- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 5, 2005

Today, the Senate Judiciary Committee opens hearings on President Bush’s nomination of White House counsel Alberto R. Gonzales for attorney general. Under anything resembling normal circumstances, Mr. Gonzales would be a shoo-in. The son of Mexican immigrants who served in the Air Force before attending college — the first in his family to do so — the former Texas Supreme Court judge has a degree from Harvard Law School and has served as Texas secretary of state. Unfortunately, Senate Democrats view the Gonzales hearings as their first opportunity of the president’s second term to challenge one of his nominations, and it certainly won’t be the last.

Given Mr. Gonzales’ extraordinary career in law and government, it would seem that the Democrats don’t have much to go on. What they’ll try to do is tie Mr. Gonzales to the abuse at Abu Ghraib prison and at Guantanamo Bay on the flimsy premise that he “approved” what went on there. In fact, for the most part we expect that the hearings won’t even be about him, his career or his qualifications. Instead, we’ll hear a lot of talk about a 2002 memorandum that Mr. Gonzales approved and which the Democrats will stretch to reach as far as Cuba and Iraq. On this point, let us be clear: The debate of the appropriate interrogation methods used on captured terrorists is a debate worth having. For particulars on that debate, we’d like to refer readers to the article by attorneys Lee A. Casey and David B. Rivkin Jr. in this section.

By choosing this course of questioning, however, the Democrats have decided to play moral arbiter on an issue not yet concluded. Of course, they’ll argue that Mr. Gonzales holds the Geneva Conventions in contempt and therefore is not sufficiently moral to be attorney general. There’s a disconnect here. Mr. Gonzales’ finding that the Geneva Conventions don’t apply to terrorists has absolutely nothing to do with the misbehavior at Abu Ghraib. His opponents have tried to claim that he helped create an “atmosphere” that broke down the baser inhibitions of our soldiers. Nonsense. Mr. Gonzales was providing impeccable legal analysis concerning interrogation techniques in order to get information to save American lives. Policy decisions that flowed from that analysis or misconduct in carrying out such policies are not even tenuously connected to the provisions of Mr. Gonzales.

We urge the Senate to forgo the witch hunt about to ensue and quickly confirm Mr. Gonzales as attorney general.

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