The Gonzales vote is a vote about torture

Why patriots should oppose the Gonzales nomination.

Greg Djerijian lays out the evidence against Gonzales on the torture issue, implicitly trashing Heather MacDonald’s hilariously dishonest piece in today’s Wall Street Journal and the equally hilarious supporting editorial. But he concludes that fighting the Gonzales nomination on the torture issue is probably the wrong way to fight the torture issue. (Glenn Reynolds agrees, though his verbal opposition to tortue doesn’t seem to extend to a willingness to criticize any actual Bush Administration official, let alone the President himself, for authorizing it or failing to stop it.)

Greg has earned everyone’s respect on this issue by being uncompromisingly critical of the President he just voted for. And I take his point that a larglely partisan fight over Gonzales’s confirmation isn’t the best venue for a serious exploration of the torture question.

But it’s the only venue we have.

Moreover, while Greg may be right to think that confirming Gonzales or not won’t make much difference to how we’re viewed in the Arab world, the Arab world isn’t the only world there is. What effect does it have on our claim to lead the world’s democracies that our President should nominate, and our Senate confirm, the author of those disgusting memos as our chief law enforcement officer?

Yes, in ordinary circumstances the President is entitled to great deference from the Senate when it comes to his choice of Cabinet officers. But these are not ordinary circumstances. Gonzales, by his conduct, has made himself the symbol of torture, and in the face of that the President chose to nominate him to be Attorney General.

Whether you like it or not, there’s no way to separate the resulting confirmation vote from the torture question. Confirming Gonzales will put the Senate on record as, in effect, not really objecting to torture.

That’s a stain our flag doesn’t deserve to carry.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact:

One thought on “The Gonzales vote is a vote about torture”

  1. How about a Little Honesty

    Dylan's post is questioning the wisdom of pressing the torture issue against Bush. The logic is as follows: if you push the issue and lose, you potentially institutionalize torture, thus leaving the landscape in worse shape than if you had remained q…

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