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"America has two great dominant strands of political thought - conservatism, which, at its very best, draws lines that should not be crossed; and progressivism, which, at its very best, breaks down barriers that should never have been erected." -- Bill Clinton, Dedication of the Clinton Presidential Library, November 2004

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Friday, February 04, 2005


Gonzales and torture

posted by Aziz P. at Friday, February 04, 2005 permalink View blog reactions
For posterity I have compiled some good editorials (below the fold) on why Alberto Gonzales had to be opposed, and why supporting him for Attorney General is a black mark upon the righteousness of our claim to moral leadership in the War against Terror and the broader cause of universal liberty. I invite others to contribute links - or comments - both in support and against Gonzales' nomination yesterday.

Senator Harry Reid (D-NV)
, on the Senate floor at the close of the debate over Gonzales' nomination:

We are a nation at war--a war in Iraq and a war against terrorism -- but this war does not give our civilian leaders the authority to cast aside the laws of armed conflict, nor does it allow our Commander in Chief to decide which laws apply and which laws do not apply. To do so puts, I repeat, our own soldiers and our Nation at risk. But that is what has occurred under the direction and coordination of the man seeking to be Attorney General of the United States, Alberto Gonzales, a man I personally like, but whose judgment on these very serious matters was flawed and is flawed.

NYT Editorial, Feb. 4 2005:

It was Mr. Gonzales who asked for the original legal advice from the Justice Department on the treatment of prisoners in the "war on terror." There was no need to go through that exercise; the rules were clear. But Mr. Gonzales gave the president the flexibility he wanted, first in the Justice Department memo outlining ways to make torture seem legal, and then by offering the Orwellian argument that the president can declare himself above the law and can order illegal actions like detaining prisoners without a hearing and authorizing torture.

Republican senators made much of the fact that the White House repudiated the original memo on torture - after it became public. But this is not just a matter of historical interest. Mr. Gonzales testified that he agreed with the substance of the original torture memo, and he still takes the view that the president can declare himself to be above the law. In written responses to senators' questions, Mr. Gonzales argued that intelligence agents could "abuse" prisoners as long as they did it to foreigners outside the United States.

Republican senators argued that it was unfair to say Mr. Gonzales was personally responsible for the specific acts of torture and degradation at Abu Ghraib. That would be a fair defense if anyone were doing that. The Democrats simply said, rightly, that Mr. Gonzales was one of the central architects of the administration's policy of evading legal restrictions on the treatment of prisoners. He should not have been rewarded with one of the most important jobs in the cabinet.

Senator Barack Obama (D-IL), during debate on the Senate floor:

It's a tradition that says all men are created equal under the law - and that no one is above it.

That's why, even within the Executive Branch, there is an office dedicated to enforcing the laws of the land and applying them to people and Presidents alike.

In this sense, the Attorney General is not like the other Cabinet posts. Unlike the Secretary of State, who is the public face of the President's foreign policy, or the Secretary of Education, whose job it is to carry out the President's education policy, the Attorney General's job is not just to enforce the President's laws. It is to tell the President what the law is. The job is not simply to facilitate the President's power, it is to speak truth to that power as well.

The job is to protect and defend the laws and the freedoms for which so many have sacrificed so much.

The President is not the Attorney General's client - the people are. And so the true test of an Attorney General nominee is whether that person is ready to put the Constitution of the people before the political agenda of the President. As such, I cannot approach this nomination the same way I approached that of Secretary of State Rice or VA Secretary Nicholson or any other Cabinet position. The standard is simply higher.

(see this Sun Times Interview for more background on Gonzales' meeting with Obama and their "vigorous discussion")

I am proud of the Democrats today for casting their principled votes against Alberto Gonzales. Theirs is the face of a truly loyal but principled opposition.

I also have to say that the attempts by some Republicans to paint votes against Gonzales as somehow racist in intent, are an odious and hypocritical attempt at racial politics. If anyone cannot understand why there is a legitimate and principled case to be made against Gonzales that has absolutely nothing to do with Bush hatred, racism, or partisanship, then they are revealing their true colors, and no more needs to be said.


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About Nation-Building

Nation-Building was founded by Aziz Poonawalla in August 2002 under the name Dean Nation. Dean Nation was the very first weblog devoted to a presidential candidate, Howard Dean, and became the vanguard of the Dean netroot phenomenon, raising over $40,000 for the Dean campaign, pioneering the use of Meetup, and enjoying the attention of the campaign itself, with Joe Trippi a regular reader (and sometime commentor). Howard Dean himself even left a comment once. Dean Nation was a group weblog effort and counts among its alumni many of the progressive blogsphere's leading talent including Jerome Armstrong, Matthew Yglesias, and Ezra Klein. After the election in 2004, the blog refocused onto the theme of "purple politics", formally changing its name to Nation-Building in June 2006. The primary focus of the blog is on articulating purple-state policy at home and pragmatic liberal interventionism abroad.