Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Lieberman: Gonzales "not..out of the mainstream"

from grannyhelen

Just got this constituent email from Joe Lieberman, and thought I'd share with the group. It provides his justification for the vote to confirm Alberto Gonzales.

My emphasis added, of course:

Thank you for contacting me regarding President Bush's nomination of Alberto Gonzales to the position of U.S. Attorney General.

As you know, President Bush nominated his White House Counsel, Judge Alberto Gonzales, to the post. On February 3, 2004, the Senate voted to confirm Judge Gonzales. For more detailed information on that vote, please consult my web site at http://lieberman.senate.gov and click on the "THOMAS" icon at the bottom of the home page. THOMAS is a public site provided by the Library of Congress for the purpose of, among other things, conducting research on pending legislative issues and tracking presidential nominations.

Prior to his appointment as presidential counsel, Judge Gonzales served on the Texas Supreme Court from 1999-2001. He was Texas Secretary of State from December 1997 to December 1999 and was then Governor Bush's General Counsel. He taught at the University of Houston Law Center and practiced law privately before serving on Governor Bush's staff.

I understand your concerns about Judge Gonzales' nomination, particularly about his involvement in formulating the legal positions underlying the Administration's policies in the war on terror. After considering views like the ones you expressed, reviewing the record of Judge Gonzales' confirmation proceedings, meeting with Judge Gonzales, and thinking long and hard about the nomination, I decided to vote to confirm him, largely because I believe that, although Senators have a constitutional obligation to advise and consent on nominees and should not serve as a rubber stamp on the President's choices, they nonetheless should apply a broadly deferential standard when reviewing the President's choices for his Cabinet. When I applied that standard to Judge Gonzales, I concluded that, regardless of whether I would have chosen him for the position myself, he did not fall so far out of the mainstream or have other factors in his record to justify denying the President his choice for the post. I gave a more lengthy discussion of my thoughts on this nomination during comments I delivered on the Senate floor. To read the full text of my statement, please click on the following link, http://lieberman.senate.gov/newsroom/release.cfm?id=231560.

My Senate web site is designed to be an on-line office that provides access to constituent services, Connecticut-specific information, and an abundance of information about what I am working on in the Senate on behalf of Connecticut and the nation. I am pleased to let you know that I have launched an email news update service through my web site. You can sign up for that service by visiting http://lieberman.senate.gov and clicking on the "Subscribe Email News Updates" button at the bottom of the home page. I hope these are informative and useful.

Thank you again for letting me know your views and concerns.  Please contact me if you have any additional questions or comments about our work in Congress.

Sincerely,

Joseph I. Lieberman
UNITED STATES SENATOR
JIL:kda


Is it just me, or does Lieberman have a very unusual understanding of what is "mainstream" in a United States Attorney General? I would have thought that revising not just our policies on torture, but the very definition of the word itself would constitute being just a tad "out of the mainstream".

This mentality is just one more reason why, as a resident of the true, blue state of Connecticut, I would LOVE to see a Democratic alternative to Senator Lieberman in 2006.

Just to compare and contrast, here's what the Senior Senator from Connecticut, Chris Dodd, had to say about the Gonzales vote (Senator Dodd voted against confirming Gonzales):

Thank you for contacting me regarding White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales's nomination to succeed John Ashcroft as Attorney General. I appreciate the benefit of your views.

I opposed Mr. Gonzales' nomination. 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 a nominee, but whether he or she is competent to perform the duties of the office to which he or she is nominated. During the quarter of a century I have served in this body, I have supported almost all Cabinet appointees of both Democratic and Republican Presidents. However, I have, on rare occasions opposed a Cabinet nominee.

There is no question that Mr. Gonzales has demonstrated considerable intellectual ability and a commitment to public service. However, in my view, he has not demonstrated to the Senate that he will discharge the duties of the office of the Attorney General, specifically that he will enforce the Constitution and laws of the United States and uphold the values upon which those laws are based.

We live in a nation founded on the principle of human freedom and dignity, a nation dedicated to the proposition that all are equal and no one is above the law. Contrary to these principles, Mr. Gonzales has, unfortunately, endorsed the position that torture may be permissible and he has suggested that the President, acting as Commander in Chief, has the right to act in violation of the laws and treaties prohibiting torture and may authorize subordinates to do the same. Our Constitution, the Geneva Convention, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Convention against Torture, and the Army Field Manual all clearly prohibit the use of torture. Unfortunately, Mr. Gonzales has stood against the overwhelming and unequivocal weight of precedent and principle and has instead stood on the side of policies that are in direct conflict with the laws, treaties, and military practices that have long guided our Nation and its citizenry. In January 2002, Mr. Gonzales wrote a memorandum to the President regarding the applicability of the Geneva Conventions to the conflict in Afghanistan arguing that the war on terror presents a "new paradigm [that] renders obsolete Geneva's strict limitations on questioning of enemy prisoners", a position that was strenuously opposed by then-Secretary of State Colin Powell. Then, in an August 2002 memorandum regarding standards of conduct of interrogations, Mr. Gonzales argues that criminal prohibition against torture "does not apply to the President's detention and interrogation of enemy combatants pursuant to its Commander in Chief authority. Under this reasoning, executive officials can escape prosecution for torture if "they were carrying out the President's Commander in Chief powers". Finally, at his confirmation hearing, Mr. Gonzales, when asked if he agreed with Attorney General Ashcroft's statement that he does not believe in torture because it doesn't produce anything of value, the nominee replied "I don't have a way of reaching a conclusion on that."

I find it troubling that Mr. Gonzales cannot reach a conclusion on the illegality or immorality of torture. His statement raises troubling questions about other cherished moral and legal principles that he might open to similar legal evisceration and repeal. I could not in good conscience give my vote to Mr. Gonzales to be Attorney General, the chief law enforcer of our country, when I know how important the rule of law is to this country, its history, and our reputation.

Thank you again for contacting me. If you would like to stay in touch with me on this and other issues of importance, please visit my web site at http://dodd.senate.gov and subscribe to my online newsletter, the Dodd Digest. Please do not hesitate to contact me again if I can help you in any way.

Sincerely,

CHRISTOPHER J. DODD
United States Senator

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