Sunday, January 9, 2005

Going Up in Smoke

Attorney General nominee Gonzales lit his own tail on fire in testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee. In the push and shove and give and take of questioning, he made a statement that, for me, precludes his consideration as head of the Justice Department. The reference was in explaining his position on the government’s view (or lack thereof) of the Geneva Convention and the Rules of War.


“Ultimately,” he said, “it is the responsibility of the department (of Justice) to tell us what the law means”


Wrongo, Alberto.


It is the responsibility of the courts to tell us what the law means. It is the responsibility of the Attorney General to uphold the laws as they are written. If you don’t understand that distinction, I haven’t time for your cleverly nuanced positions on whether or not you were in or out of the loop on specific memos. Although I must say there seems to be a lot of can’t remembering for a guy who knew he was headed for hearings to determine his fitness and knew as well what the hot-button issues were.


He disremembers who asked him for the opinion on what constitutes torture, disremembers key details of his personal involvement, but he says he agrees with the opinion in general. He doesn’t say which opinion---the one that got the administration in hot water or the one so recently changed in anticipation of his nomination.


"Torture and abuse will not be tolerated by this administration," Gonzales said. "I will ensure the Department of Justice aggressively pursues those responsible for such abhorrent actions."


But of course torture and abuse have already been tolerated by this administration. Not only tolerated but encouraged and given the seal of approval by this nominee. As for the department aggressively pursuing those responsible, he’d be aggressively chasing his own tail. Thus is revealed the Wizard of Oz atmosphere of the Judiciary Committee and the only thing missing is the late, great Lionel Barrymore revealed to be pulling the levers.


A side note, Alberto, about pursuing those responsible for abhorrent actions. All these privates and sergeants and specialists who are sitting in various courts martial have been put there by the encouragement of their superiors, encouraged by their superiors, who were encouraged by their superiors on up through the ranks. That chain of command ends in the Oval Office, where you disremember so many of your actions and where the obvious no-matter-the-method goals of the President fluttered back down through the rank and file. It’s a crime that these kids are taking the rap and a personal failure that you saw fit to approve that outcome.


The pundits have it that Alberto will skate through the approval process in a breeze. I suspect that’s true enough but that breeze may prove to be an ill wind.