The results of White House counsel Alberto Gonzalez’ first day of hearings on his nomination to be Attorney General yesterday were not encouraging. Gonzalez said all the right things, but what had been merely Orwellian disconnects between reality and its perception are becoming more like Lewis Carroll all the time.
Gonzales is best known for writing the memo advising Dubya that the Geneva Convention didn’t have to apply to anyone rounded up in Afghanistan or Iraq. His manner of addressing that dubious accomplishment are disturbing, not that it will affect his confirmation one way or the other.
Gonzalez began by attempting to distance himself from what has become in the post-Abu Ghraib world an inconvenient political misstep. In a comment worthy of the Nixon Administration’s “previous statements are now inoperable,” Gonzalez told the senators, "I will no longer represent only the White House. I will represent the United States of America and its people. I understand the difference between the two roles."
Does that distinction bother anyone else? Shouldn’t the president and his policies represent the American people? Was it Gonzalez’ previous job to tell Dubya what he wanted to hear, no more and no less? It’s an acknowledgement by a still-favored Administration insider that Bush’s agenda runs contrary of the American people, instead of just hearing it from those malcontents (like Clarke and O’Neill) who were trusted advisors until they disagreed with our erstwhile unclad emperor.
When asked by Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter (R – PA) if he approved of torture, Gonzalez replied, “Absolutely not, senator.” Not just no, but absolutely not. I feel better already.
It’s good to know our nation’s chief law enforcement official is against torture. It would have been nice to hear more about his definition of torture, just for the record, since his definitions of several amendments in the Bill of Rights seem to be flexible, if not downright whimsical.
Holding prisoners uncharged and incommunicado even to their lawyers clearly doesn’t qualify as torture to Al; it probably doesn’t meet Webster’s definition, either. I guess that makes it all right through the Bush Administration’s looking-glass.