The confirmation of Alberto Gonzales as Attorney General by the Senate yesterday was a national disgrace, but it was not a surprise. Voting to endorse torture and lawlessness confirms every negative image of America that the rest of the world has come to belive over the last three years.
The Republican Party used the brute force of their majority in the Senate to push his nomination through. The vote was 60 to 37. Every single Republican voted for the man who justified torture, breaking of treaties, and arbitrary executive rule while White House counsel.
To their credit, 36 Democrats and Independent Jim Jeffords voted against confirmation. To their shame, six Democrats voted to confirm. Those six are:
- Ken Salazar (CO)
- Ben Nelson (NE)
- Mary Landrieu (LA)
- Mark Pryor (AR)
- Bill Nelson (FL)
- Joseph Lieberman (CN)
The first five have a weak excuse for their behavior. As representatives from conservative red states that voted for Bush in the last election, they must perform a delicate balancing act in the course of their duties. Even though they were elected as Democrats, they have to recognize the conservative values of their constituents and periodically join the Republicans on issues that resonate with that base. This is where their excuse weakens until it has all of the strength of a wet tissue (single ply).
Red states fancy themselves to be "the heartland," a term that implies that they are the real America, the core that exemplifies traditional, authentic American values unlike the decadent coastal enclaves of the blue states. Torture and lawlessness are not traditional values, they are not conservative values, and they most certainly are not American values. Did these Senators believe that there was an irresistable groundswell of support for torture and lawlessness among their constituents? Did any of them even try to appeal to the American values of respect for law, fair play, and basic human decency among their constituents? By bringing this shame down on us all they have ill served their states and their country.
Joseph Lieberman is a different case. He doesn't even have the fig leaf of a weak excuse for his vote. He represents one of the bluest of the blue states. His vote can only have been one of conviction. Someone of those convictions has no place in the Democratic Party.
The vote is over and we lost. But that doesn't mean we should let the issue drop. Write to these Senators and (politely) let them know disappointed we are in their action. Let them know that they are on probation and that we will not forget how they embarassed their party and disgraced their country.