Thursday, February 03, 2005

Gonzales Climbs Political Ladder

February 3, 2005

Thirteen Democrats in the Senate voted "no" at Condee Rice's Senate confirmation, including the party powerhouses Ted Kennedy, John Kerry and Barbara Boxer, all of whom gave her quite a grilling in the committee hearing. A president has not faced such opposition to his choice for Secretary of State in more than 175 years, but I think this is just the opening volley in the political war America is about to witness. And that is as it should be.

The Judiciary Committee's near-refusal to pass torture-monger Alberto Gonzales is the next test of the Democrats' resolve to rescue our republic from demagoguery. You remember Alberto Gonzales, right? The man who told the president that the Geneva Convention is "quaint" and "outdated?" The man who engineered the legal policies that have kept prisoners in Guantanamo Bay without lawyers or access to the outside world for YEARS now? The one Bush appointed to the Texas Supreme court, bribed, then promoted to the Justice Department? Yeah, that Alberto Gonzales.

Gonzales graduated from Harvard and went to work for the prestigious Houston firm Vinson & Elkins, whose largest clients were Enron and Halliburton. When Bush was governor, Gonzales got him out of a jury duty assignment that would have required him to disclose a 1976 arrest for drunk driving. Bush shortly made Gonzales Secretary of State, then appointed him to the Texas Supreme Court where he, along with several other justices, took money from and rendered verdicts in favor of Halliburton. In light of this "loyalty," Bush has decided to take him along on his rise to the top. No longer simply counsel to Gov. Bush, Gonzales is about to become the arm of American justice.

This is a laughable image. In spite of ongoing investigations attempting to determine whether Abu Ghraib torturers were operating under orders from higher up the chain of command, Gonzales maintained definitively in his committee hearing, "This was simply people who were morally bankrupt having fun. And I condemn that." In regards to the actual abuses themselves, he said "I obviously don't want to provide any kind of legal opinion as to whether or not that conduct might be criminal." So much for American justice!

All eight Democrats on the Judiciary Committee voted against Gonzales's approval, even though only two had told the others they planned to do so at their meeting the evening before. The 10 remaining committee members, all Republican, were unfortunately enough to confirm him as nominee, and this party-divided majority win will likely be the case in the senate. In 2001, John Ashcroft faced 42 votes against his confirmation, all Democrats, but the margin of the win was widened by eight party defectors who voted to approve him. I suspect we will not see a similar defection this year.

The Judiciary is soon to be overrun by Bush appointees and the House of Representatives has filibuster-busting bylaws, leaving Senate Democrats as the sole remaining governmental opposition to the Bush regime of any significance. The Constitution balances the parts of government against one another specifically to stop people like Bush from screwing things up too badly. Though there is little to be gained from even unanimous opposition to Gonzales' nomination in light of the backing party's majority, I hope Senate Democrats will take these nominations as a chance to dig in their heels as a real opposition party and begin the task of truly opposing the Republicans.

By the time you read this, Gonzales will be Attorney General. The question is how.

Write to Listen to 91.7 FM The Demon this Friday from 6 to 8 p.m. Check for links to my sources. Conform. Consume. Obey.


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