Thursday, January 06, 2005

Promises, Promises
The late and lamented actor Jerry Orbach won a Tony in 1965 for singing "Promises, Promises." Alberto Gonzales will probably get confirmed as Attorney General after making lots of promises, promises. The main difference between the two is that Orbach really deserved his prize.
Alberto Gonzales, the White House counsel criticized for calling parts of the Geneva Conventions on prisoner treatment "obsolete," will promise to live by anti-torture treaties if he is confirmed as attorney general, according to a statement obtained on Wednesday.

Gonzales said he was "deeply committed to the rule of law," in a statement for delivery at Senate confirmation hearings on Thursday.

The L.A.Times has an editorial opposing confirmation for Gonzales.
As a leading architect of Bush's ends-justifies-means war on terror, Gonzales pushed to justify torturing terror suspects in violation of international law, promoted military tribunals that echo Stalin's show trials, helped write the Patriot Act (which, among other powers, gives government agents vast new snooping authority) and excused the limitless imprisonment of American citizens whom the president merely suspects of terror activity.

Three years into that war, much of Gonzales' handiwork has been rejected by courts, damned by the world community and disavowed by the administration -- as in the Justice Department memo quietly released last week declaring that "torture is abhorrent to both American law and values and to international norms."

Gonzales' defenders argue that, as White House counsel, he was simply a passionate advocate for his client.

There is enough in Gonzales' background--the torture memos and conflicts of interest that crossed the border into corruption--to render him unfit for the AG or any kind or responsible position in jurisprudence. Mere unsuitability has never been cause to prevent political appointments from going through. There are, however, good reasons not to treat this as politics as usual.

That last statement from the LAT is particularly telling, "[H]e was simply a passionate advocate for his client." Gonzales' years with Bush are filled with examples of him acting as if his primary job in a judicial position was to be "a passionate advocate" for Bush, not to give him good and sound legal advice--which sometimes means saying, "you can't do that." Certain types of law, corporate law for example, are built around finding loopholes for you client to do whatever he or she wants. That's fine for individual advocates. Judges and Attorneys General, on the other hand, are supposed to be advocates for all of the people, not--and this is the important part--for the person who appointed them. Gonzales shows no indication of understanding this. Quite the opposite. Gonzales has behaved like a moderate on those occasions when he has acted independently, but those occasions are very rare.

The Democrats in the Senate are in a difficult position with this. Some are still in denial over the true nature of the Bush administration and think that there might be some return in behaving in a reasonable and conciliatory manner. They are naive and deluded and we must do everything we can to bring them around.

Others think they can find some kind of safe middle ground.
[M]any Democrats think the best they can do is wound Gonzales enough with questions about his notorious torture memos to disqualify him for any future Supreme Court seat. In the end, however, they will feel pressure to support him or face retaliation from Republicans.

Dave Johnson at Seeing the Forest tries to explain it to our representatives as bluntly as possible:
What do you get out of failing to oppose Gonzales' nomination? Is it that you're afraid that Rush Limbaugh is going to say bad things about you if you oppose him? Are you worried about how the media will portray you, maybe say you are "obstructionist?" Are you afraid that you'll be portrayed as "anti-Hispanic?"

Here's what I think YOU don't get: THIS IS ALL GOING TO HAPPEN ANYWAY, NO MATTER WHAT YOU DO! Rush Limbaugh IS going to say bad things about you. The Right-wing echo-chamber WILL portray you as obstructionist. They WILL portray you as anti-Hispanic. THEY WILL DO AND SAY THESE THINGS NO MATTER WHAT YOU DO! And, the irony is, these past several years have shown that the more you cozy up to their side, the more they will do this to you, because it shows them that you think you are vulnerable and afraid of your constituents.

Opposition is the only possible course. We gain nothing be being nice.

The only tactical choice open to the Democratic Senate leadership is whether or not to filibuster. I think Frist has made it clear that he plans to eliminate or cripple the filibuster. He is just waiting for a chance to make the Democrats fault. That means the Democrats can only count on having one filibuster. Of course, when the time comes, it might be that Frist fails in his attempt to abolish it--a public outcry could do that--but we shouldn't count on it. So, do the Democrats use their only filibuster now on Gonzales or wait for the Supreme Court battles?

My own inclination is to save it. My recommendation for Gonzales is to plaster him (and Bush) with as much mud as possible during the hearings. The Democrats should hit all of the talking head shows this Sunday to make their case against Gonzales. They should make it clear that a vote for Gonzales is a vote for torture, corruption, and toadyism. When the vote comes, they should all vote against him. Let the Republicans vote for torture; don't provide them with any protective "bipartisan" cover. They can force him through with the force of their votes. Let them do it. Whenever he does anything wrong we should waste no time in saying, "I told you so."

The job of the opposition is to oppose.

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