Gonzales Confirmation Calls for Close Oversight, says PFAW
The U.S. Senate confirmed President Bush’s nomination of longtime confidant Alberto Gonzales to replace John Ashcroft as United States Attorney General, in spite of a public record that raises serious questions about his commitment to constitutional principles and the rule of law. The 60-36 vote reflected significant opposition for an executive branch nominee, and the second highest vote against an attorney general nominee since 1925.
“Americans should be able to feel confident that the Attorney General is committed to protecting their legal and constitutional rights,” said People For the American Way President Ralph G. Neas. “Unfortunately, Alberto Gonzales has a record that undermines such confidence. He has consistently advanced the goals of the administration even when they conflicted with the law, the Constitution, and basic human rights principles. His record reflects dangerously misplaced loyalties.”
Neas said that Gonzales’ confirmation hearing failed to address concerns about his providing legal justification for torture and asserting unchecked presidential power to detain suspects without access to courts or legal counsel. In an editorial opposing his confirmation, the Washington Post called Gonzales’ testimony “vague, unresponsive and misleading.” But when he clarified his positions in written answers to Senators’ questions, Gonzales confirmed that he continues to back the administration’s position that it has the right to hold suspects in secret without any legal process and to violate basic human rights as a matter of foreign policy.
“The resignation of John Ashcroft provided the administration with a chance to nominate someone Americans could count on to be a lawyer for all the people,” said Neas. “But, unfortunately, Americans who grew grimly accustomed to John Ashcroft as their Attorney General may not notice much difference.”
Neas praised senators who resisted political pressure to rubber-stamp the nomination, noting that Senator Kennedy this week continued to press the White House for additional materials relevant to an assessment of Gonzales’ record.
“Any nominee to such a powerful office should be examined carefully,” said Neas. “That is the Senate’s duty under our Constitution. Accusations from some of Mr. Gonzales’ supporters that close scrutiny of such a controversial nominee is unfair or unjustified are ridiculous and irresponsible.”
“Now that Alberto Gonzales will serve as Attorney General of the United States, we call on him to affirm the Constitution as the high standard for his office, and we call on Members of Congress to vigorously exercise their oversight role over the Department of Justice,” said Neas. “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty. People For the American Way members will remain vigilant.”