Friday, January 28, 2005

Gonzalez's Nomination

Alberto Gonzalez, as expected, cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee on a party-line vote. He'll go before the full Senate either tomorrow or sometime next week. And, in a 55-45 Senate, he'll be approved, barring a well-organized filibuster.

I'm not entirely certain what to think about Gonzalez. On one hand, he did help draft the torture memo. But I wonder whether Gonzalez was more concerned about what was the interpretation of the law that would most help his client - Dubya - rather than the moral imperative. In that sense, I wonder if a lot of criticism towards Gonzalez is somewhat like calling a killer's defense lawyer a murderer. Indeed, Gonzalez seems to recognize that he'll no longer be serving just the President, but the people as a whole, and thus needs to make more broad-based decisions.

And I'm not sure that he's wrong when he says that the Geneva Conventions don't apply, legally speaking, to the Taliban/al Qaeda operatives. But I worry because he's still in this mindset that such detainees need to be treated more severely than, say, Germans during World War II - or if he's not, he's given no evidence to that effect. Gonzalez and this administration seem to believe that the war on terror can only be won by dragging ourselves down to the terrorists' moral level. I don't buy that.

Of course, the torture case specifically is kind of a tangent here. The detainees are, for the most part, Defense's territory, and the AG wouldn't really have final say over what happens to them. What the AG does have control over is how our own citizens are treated when arrested on terrorism charges. And if we extrapolate from the way Gonzalez approached the torture question, we can expect the continuation of Ashcroft's abuses; for if one believes moral sacrifices are required to win the war on terror any breach of the principles of our justice system can be justified. It is for this reason that I oppose Gonzalez's nomination.

Sadly, questions that approached civil liberties issues were either not asked by the senators or not reported by the torture-obsessed media. I admit that I don't know for sure whether Gonzalez would follow in Ashcroft's footsteps. He may surprise me, but I doubt it.

That having been said, I think Democrats should save their filibustering for a Supreme Court nomination. Block Gonzalez, and you end up with some other right-winger. Save it for somewhere where it would do some good.


Mike said...

I will start by essentially guaranteeing Gonzalez is more moderate than Ashcroft (but then, there's only one way to go). He is about the best Democrats can hope for given the current set of circumstances. As I'm sure has often been observed, Dubya has no impetus to nominate moderate or even left-of-center Cabinet members, and in fact probably interprets the results of the past election as a lack of desire for such members by the American people. Still, Gonzalez seems reasonable enough, and like you said, if the Dems try to block him Bush will only push further to the right.

Unlike with Ashcroft, I honestly don't know where Gonzalez stands on civil liberties. I will observe that civil liberties tend to disappear (or at least lay dormant) during war time. And, whether we like it or not, the current administration is trying to lead us into such a state.

I will conclude by observing that "Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez" can be abbreviated "AGAG", and just saying that aloud is funny. I intend to refer to him as such for the remainder of Bush's term.

Anonymous said...

With respect to Gonzalez, as a White House attorney, he was "the President's attorney," however he was paid from public funds, which means he is more than the President's attorney, he also has the United States as a client. This removes him from the criminal defense attorney similarity. The memo and opinion that he drafted was aimed at and nearly became government policy and "the rule" on prisoner treatment and torture. His opinion became the opinion of the Commander in Chief and thus was a policy guidance to both the DOD and the Justice Department.

In my ancient legal training, I would have to say that it is clear that the Geneva Conventions don't apply since those grand accords are directed toward Wars, and we, the U.S., have conveniently skirted that requirement by invading and entering into altercations without ever formally declaring war. Regardless of the Geneva Conventions, prisoner abuse and torture are illegal under U.S. law. The Patriot Act has relieved the federal government of much care for civil liberties, but that is not one of the ones that the Act forgives.

Regardless of the legalities, Gozalez shows he is willing to forgo moral considerations to support the reigning partisan political platform now extant. I disagree with Mike in that I think this is Ashcroft redux.

All being said, I agree with your bottom line. Save all the needed "ammo" for the war about the Supremes, which is highly likely to occur during this administration.

See ya,

Old Woodhead