Out of the blue and into the black
They give you this, but you pay for that
And once you're gone, you can never come back
When you're out of the blue and into the black . . .
The idea keeps coming up that Alberto Gonzales is going to make for a kinder, gentler DOJ.
Earlier today Lambert at Corrente posted on the latest example in this syrupy genre, but the crucial background link was dead. I asked for it in the comments; he fixed the link and was kind enough to let me know with an email.
Lambert hones in on one of those ever so slightly concerning moments from Gonzales' tenure as White House Counsel that ought to cause at least a little more trouble for Bush's nominee for Attorney General than it has so far:
the point on Gonzales isn't that he thinks the Geneva convention is "quaint," bad though that is. The point is that Gonzales wrote the brief that says Bush has the "inherent authority" to set aside the law[.]If you want to read a little more about this, I suggest a concise but informative article by Phillip Carter in Slate:
That's not moderation in any sense of the word. In fact, it is, precisely, a revolution; taking power by overthrowing the rule of law. (emphasis in original)
Gonzales sat at the apex of the storm that swirled within the Bush administration's legal ranks over the use of "coercive interrogation" practices and torture to extract information from detainees in Cuba, Afghanistan, and Iraq. One of the "torture memos," produced in this period by the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel for Gonzales, argued that the president had the extra-constitutional power to nullify both the Geneva Conventions and the federal war crimes statute when he deemed it necessary, based on his inherent authority as commander in chief of the armed forces. Another memo, produced by the Defense Department's lawyers, opined that an interrogator was "guilty of torture only if he act[ed] with the express purpose of inflicting severe pain or suffering on a person within his custody or physical control." Together, these legal policies and memoranda adopted by the Bush administration on Gonzales' watch for the war on terrorism had the effect of eviscerating the nation's institutional, moral, and legal constraints on the treatment and interrogation of prisoners. President Bush and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld may not have personally ordered the abuses at Abu Ghraib, but on advice from lawyers like Gonzales, they adopted policies that set the conditions for those abuses and the worst scandal to affect the U.S. government since Watergate. Yet, despite the incredible damage done by this scandal to the nation's political and moral standing in the world, not to mention its prospects of winning hearts and minds in the Middle East, no one of any significance has yet answered for these policies. Indeed, it appears many of the lawyers responsible for Abu Ghraib have been rewarded—OLC chief Jay Bybee now sits as a judge on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals; Pentagon General Counsel William Haynes II was nominated (but not confirmed) for a seat on the 4 th Circuit; and now Gonzales stands to be promoted, too.Carter also rightly expresses some concern about Gonzales' work as former Governor Bush's lawyer in the Texas State House:
The state of Texas executed 150 men and two women during Bush's six-year tenure as governor—a rate unmatched by any other state in modern U.S. history. As governor, Bush had statutory power to delay executions and the political power to influence the state Board of Pardons and Paroles to commute them entirely, where there was a procedural error, cause for mercy, or a bona fide claim of innocence. Then-Gov. Bush assigned Gonzales a critical role in the clemency process—asking him to provide a legal memo on the morning of each execution day outlining the key facts and issues of the case at hand. According to Alan Berlow, who obtained Gonzales' memoranda after a protracted legal fight with the state of Texas and wrote about them in the July/August 2003 issue of the Atlantic Monthly, Gonzales' legal skills fell far short of the mark that one might expect for this serious task:I happened to be listening to NPR when they covered the press conference where Bush made the Gonzales nomination. Gonzales made a statement, closing with heartfelt thanks to Bush:
A close examination of the Gonzales memoranda suggests that Governor Bush frequently approved executions based on only the most cursory briefings on the issues in dispute. In fact, in these documents Gonzales repeatedly failed to apprise the governor of crucial issues in the cases at hand: ineffective counsel, conflict of interest, mitigating evidence, even actual evidence of innocence.
On the basis of these memos, Gov. Bush allowed every single execution—save one—to go forward in his state. It's not clear whether Bush directed Gonzales to provide such superficial and conclusory legal research, or whether Gonzales did so of his own accord. Regardless, the point remains that the White House's new nominee to head the Justice Department turned in work that would have barely earned a passing grade in law school, let alone satisfy the requirements of a job in which life and death were at stake. Perhaps more important, these early memos from Texas revealed Gonzales' startling willingness to sacrifice rigorous legal analysis to achieve pre-ordained policy results at the drop of a Stetson.
Finally, to our President, when I talk to people around the country I sometimes tell them that within the Hispanic community there is a shared hope for an opportunity to succeed. "Just give me a chance to prove myself" -- that is a common prayer for those in my community. Mr. President, thank you for that chance. With the consent of the Senate, God's help and the support of my family, I will do my best to fulfill the confidence and trust reflected in this nomination.Carter, a former U.S. Army officer, hits a grand slam to drive home the hypocrisy in all of this:
In the days since the presidential election, the conventional wisdom has emerged that President Bush won re-election on the basis of values. And fittingly, he has pledged to govern on the basis of his mandate from the American people to implement those values. But the Gonzales appointment makes clear that the Bush administration prizes certain values—such as personal loyalty as the president's consigliere—over more democratic ones such as accountability and a commitment to the rule of law.
There's more to the picture
Than meets the eye
Hey hey, my my . . .