Friday, November 12, 2004

Gonzales: Unsafe at any post

The expected nomination of Bush's Counsel to the Presdient Alberto Gonzales to be the next Attorney General is fraught with problems from both sides of the aisle. Undoubtedly, Bush has chosen Gonzales to replace Ashcroft for one very good reason: Bush thinks he can trust Gonzales as an ally to stave off and bog down any investigations of the Administration or its allies at the Justice Department. Bush knows that many scandals loom over his second term and Gonzales has proven his willingness over and over to compromise his professional and intellectual integrity for his patron's benefit.

Gonxales has a long history of questionable ethics and offering marginally colorable legal interpretations to serve his employer. Gonzales is implicated in the decisions which led directly to the torture of prisoners in American military prisons. His recommendation that the U.S. ignore the Geneva Conventions were proffered even while admitting that his advice could undermine military culture and compromise the legal status of American soldiers in the field. Gonzales earlier wrote opinions holding that Texas was not a party to the Vienna Convention to facilitate the execution of a Mexican national while Governor's Counsel in Texas. His contempt for international law seems manifest.

Further, Gonzales has a track record of questionable judgement, competency, and ethics. He failed to provide Bush, while Governor of Texas, with 57 allegedly deficient summaries on death penalty clemency requests, including that of an mentally retarded convict. He was partner in a firm which was counsel to Enron, which was also Gonzales' largest campaign donor while on the Texas State Supreme Court - a position from which Gonzales wrote a decision which handed a major legal victory to the Texas energy sector that directly benefitted Enron; part of a pattern by Gonzales of accepting ethically questionable donations. Gonzales is also a major proponent of a secretive and unaccountable Executive branch, helping to withold information on the Energy Task Force and memos written by Bush DC Circuit nominee Manuel Estrada from Congress under a widely discredited theory of Executive Privilege. Finally, during the Presidential campaign Gonzales campaigned for Bush actively, holding himself out as a 'Judge' Gonzales, though he has retired from the Texas bench. This use of of the judicial honorific in connection with an endorsement of a candidate for office is a violation of Texas judicial ethics.

While any candidate with this many questionable episodes in his past would almost certainly be considered a marginal nominee to a post as eminent as Attorney General, there will be ironic charges of racism and anti-Catholicism cascading out of the GOP when it is time to confirm Gonzales' nomination. To the contrary, the most insidious racism is indeed the 'soft bigotry of lowered expectations' with which Bush so often castigates affirmative action. Such 'lowered expectations' will almost certainly be in effect for the vote on Gonzales' nomination. We saw the same hypocrisy be successful in he campaign to confirm the nomination of Manuel Estrada, despite the recommendation of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus that Estrada not be confirmed. We will surely see the tactic used again. Not only is Gonzales ethically unsuited to be AG, his nomination is nothing but an attempt by Bush to install a political crony into the AG's office to protect his second term from scandal. He should not be confirmed.

Suprisingly, Bush may catch flack from the Right for Gonzales' nomination, especially if it is a Rovian prelude to an attempted appointment of Gonzales to the Supreme Court. Gonzales is not clearly an ideological zealot on the issue of abortion. Many on the Right would see his substitution for the ailing Rehnquist as a step backwards, swinging the court to the Left on abortion. More likely, Gonzales will cool his heels at AG until a more centrist Justice retires. Yet another example of the Right's hypocrisy - claiming outrage at activist judges, yet refusing to appoint any justices to the high court unless they are the 'Right' sort of activists.

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