Friday, January 07, 2005

Democrats Disappoint During Gonzales Confirmation

If you are a liberal who feels the Democrats too often act like "Republicans-lite," you couldn't have been happy with the Alberto Gonzales confirmation hearing.

As detailed in today's Washington Post, the Senate grilling yesterday was "quaint," and made some people wonder if the minority party was making itself "obsolete."

Yes, the Democrats -- including Joe Biden, Ted Kennedy. Dick Durbin and Patrick Leahy -- asked tough questions. But Biden said early on that, all hostility aside, Gonzales was going to be unanimously confirmed.

And at that point, it didn't real matter how blustery the Democrats were. Gonzales had been given a "Get Out of Jail Free" card. It was like being told that no matter how he answered, he was going to pass the test. No matter how good or bad a job he had done as White House Counsel, he had nothing to worry about.

Here's how the Post described the hearing:

Hours go by and little gets clarified. Gonzales did not author or even conceive of the infamous Aug. 1, 2002, "torture memo." It was drafted by Department of Justice lawyer John Yoo and signed by then-Assistant Attorney General Jay Bybee, and neither of them are in the room. When seeking their advice, did Gonzales press them to be "forward-leaning," as some news reports have suggested? "I don't recall ever using the term 'lean forward,' " he tells Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), the first of a string of deflections.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) refers to Gonzales as the "man from Humble" -- meaning Humble, Tex. -- a "self-effacing man" and the son of migrant workers. Only in Washington, Cornyn says, would they rake such a good man "over the coals." ... Sen. Ken Salazar (D-Colo.) quotes from a speech Gonzales once gave at his alma mater, Rice University. ... Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) spends precious minutes opining about how the Department of Justice is "such a wonderful institution, big and complex." ... Gonzales turns out to be a master at cutting legalese with Bush-style plainspeak. "We had captured some really bad people," he says in a honeyed Texas accent.

How quaint.

Democratic senators half-heartedly painted a picture of a man who allegedly sat through briefings on the effects of such methods of torture as the threat of live burial or drowning, then signed memos condoning them. They alleged that Gonzales created a "permissive environment" that ultimately led to Abu Ghraib. They cited a memo Gonzales signed that suggested the Geneva Conventions did not apply to U.S. treatment of terror suspects. They questioned why he failed to properly vet former Homeland Security Secretary nominee Bernard Kerik.

The Democrats let Gonzales duck and weave, pass the buck and take no blame himself. They let him suggest he didn't remember this memo or that meeting. They gave Gonzales a free pass -- telling him quite bluntly that they had no plans to block his nomination.

But maybe Americans deserved such a half-hearted effort. As the Post observed, only 20 or so protesters showed up outside the hearing room. That's hardly a March on Washington. For all the liberal groups angry at Abu Ghraib and Gonzales' various steps along the way, his confirmation came and went with little fanfare.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

you do realize that all the dems were trying to do (whether or not they succeeded i do not know) was to set up his record should bush ever nominate him for supreme court. there was never any question he would get this least from everything i had heard.

9:54 AM  
Blogger Grace Reid said...

During the Gonzales hearings, much was made of the enormous file of documents of Sen. Patrick Leahy. Here are some of the papers from that file:

Leahy: Government Stonewalling on Release of Documents, December 22, 2004

Leitch to Leahy December 30, 2004

Long standing practice:
As you know it is generally not the practice of this or prior Administrations to provide all documents requested by a Member of Congress wehre those documents contain highly deliberative or Presidential communications. By longstanding practice, no claim of executive privilege is necessary to decline to produce such documents in response to such a request. It is on the basis of this practice, and in light of the nature of the documents at issue, that we respectfully declined to provide two of the documents you requested.

"There are no orders or directives...signed by the President, with respect to the interrogation of detainees, prisoners or combatants."

As Bybee has been withdrawn and replaced, not sending it.

Leahy Presses Gonzales on Accountability, Documents: January 4,

5:55 PM  
Blogger DrPat said...

Hi, David - I have cited this post in my Weekly BlogScan, this week titled "Living with Disappointment." To read the citation or comment, please join these two segments into one URL:

8:17 PM  
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