I have voted in favor of a number of this President's nominees, including the current Attorney General, with whom I had serious disagreements on matters of policy and general ideology. My votes may not have always pleased my political supporters, or my party's leadership. But in carrying out my part in the constitutional scheme, as one who is asked to advise on and consent to a President's nominations, I am guided by my conscience, and by the history and practices of the United States Senate. Rejecting a cabinet nominee is a very rare event. The decision to do so must never be taken lightly.
Mr. Chairman, I have reached the conclusion, after a great deal of thought and careful consideration, that I cannot support Judge Gonzales's nomination.

Ted Kennedy was more blunt:
The continuing effort to pin the blame for the torture scandal on a few bad apples among our soldiers while ignoring or even rewarding Mr. Gonzales and others responsible for the policy has sent the wrong message to our nation and the world. I cannot support a nominee who has done so much to harm America's basic interests and fundamental values. . . . Mr. Gonzales has confirmed that the Bush administration is violating human rights as a matter of policy. . . .[H]is written testimony to the committee makes clear that "abuse" is, in fact, permissible -- provided that it is practiced by the Central Intelligence Agency on foreigners held outside the United States. The Convention Against Torture, which the United States ratified in 1994, prohibits not only torture but "cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment . . . In his written testimony, Mr. Gonzales affirmed that the provision would have "provided legal protections to foreign prisoners to which they are not now entitled." Senators . . . face a critical question: If they vote to confirm Mr. Gonzales as the government's chief legal authority, will they not be endorsing the systematic use of "cruel, inhumane and degrading" practices by the United States?"
Indeed. If anyone is guilty of scapegoating here, it is the Administration and Military with its prosecution of lower level people, while those at the top, such as Rumsfeld and Gonzales are rewarded and promoted.

As much as I hate to see filibusters become the order of the day in the Senate, here is one case, where to borrow a construct from Barry Goldwater, "obstructionism in defense of sanity is no vice." When charging the Democrats with dragging this one out, how will the Republicans defend promoting a culture which resulted in our national embarrassment at Abu Ghraib? Methinks the whole nomination smells of truculence.

Posted by Walker Willingham at January 26, 2005 5:09 PM