Alberto Gonzales Confirmation Hearing Jan. 5

On January 5, the Senate will hold a hearing on the confirmation of Alberto Gonzales as Attorney General. His participatiion in the "torture" memos is widely known and available. His Texas Clemency memos advising then Governor GW Bush on death penalty cases also deserve close scrutiny. The actual memos are available here.

It was Gonzales' responsibility to brief Bush on pending executions. In Texas, executive clemency is a two-pronged process. The Board of Pardons and Paroles, whose members are appointed by the governor, must recommend clemency. And the governor of Texas must accept the Board's recommendation.

Unfortunately, the record shows that Gonzales did a shoddy and incomplete job in briefing the governor. He ignored or glossed over claims of innocence, severe mental illness or mental retardation and claims of ineffective assistance of counsel. In short, he didn't do his job.

Why is this important? The attorney general is the highest law-enforcement officer in the land. He (or she) is often referred to as "the people's lawyer." This person must be trusted with making fair and just decisions. But Gonzales' slipshod record on the death penalty as former Texas Gov. George W. Bush's chief legal counsel raises serious questions about his commitment to impartiality.

Some liberal groups are opposing Gonzales' confirmation. Others are requesting Senators to conduct a thorough questioning of him and reserving judgment. TalkLeft falls in the latter group.

If you'd like to add your voice to those calling on strong questioning on torture issues, go here.

Here's why we think people should keep tabs on Alberto Gonzales--before and after his confirmation as Attorney General:

Bush is saving his political capital for his first Supreme Court nomination. The Democrats in the Senate are going to save their capital, in the form of filibuster options, for that fight.

Keep in mind that Bush wants Gonzales on the Supreme Court. This is a stepping-stone job for Gonzales. And a distraction from two more important questions: Who will Bush name as Chief Justice and who will he appoint to the Supreme Court? Both positions require Senate confirmation.

The Democrats in the Senate cannot oppose every nomination Bush akes. Not if they want to have a chance of passing any of their own bills in this Republican-dominated Congress. And when it comes time for re-election, voters at home look at things like their Senator's record on bills introduced and passed.

The battle over Supreme Court Justices is more important than the battle over an Attorney General. If Bush nominates a 50 year-old for the Court, that Justice will serve and shape American jurisprudence for the next 30 years. An attorney general under a second term President serves for four years, at most. One is a lifetime appointment. One is a political perk.

President Bush is not a uniter. He is a divider. He will push his hardcore conservative values through at every opportunity. We can win a few battles, but we are not going to win the war during the next two years. To change things, we need to take back Congress in 2006, and if that's not possible, in 2008. Until then, we need to figure out which battles are the most important and let some of the others go.

If John Ashcroft made it through the Senate, so will Alberto Gonzales. But we can serve as watchdog. We can record any abuses during his tenure, as we did with Ashcroft. And if he's really bad, we can see that Gonzales leaves office with no credibility and no Supreme Court judgeship in his future. That would be a victory.

If you are the constituent of one of these Senators, make sure your write them. They are the eight Democrats who voted to confirm John Ashcroft.

John Breaux of Louisiana, Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia, Kent Conrad and Byron Dorgan of North Dakota, Christopher Dodd of Connecticut, Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, Zell Miller of Georgia and Ben Nelson of Nebraska.

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    Re: Alberto Gonzales Confirmation Hearing Jan. 5 (none / 0) (#1)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Jan 01, 2005 at 01:28:08 PM EST
    Frankly, better that "Torture Chamber" Albertu Ghraibzales be AG than Supreme Court Justice.

    Re: Alberto Gonzales Confirmation Hearing Jan. 5 (none / 0) (#2)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Mon Jan 03, 2005 at 07:24:42 AM EST
    Thank kelite those reference were helpful. Here's my concern: Based on Gonzales' January 25 legal opinion, Bush came out with his February 7, 2002 directive: The President’s February 7, 2002 memorandum directing that detainees be treated humanely commands this "humane" treatment only "to the extent appropriate and consistent with military necessity." Because this is not a term recognized by law, it is unclear to what extent the Justice Department or the Administration found it militarily necessary to act inhumanely. (Conyers, H. Res. 700 dissent) It is this directive, or some variant thereof, that now looks like the Executive Order referred to in the FBI email.

    Re: Alberto Gonzales Confirmation Hearing Jan. 5 (none / 0) (#3)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Tue Jan 04, 2005 at 01:01:14 PM EST
    Conspiracy to Commit Torture is Violation of Patriot Act

    According to Newsweek, Mr. Gonzales convened a series of meetings with Defense Department General Counsel William Hayes, Vice Presidential Counsel David Addington, and counsel from the CIA and the Justice Department, where they discussed specific torture techniques they deemed acceptable for use against Al Qaeda leadership, including mock burial, “water boarding” – where the victim is made to feel that they are drowning – and the threat of more brutal interrogations at the hands of other nations. Indeed, the latter, a practice known as “extraordinary rendition” has sent many suspects to countries like Egypt, Jordan and Syria, previously far more experienced in the techniques of torture than the U.S.

    Re: Alberto Gonzales Confirmation Hearing Jan. 5 (none / 0) (#4)
    by nick on Fri Jan 07, 2005 at 10:07:50 AM EST
    Gonzales will be confirmed. But it doesn't follow from that - or even from the belief that Democratic senators, for merely practical reasons, ought not to oppose his confirmation - that regular folks on the Left ought not to oppose his confirmation. In fact, a flood of phone calls, letters, and e-mails opposing his confirmation as Attorney General will increase Democratic senators' "political capital" when it finally comes time to oppose his confirmation as Supreme Court Justice.