- The Washington Times - Monday, January 10, 2005

Senate Democrats are signaling that they expect to confirm Alberto Gonzales as the next attorney general, despite demands from liberal groups that the chief White House counsel be blocked.

“The likelihood is that he will be,” Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, said when asked about whether the Senate will approve the nomination.

Mr. Schumer — an architect of the filibusters against 10 of President Bush’s judicial nominees — questioned Mr. Gonzales at his hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee last week and said afterward that he wasn’t entirely satisfied with all his answers.

“At the hearing, he did not really impress people with that candor which he has a reputation for,” he said.

But Mr. Schumer added, “There’s a lower standard, frankly, for attorney general than for judge because you give the president who he wants.”

Judiciary has not scheduled a vote on the Gonzales nomination.

Liberal interest groups have called for Mr. Gonzales to be blocked from confirmation over his involvement in the so-called “torture memos” that Democrats say gave a green light that led to the abuses at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

“Alberto Gonzales was a central architect of policies that have undermined America’s moral authority and have been rebuked by the Supreme Court,” said Ralph G. Neas, president of People for the American Way. “The fact that he has been rewarded with a nomination to be attorney general demonstrates the astonishing and pervasive lack of accountability that is a hallmark of this administration.”

The American Civil Liberties Union was not pleased by Mr. Gonzales’ performance, but declined as a matter of policy to demand that his nomination be scuttled.

“While Gonzales hoped to quiet concerns about his nomination in [his] confirmation hearings, he ironically refused to answer some of the important questions about his policies that may have contributed to widespread torture and abuse,” said Anthony D. Romero, executive director of the ACLU. “Gonzales couldn’t even ‘remember’ if he approved or agreed with a now-disavowed memo addressed to him in 2002 that justified certain torture techniques.”

But these detractors of Mr. Gonzales are not hopeful that he will be rejected by the Senate.

“The conventional wisdom has been that Gonzales will be easily confirmed,” Mr. Neas said.

During the hearing, Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., Delaware Democrat, voiced that conventional wisdom.

“I don’t know anybody who’s announced they’re against your being the next attorney general,” he told Mr. Gonzales. “Even those who have doubts about you say you’re going to be confirmed.”

Before and since the hearings, many Republicans, including Sen. Arlen Specter, Pennsylvania Republican and Judiciary Committee chairman, have expressed their confidence that Mr. Gonzales will be easily confirmed.

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