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I wrote to my elected representatives, Joe Lieberman and Chris Dodd, last month, asking them to not confirm Alberto Gonzales as Attorney General.  

Today, Chris Dodd responded to my email.  His response has made me think.

More under the fold

In my email of November 16th I briefly stated my case:

Mr. Gonzales, as the author of the Bush administration's legal justification to engage in torture and not abide by the Geneva Convention, is not only morally repugnant, he shows that he has no understanding of the basic concepts of human rights and human liberty that are the main foundations of our nation's legal structure.

I believe this is a moral cause that the Democratic Party needs to embrace, because it speaks directly to protecting the civil liberties of all Americans.  I have no confidence that Mr. Gonzales can protect my civil liberties when he has created legal justifications for the abuse of prisoners.  The Attorney General is supposed to be the advocate of the people, not the President.

This is an excerpt from Senator Dodd's response to me, which I received today:

I have long held the view that a President of either party is to be accorded a measure of deference in nominating members of the executive branch, who serve temporary rather than lifetime tenures.  Consequently, the question I must ask is not whether I would select him, but whether he is competent to perform the duties of the office to which he is nominated. In the past, I have consistently spoken out against policies of the Attorney General and other Bush Administration officials with which I have disagreed, and I will continue to do so in the future when appropriate.

Mr. Gonzales's nomination is expected to come before the Senate Judiciary Committee, of which I am not a member, at the start of the 109th Congress in January 2005.  Please be assured that I will keep your views in mind if and when his nomination comes before the full Senate for consideration.

Honestly, I hadn't really looked at it this way before: that even someone whose views you may find morally wrong should still be confirmed to serve because they are technically competent to hold the job, and because the President, who will ultimately be their boss, has said that he wants this particular qualified person to fill an empty position.

So, now I'm rethinking my views on this subject.  As one of the main motifs of dKos is reforming the Democratic Party, here's my question to y'all: is giving Bush a "pass" on his nominees wise politics, the way things just get done in Washington, or is it merely caving into a President who has the gall to declare that winning by a margin of under 3% of the popular vote is a "mandate"?

I'd like to hear everyone's views on this subject and get a good discussion going, as I also plan on emailing this link to Senator Dodd's office, and possibly to other Democrats who sit on the Judiciary Committee, so that they can see what progressive Democrats out there feel about issues like Gonzales's nomination.

Please chime in, and please encourage all of your online friends and family to do the same so that when I email Senator Dodd again I can use some of your comments.

An additional note: I am not leaving a box to check "unsure" in this poll, because I want be able to convey to the Senator how you would vote if you were a member of the Senate.

Originally posted to grannyhelen on Thu Dec 16, 2004 at 03:57 PM PST.

Poll

Should Alberto Gonzalez be confirmed?

2%3 votes
9%12 votes
8%11 votes
79%103 votes

| 129 votes | Vote | Results

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Comment Preferences

  •  Shameless plug for a "recommend" (4.00)
    Seriously - if I get a lot of responses I will contact other senators on the Judiciary Committee.  It's one thing for folks to email their individual senators, and it's quite another to be able to say "this is what this part of the blogosphere thinks you should do".

    Tips also appreciated !

    "It is no longer a choice, my friends, between violence and nonviolence. It is either nonviolence or nonexistence." Martin Luther King, Jr.

    by grannyhelen on Thu Dec 16, 2004 at 03:42:27 PM PST

    •  33 votes so far (none)
      For those who have participated - thanks!  For those scanning this thread as I type this - please chime in!

      "It is no longer a choice, my friends, between violence and nonviolence. It is either nonviolence or nonexistence." Martin Luther King, Jr.

      by grannyhelen on Thu Dec 16, 2004 at 04:18:04 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  grannyhelen (none)
      One thing I wish you had done (and you know I'm your biggest fan) is to have put "Hell no" as a poll response under "strong no."

      Well, Watson, we seem to have fallen upon evil days. -- Sherlock Holmes.

      by Carnacki on Thu Dec 16, 2004 at 05:42:57 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Let's just say I was being PC... (none)
        biggest fan...hmmm...not in a Kathy Bates/Misery sense, I hope :)

        Just kiddin'!  I love your comments!

        "It is no longer a choice, my friends, between violence and nonviolence. It is either nonviolence or nonexistence." Martin Luther King, Jr.

        by grannyhelen on Thu Dec 16, 2004 at 05:58:38 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Fan (none)
          Not in a Kathy Bates scary kind of way. But I did have the very first comment on your very first diary...

          Well, Watson, we seem to have fallen upon evil days. -- Sherlock Holmes.

          by Carnacki on Thu Dec 16, 2004 at 06:03:18 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Yes, you did! (none)
            Honestly, I always find it comforting when I see that red (1 new) sign next to my diary and open it up to see a comment from Carnacki waiting for me!  

            You're one of my favorite members of the dKos family.

            "It is no longer a choice, my friends, between violence and nonviolence. It is either nonviolence or nonexistence." Martin Luther King, Jr.

            by grannyhelen on Thu Dec 16, 2004 at 06:14:21 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

  •  Weak No (none)
    I voted a weak no. While as many dems as possible should vote against him, he's not worth a fillibuster or anything.
  •  ordinarily I'd go along, not this time (4.00)
    Yes, it is true that there is a tradition of deference, but it is not unconditional.  When there is a gross character defect in the nominee, and when confirming that nominee goes against every principle of decency, that nominee must be rejected, despite the tradition of letting the President choose his team.

    Gonzales is the chief legal architect of the doctrine that says the President can torture whoever he wants to torture, and that the Geneva Convention is a dead letter.  To choose such a man as Attorney General is to spit in the face of all our allies.

    Perhaps the Democrats should save the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees, since it will be too exhausting to do it every time.  But at minimum, the Judiciary Committee Dems need to make this guy's confirmation hearing a living hell, and Democrats need to get their "no" votes on the record.  Even if this guy gets confirmed, decent senators need to be able to say that it was done over their opposition.

    John Tower was rejected for Secretary of Defense for far weaker reasons than the torture policy.

    •  I have to agree (none)
      Deference should be shown, but to a point.  When the nominee helps degrade the reputation of the United States (not alone, of course..he had plenty of help), no such respect should be given.  Many people are "technically" capable of doing the job, but the nominee should be one that embodies one who can do it the best-allowing for torture is not such a person.

      Your silence will not protect you.

      by SairaLV on Thu Dec 16, 2004 at 03:58:40 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Great and well-thought out response (none)
      Question, I'm not familiar w. John Tower - do you have some links you can give to me so I can study this?

      "It is no longer a choice, my friends, between violence and nonviolence. It is either nonviolence or nonexistence." Martin Luther King, Jr.

      by grannyhelen on Thu Dec 16, 2004 at 04:00:19 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Google is your friend (none)
        Better to teach you to fish, grannyhelen; try, for
        instance, searching Google with "john tower rejected".
        •  Google is my friend, too (none)
          Just sometimes the best articles don't show up on the first couple of page, so I was just checkin' with ya to see if you had anything to recommend.

          But thanks for the tip.

          "It is no longer a choice, my friends, between violence and nonviolence. It is either nonviolence or nonexistence." Martin Luther King, Jr.

          by grannyhelen on Thu Dec 16, 2004 at 04:31:12 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  try this one (4.00)
            from Slate, which also mentions Ted Sorenson for CIA director by jimmy carter. Sorenson was rejected for being too liberal and as the Slate article notes, set a pre-Bork precident for rejection by ideological grounds. The nomination was withdrawn before a vote.

            link

            link:

            George Bush nominated Tower for Secretary of Defense in 1989, but critics claimed he had too many ties to defense contractors. His was the first rejection of a cabinet nominee in more than 30 years. Tower later published a book, Consequences: A Personal and Political Memoir, which reflects his bitterness toward those who contributed to his defeat.

            His heavy drinking played a huge role as well.

            "Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies." - Groucho Marx

            by Greg Dworkin on Thu Dec 16, 2004 at 04:54:18 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

  •  I actually voted "weak yes" ... (none)
    Because I do agree for the most part with Dodd's logic -- and I think we have to pick our battles, and I think I'd rather save resources for fighting over SCOTUS appointments.

    However -- I don't claim to know enough about Gonzalez yet to make an informed decision. I thought Ashcroft's record was such that he should never have been allowed NEAR DoJ and his performance in office showed a lack of regard for the law he was sworn to uphold; and Gonzalez's record is tainted by association and participation. Regardless of whether Bush should get the executive team he wants, the Senate should certainly give the Gonzalez appointment as rigorous a hearing as it can and I reserve the right to change my vote, for what little it's worth in the matter. ;-)

    •  Ordinarily i would agree with you, (none)
       that whoever the president nominates would not in any way represent any of my views on a whole host of issues, and therefore competence would be the best test for confirmation.  Gonzales, however, seems to hold several views which would not only be detrimental in shorterm but might permanently damage the republic by taking cementing policies condoning the use torture on POWs and an abandonment of the geneva conventions.  This is the man who tried to justify the president's ability to hold any citizen of this country indefinitely simply by labeling them an enemy combatant.  We do need to pick our battles and start fighting them right away.  Believe it or not, Bush's presidency will slide into lame duck status sooner than we think as the 2006 + 2008 races loom larger.  Every issue that we don't fight gives Bush more time to cram something else down our collective throats.  it is time for smash mouth politics starting with gonzales

      "let us stand fast in times of darkness"-Julie Billiant

      by cato on Thu Dec 16, 2004 at 04:47:25 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Maybe I'm just cynical. But. (4.00)
    I just can't see the same courtesy extended to Democrats as extended to Republicans.

    Of course he's written in the Lamb's Book of Life. He's the Antagonist.

    by ultrageek on Thu Dec 16, 2004 at 04:03:07 PM PST

  •  Dodd is Right, But... (none)
    Dodd is absolutely right in his position.

    However, upholding the laws of the United States,
    and protecting the rights of its citizens under the Constitution is a necessary qualification
    for an Attorney General to hold. Gonzales does not meet this qualification. I man who creates a justification for the illegal, in defense after the fact, but before the act takes place as a matter of policy, is grossly unqualified to serve as the nation's highest law enforcement officer.

    The President should be given deference on who he appoints to his cabinet. Ideology should not be a consideration in the process. But if he nominates someone who is as poorly qualified as Gonzales it is the duty of the Senate to reject such a nomination.

    "These are the commanders who have deserted their troops. And there is no more serious crime in the laws of war"
    -John Kerry, 1971

    by Goldfish on Thu Dec 16, 2004 at 04:05:01 PM PST

  •  My Humble Opinion (none)
    The only thing the democrats can do as a minority right now is to pick their battles. There will be countless battles to fight over the next four years and the democrats will have to be wise about which ones to choose.

    They should fight the revokation of any part of Roe V. Wade

    They should fight the desecration of our environment and especially drilling in Alaska

    They should fight the destruction of social security, the selling of health care to the highest bidder and the lack of benefits for veterans in this country.

    While I deeply dislike the man, this is not the battle that Democrats need to be fighting. They need to focus on certain things and this attorney general is not worth the fight.

  •  If I were in the Senate I would vote 'No' (none)
    however, I think Dodd's position is valid.

    I couldn't bring myself to vote in your poll though, because I wouldn't characterize my no vote as either strong or weak.

    This is not a time for Democrats to retreat and accommodate extremists on critical principles -- it is a time to stand firm. -- John Kerry

    by Feanor on Thu Dec 16, 2004 at 04:11:01 PM PST

  •  Unsound Legal Judgment (4.00)
    is the phrase military lawyers used to describe him.

    See this diary posted earlier today.

    Several former high-ranking military lawyers say they are discussing ways to oppose President Bush's nomination of Alberto R. Gonzales to be attorney general, asserting that Mr. Gonzales's supervision of legal memorandums that appeared to sanction harsh treatment of detainees, even torture, showed unsound legal judgment.

    ...snip...

    Mr. Hutson, who is dean and president of the Franklin Pierce Law Center in Concord, N.H., said that Mr. Gonzales "was not thinking about the impact of his behavior on U.S. troops in this war and others to come."

    "He was not thinking about the United States' history in abiding by international law, especially in the wartime context," he said. "For that reason, some of us think he is a poor choice to be attorney general."

    ...snip...

    Brig. Gen. James Cullen, retired from the Army, said on Wednesday that he believed that in supervising the memorandums, Mr. Gonzales had purposely ignored the advice of lawyers whose views did not accord with the conclusions he sought, which was that there was some legal justification for illegal behavior.

    "He went forum-shopping," General Cullen said, saying Mr. Gonzales had ignored the advice of military lawyers adamantly opposed to some of the legal strategies adopted, including narrowly defining torture so as to make it difficult to prove it occurred. "When you create these kinds of policies that can eventually be used against your own soldiers, when we say 'only follow the Geneva Conventions as much as it suits us,' when we take steps that the common man would understand is torture, this undermines what we are supposed to be, and many of us find it appalling," he said.

  •  I voted 'mild yes' because (none)
    of the deep and long-lasting political fodder he can provide Dems. He is, after all, the 'Republican Torture Lawyer'. You know, kind of like Dr. Mengele will be always known as the 'Nazi Torture Doctor'.

    Progressive Rationalism is NOT a skin disease.

    by skrymir on Thu Dec 16, 2004 at 04:27:49 PM PST

  •  A Strong Unabashed No (none)
    My main objection is that in framing the "torture memos", Gonzales was, much like the syncophants in the WMD fiasco, merely getting opinions to CONFIRM the course that Bush wished to take.
  •  Disagree with basic premise (4.00)
    because I don't see that the President is "free" to do anything official.  Cabinent members are not just "advisors" to the President, they are public servants.  The argument Shays gives holds true for someone like the NSA, I'd say, but not for the leading Administrators for various segments of the public sector.

    Congress is supposed to be a check on Executive Power, that is, when the Executive gets out of line, the tool we have to deal with this congressional oversight and congressional approval. The question of approval is more than the simple one of qualifications (we don't expect our bloody President to be qualified, why should his Cabinet members be any different).  If nominees are inappropriate for any number of reasons, then Congress members and Senators have a duty to let the President know that.

    In a democratic society some are guilty, but all are responsible. -Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel

    by a gilas girl on Thu Dec 16, 2004 at 05:05:40 PM PST

    •  would you accept that the Prexy is 'free' (none)
      to nominate and the Senate, in fulfilling its "Advise and Consent' role is 'free' to reject? Bush is entitled to ask for whomever he wants, and it should come as no surprise that it's Gonzales. Loyalty above all. But Bush is within his political rights (even though he's consistently a tonedeaf disaster).

      Between Sorenson (CIA) and Tower (Defense), there's precedent for rejection. Neither was any 'worse' than Gonzales.

      "Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies." - Groucho Marx

      by Greg Dworkin on Thu Dec 16, 2004 at 05:15:39 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Yes that's a better way to express it (none)
        He's "free" to nominate, but shouldn't expect that his nominations will go through.  If that were the case, then the balance would be out of whack.

        In a democratic society some are guilty, but all are responsible. -Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel

        by a gilas girl on Thu Dec 16, 2004 at 05:20:07 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  enough of selecting battles (none)
    because I think in the context of this admin, it is about as sensible as "staying the course" on anything else they have instigated. agree with looking it from the POV of a person who assisted Abu Ghraib.(oh and Gitmo, and off-sourced torture) Recently there has been more stories coming out about abuses in our military's conduct. I doubt these new stories are fueling more outrage--I suspect a lot of people don't see the recent stories as widening the importance of the Abu Ghraib discoveries; they think the whole drama has been played out. But since only individual soldiers have been held to account, not rumsfeld(tho they might now want to phase him out after the "armor incident"), not the prez, not his legal advisors, I think it's wise to fight on every front. there must at least be vigorous questions outside the (vague) area of competence. questions of the caliber that might make gonzales invent a nanny problem, at the least.
    •  agreed (none)
      Although I'd say that congressional dems should save going to the mat/filibuster for SCOTUS, I think this one needs to be fought.  After Rummy's comments, the administration is on the defensive w/r/t their conduct of this war.  Use the Gonzales confirmation hearings to keep them on the defensive--they've bungled everything from equipping the troops to civil administration in Iraq to losing hearts and minds with Abu Ghraib to undermining longstanding and important military traditions not only in upholding the Geneva Conventions, but in this nation's leading role in formulating their basis.  Gonzales should be grilled hard; hopefully the retired JAGs who oppose his nomination will testify.  Stick the "renders the Geneva Conventions quaint" label that he created on him.  Fight the nomination and get on record with a "no" vote.  This is another step in opening the American people's eyes to the administration's failed execution of the Iraqi campaign.
      •  funny , I just watched Olbermann (none)
        and the whole idea about challenging Gonzales doesn't seem so radical. And I'm not just talking about Keith.

        It's simpler than it seems--you just have to think, and ask questions. no going into a huddle and trying to decide "should we ask this question?"

  •  btw (none)
    how did Lieberman respond?
    •  He didn't. (none)
      I guess he's been busy doing other things...

      "It is no longer a choice, my friends, between violence and nonviolence. It is either nonviolence or nonexistence." Martin Luther King, Jr.

      by grannyhelen on Thu Dec 16, 2004 at 05:42:02 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  from personal constituent experience (none)
        Joe takes 10 times longer to respond than Chris. On any topic.

        "Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies." - Groucho Marx

        by Greg Dworkin on Thu Dec 16, 2004 at 05:50:27 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  If he gets back at all... (none)
          Seriously, I don't understand the Joementum fans out there.  They must not be from the CT.

          "It is no longer a choice, my friends, between violence and nonviolence. It is either nonviolence or nonexistence." Martin Luther King, Jr.

          by grannyhelen on Thu Dec 16, 2004 at 06:00:36 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  they're CT repubs and indies (none)
            CT Dems are kinda sore at him.

            "Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies." - Groucho Marx

            by Greg Dworkin on Thu Dec 16, 2004 at 06:02:41 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  "Kinda" just doesn't even (none)
              say it for me.  There was a part of me that was hoping to see Joe take a post in the Bush cabinet, just so we could replace him with someone like Blumenthal in 2 years.

              "It is no longer a choice, my friends, between violence and nonviolence. It is either nonviolence or nonexistence." Martin Luther King, Jr.

              by grannyhelen on Thu Dec 16, 2004 at 06:17:30 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

  •  Well (4.00)
    Certainly great deference is shown a President in his choices for Cabinet.

    But deference is not absolute.  In Gonzales' case, his actions on torture make him unfit.  He should not be confirmed.

    I'm thinkin', I'm thinkin'

    by Armando on Thu Dec 16, 2004 at 05:57:43 PM PST

    •  Wow, I would've thought... (none)
      ...if anyone would have supported Gonzales's nomination it would have been you, Armando.  Just the vibe I get from ya :)

      That's really saying a lot about this guy.

      "It is no longer a choice, my friends, between violence and nonviolence. It is either nonviolence or nonexistence." Martin Luther King, Jr.

      by grannyhelen on Thu Dec 16, 2004 at 06:02:29 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  But you insult me Helen (none)
        Cuz you didn't read me last Saturday obviously.  Kidding. But I did spell out why I would never support him.

        I'm thinkin', I'm thinkin'

        by Armando on Thu Dec 16, 2004 at 06:24:01 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Oy gewalt! My Saturdays... (none)
          Everyone else gets weekends to relax...but not stay-at-home moms who also aspire to be writers someday.

          This last weekend was FULL of taking care of baby, getting Christmas tree with baby, baking cookies for baby and hubby, minor home improvement projects, figuring out holiday financing on a shoestring budget - all very joyous tasks, but they do consume one's day.

          But hubby does take baby for a drive on Sat mornings so I can have a bit of a lie-in...he's good like that.

          Probably more info than you needed, but I felt so GUILTY for not reading your diary on this topic before posting!

          "It is no longer a choice, my friends, between violence and nonviolence. It is either nonviolence or nonexistence." Martin Luther King, Jr.

          by grannyhelen on Thu Dec 16, 2004 at 06:36:23 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  A Joseph McCarthy (none)
    arguably would be competent to serve too, but if Bush were to nominate him he should never be confirmed because he flouted the law.  Same is true of Gonzales, who learned somehow both to love torture and to hate the Geneva Conventions.

    Congress is given the power to confirm or reject nominations, therefore they have to use their own discretion, not the President's, about the fitness of a nominee for a position in government.

    In any case, it is far from clear that Gonzales is very competent at anything, least of all legal matters.  His reviews of death penalty cases in Texas is notorious for its incompetence.

  •  Received a response (none)
    from Sen.Kohl about the Gonzales nomination. Here's a bit of what he had to say:

    ...Confirmation hearings are held to determine whether a nominee is prepared to perform the responsibilities of the office to which he or she was nominated.

        Though deference should be given to the President's nominees, the Senate has a responsibility to ensure that any nominee possesses the qualifications and integrity that is necessary to carry out his responsibilities on behalf of the American people.

    As a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, I look forward to Judge Gonzales's upcoming confirmation hearings when close scrutiny will be given to his record on a number of important issues.

    (emphasis me)
    I hope that by choosing to include integrity as a necessary qualification for Gonzales to  carry out his responsibilities as AG, this means that Kohl will not recommend.  Which would be great.  

    •  Just an idea (none)
      There's a sizable number of votes on the poll - could you email Kohl these numbers as well as some of the comments here?  

      "It is no longer a choice, my friends, between violence and nonviolence. It is either nonviolence or nonexistence." Martin Luther King, Jr.

      by grannyhelen on Fri Dec 17, 2004 at 07:36:13 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  the question in my mind (none)
    is how you define "competent".  To me, Gonzales's legal opinions about torture and the rights of prisoners are enough to make me question his competence. I'm not an attorney and I certainly don't know the legal history, but it seems that a lot of attorneys (including the military JAGs that somebody mentioned) feel that his opinions contradict established precidents.

    Perhaps there is a way of interpreting existing law that supports his points of view. But it seems to me that this guy is just trying to justify his point of view, whether of not the law really supports it. I don't want an AG who does that. An AG is supposed to enforce existing law, not make stuff up as he goes along.

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