Alberto Gonzales on Verge of Confirmation
Despite Democratic complaints that White House counsel Alberto Gonzales helped craft questionable U.S. policies on the treatment of foreign prisoners, the Senate plans to confirm him as the nation’s first Hispanic attorney general. Gonzales, a longtime friend of President Bush who worked for him in Texas, is expected to be confirmed by a healthy margin Thursday as the nation’s top law officer While as many as 30 Democrats could vote against Gonzales, opponents said they would not tie up the nomination with a delaying filibuster.
“This is a breakthrough of incredible magnitude for Hispanic-Americans,” said Sen. Mel Martinez, R-Florida, calling Gonzales “a role model for the next generation” of Hispanics in this country Sen. Ken Salazar, D-Colorado, said he expected Gonzales, a former Texas judge, “to help lead the way for the creation of an America that despises hate and bigotry and recognizes that every human being deserves a government that will fight for the dignity and equality of all.”
But other Democrats said Gonzales shouldn’t be confirmed because they say he was evasive with his answers to their questions about White House policies in the war on terror. “He was so circumspect in his answers, so unwilling to leave a micron of space between his views and the president’s, that I now have real doubts whether he can perform the job of attorney general,” said Sen. Charles Schumer, D-New York. “In short, Judge Gonzales still seems to see himself as counsel to the president, not attorney general, the chief law enforcement officer of the land,” continued Schumer.
Well, until he’s confirmed, he is counsel to the president, not attorney general. Furthermore, most of the questioning was with respect to his decisions in his current job rather than how he sees the role of AG.
While there are legitimate concerns about Abu Graib and our detainment policies generally, laying them at Gonzales’ doorstep never made any sense. His job as the president’s lawyer was to outline the broad parameters of the law. What Gonzales told the president, correctly by all accounts, was that he had an incredible amount of latitude under U.S. and international law in how he dealt with non-citizens and suspected terrorists fighting as other than uniformed combatants of states.
Gonzales was neither tasked with nor qualified to offer policy advice as to what interrogation techniques were most efficient, let alone the broader implications of such techniques for U.S. foreign policy and the national psyche. Having listened to much of the Judiciary Committee hearings, I was simply stunned that the Members could not make that rather obvious distinction as to what Gonzales’ role was.
As Attorney General, Gonzales’ role will change dramatically. He’ll be in charge of the DOJ and will the the nation’s top law enforcement professional. He’ll still, however, be subordinate to the President and, to the extent that the President’s wishes are in accordance with the law, obliged to carry them out.