For the last four years, I thought that Ashcroft's departure would be cause for riotous celebration. Of course, I also though Ashcroft would be driven from office in disgrace. Yesterday, faced with the reality of Ashcroft leaving on Bush's terms at a time when Bush's "political capital" is high, I experienced the same discomfort that many on the left did. What, we all thought, if they replace him with someone just as bad on civil liberties and rights but less abrasive and more competent.
The AP assures us that this is exactly what the administration has in mind:
President Bush has chosen White House counsel Alberto Gonzales, a Texas confidant and one of the most prominent Hispanics in the administration, to succeed Attorney General John Ashcroft, sources close to the White House said Wednesday.
Gonzales is probably not as well known as some others in the administration, so this would be a good time to review his resume (The following is cribbed from Steve Soto at Left Coaster and Lambert at Corrente).
In his private practice, Gonzales was counsel for Enron. We all know how ethical and legally sound the advice they received was.
While serving as a justice of the Texas Supreme Court, Gonzales accepted campaign contributions from companies with litigation pending before his court. Among those companies was our old friend Halliburton.
During his time Gonzales working for Governor Bush in Texas, Gonzales was the author of the infamous clemency memos.
During Bush's six years as governor 150 men and two women were executed in Texas—a record unmatched by any other governor in modern American history. Each time a person was sentenced to death, Bush received from his legal counsel a document summarizing the facts of the case, usually on the morning of the day scheduled for the execution, and was then briefed on those facts by his counsel; based on this information Bush allowed the execution to proceed in all cases but one. The first fifty-seven of these summaries were prepared by Gonzales, a Harvard-educated lawyer who went on to become the Texas secretary of state and a justice on the Texas supreme court. He is now the White House counsel.
Gonzales's summaries were Bush's primary source of information in deciding whether someone would live or die.
A close examination of the Gonzales memoranda suggests that Governor Bush frequently approved executions based on only the most cursory briefings on the issues in dispute. In fact, in these documents Gonzales repeatedly failed to apprise the governor of crucial issues in the cases at hand: ineffective counsel, conflict of interest, mitigating evidence, even actual evidence of innocence.
During his time at the White House, Gonzales has been the author of some of the most lawless opinions that have put the country well on the path to becoming a pariah state.
They (the Administration) began with the plausible argument that the Geneva Conventions were anachronistic in an age of asymmetrical, non-state warfare. Al Qaeda didn't wear uniforms or fight according to the laws of war, they reasoned, and so they were not necessarily entitled to the conventions' protections. But the lawyers—including White House counsel Alberto Gonzales, Defense Department general counsel William Haynes II, Vice President Cheney's counsel David Addington, and Jay Bybee of the Justice Department (who now sits on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals)—went further. They advised the president to sign a blanket statement of policy that the men captured in Afghanistan would not be subject to the Geneva Conventions, and that by executive fiat, they would all be declared “unlawful enemy combatants,” a category that does not exist in international law. White House, Justice Department and Pentagon lawyers also pushed President Bush to sign a secret finding on Feb. 7, 2002, that would have far-reaching consequences for the nation and the world. “I… determine that none of the provisions of Geneva apply to our conflict with al Qaeda in Afghanistan or elsewhere throughout the world,” ...
This set of opinions and memos led directly to the creation of the Guantanamo Bay prison camp as a justice system where neither US nor international law apply. This same set of opinions also led to the hard interrogation practices that were exposed at Abu Graib prison.
Finally, Gonzales is involved in a number of other shady White House operations already being investigated (or that are likely to be investigated) by the Justice Department, including the Plame investigation.
The one silver lining to sending a Gonzales nomination to the Senate for consideration is that it would indicate that the administration is not planning to use him for a surprise recess appointment to replace Rhenquist on the Supreme Court.