Wednesday, July 13, 2005

What to label Gonzales?

As I've said myself, Gonzales is only relatively moderate -- that is, moderate relative to the other leading candidates to replace O'Connor, though clearly moderate on such key issues as abortion and affirmative action. But what of his record back in Texas as Bush's lawyer and in Washington as White House counsel? Slate takes up the issue here, with Emily Bazelon asking if he is in fact "the best Supreme Court pick liberals can hope for" and reviewing his dubious advice on death sentences to then-Gov. Bush and his more recent determination that "the Geneva Conventions should not apply to the current war on terrorism".

As both an opponent of the death penalty and a critic of American interrogation techniques at Gitmo and elsewhere, I abhor these aspects of Gonzales's (not-so-distant) past, and I opposed his nomination as attorney general for precisely these black marks on his record. But the question here is not what liberals can hope for but what they (we) can reasonably expect in a Bush nomination to the Supreme Court. Is he what we would hope for? No, of course not. (I'd rather see Bill Clinton as chief justice... seriously.) Is he the least bad of the leading candidates? Yes, quite likely -- although I recently acknowledged that Luttig might not be so bad either. One only hopes that a Justice Gonzales would be more independent than the hyper-loyal pro-Bush hack that we've come to know throughout his long career in Dubya's shadow.

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