Gonzales Hearing 3:46 p.m.Hide in Plain Sight



Chairman Arlen Specter just announced that the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Alberto Gonzales may in fact be “wrapped up” today. If that’s true, what a sick joke.

It was foolish to expect—even from a dynamic prosecutor like Specter—a thorough vetting of this extremely lame flunky lawyer who’s not even a senior adviser to the Bush regime but merely a factotum to carry out the wishes of Karl Rove, Dick Cheney, Don Rumsfeld, and the other handlers of George W. Bush. Luckily, there’s the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights. Now calling itself Human Rights First, the group has a blog by Avi Cover on the Gonzales hearing. Click here or on the “Questioning Gonzales” logo and you’ll get it. Cover’s the right person to do this. He wrote the group’s report that examined Gonzales’s record and he was one of the lawyers representing Rasul, the main prisoner/plaintiff in the Guantánamo Bay case decided by the Supreme Court last June.

TV is a “vast wasteland,” Newton Minow famously said. That would all change, we were told by others, when cable and other technology gave us hundreds of channels from which to choose. Wrong.

For anyone interested in civil liberties—that includes all of us and the people yet to be born—the question of whether Gonzales is fit to be U.S. attorney general is vitally important.

Here’s why. Gonzales is making some outrageous statements, scary ones, to say the least. Here’s just one:

    Of course the President is not above the law, but the President may elect to not enforce the law.

Here’s another reason: Senator John Cornyn, the staunchest knee-jerk defender of Gonzales on the panel, defended the Bush regime’s release of documents. But he did so by pointing out two documents that haven’t been released: one involving Bush’s “senior advisers” and the other a November 6, 2001, memo from Gonzales.

Where are these memos? Why haven’t they been released? Well, because they can probably provide answers to the two main questions:

What did the president and his handlers know about the torture? And when did they know it?

OK, you don’t have to watch this hearing on live TV. But you should be able to watch it on live TV. And here we are, while it’s going on, and C-Span has already cut away from it several times or it’s hopped around between the two main C-Span channels or we’ve missed chunks of it entirely.

It’s still up and running on the Internet, but not everyone wants to get involved with the intrusive software Real Player or the obnoxious Windows Media Player, let alone put up with the annoying technical problems of streaming video.

Court TV is currently showing the trial of a bus driver for a crash that injured some teens. Wonderful. Shouldn’t there be at least one TV channel that freely carries the Gonzales hearing? C-Span is great and extensive, but it’s not extensive enough.

So, most of us missed the chance to see all of the Gonzales hearing’s first day. And of course, because the Senate is a mostly moribund club, the hearing is likely to be over before you know it.

And that’s because Specter clearly was himself vetted by Bush’s handlers before they let him take over the Judiciary chairmanship from Orrin Hatch. Specter, a moderate Republican, passed their abortion test, promising not to hold up anti-abortion judges.

But the Bush regime obviously doesn’t have a problem with aborting the Constitution, and Specter has gone along with them by, as he is now saying, trying to wrap up the Gonzales hearing so this unqualified person can be confirmed before Bush’s inauguration.

What’s the rush? This is all being done to accommodate the Bush regime. Rushing through this is not in the public’s interest, that’s for sure.

My God, even Lindsey Graham, a Southern Republican, rigorously questioned Gonzales. Graham caustically noted that the Supreme Court finally recognized that “Gitmo is not Mars.” Even Graham, a Bush supporter, knows that the current administration is out of control.

In the meantime, Avi Cover is doing the right thing, by trying to capture what’s going on. Here’s an excerpt, lightly edited for obvious typos, of a fresh exchange between Gonzales and Senator Russ Feingold that Cover is scrambling to put out to the public:

    Feingold notes that the 12/30/02 rewrite of the 8/1/02 torture memo does not address the power of the President to override a statutory prohibition.

    Feingold notes that there is a great difference however between choosing not to enforce a law that the President thinks is dubious and the President’s authorizing violations of criminal law. The latter is saying the President is above the law. This was not a hypothetical. This is what the 8/1/02 memo stated; I want your answer.

    Gonzales: The 8/1/02 memo has been withdrawn and rejected. I categorically reject it. This Administration does not condone torture or order torture.

    Feingold: Does the President have the power to authorize violations of duly enacted criminal law.

    Gonzales: It is impossible to answer that question. There is a presumption of constitutionality for every statute passed by Congress and to the extent the President could order people not to follow the law I would take that matter very seriously. Of course the President is not above the law, but the President may elect to not enforce the law.

    Feingold: That is different from affirmatively authorizing a person to violate the law. Will you commit to informing Congress of such a similar decision instead of waiting two years until a memo is leaked.

    Gonzales: I would do so as soon as I can, yes.

Oh, that’s comforting.