Friday, February 04, 2005

Why the appointment of Alberto Gonzalez matters....

From Bob Herbert's column in the NYT this morning:

The Supreme Court ruled last June that the administration was acting illegally in depriving the detainees of their liberty without allowing them to challenge the cases against them. The administration responded bizarrely. Its lawyers argued, with "Alice in Wonderland" logic, that, yes, in accordance with the Supreme Court's ruling, the detainees can challenge their detention. But since (in the administration's view) they don't actually possess any rights to support the challenges, the courts must necessarily reject the challenges.

The administration is fighting for nothing less than the death of due process for anyone it rounds up, no matter how arbitrarily, in its enemy combatant sweeps. Such tyrannical powers should offend anyone who cares about such old-fashioned notions as the rule of law, checks and balances, and constitutional guarantees.

Under the procedures set up by the administration for dealing with the detainees, we have no way of distinguishing between a terrorist committed to mass murder and someone who is completely innocent.

In her decision, Judge Green wrote, "Although this nation unquestionably must take strong action under the leadership of the commander in chief to protect itself against enormous and unprecedented threats, that necessity cannot negate the existence of the most basic fundamental rights for which the people of this country have fought and died for well over 200 years."

In one hearing that led up to Monday's decision, Judge Green attempted to see how broadly the government viewed its power to hold detainees. Administration lawyers told her, in response to a hypothetical question, that they believed the president would even have the right to lock up "a little old lady from Switzerland" for the duration of the war on terror if she had written checks to a charity that she believed helped orphans, but that actually was a front for Al Qaeda.
To their credit, even the NYT led off with an editorial blasting the "racism" argument made in Mr. Gonzalez' defense yesterday on the Senate floor: "... this debate had a sinister overtone as well: in a ham-handed way, the Republicans tried to portray a vote against Mr. Gonzales as an act of bigotry."

It is not bigotry to say Gonzalez is unworthy of office, any more than it is treason to say Bush is unworthy of the office. What is being done to our legal institutions now, makes Dred Scott and the Alien and Sedition Acts, look like wise and carefully thought out actions, by comparison.

We are becoming precisely the country we always said the Europeans had: paranoid, parochial, inbred and ingrown, fearful, and reactionary.

When do we finally decide that actions speak louder than words?

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