It was only this past January when anyone who cared at all about human rights, about human decency cried out loud at the thought that the man who wrote the memo justifying torture and who described the Geneva convention as 'quaint,' would become the Attorney General of the United States.
Remember the fight over his confirmation to that post, despite the fact that it is due to end in four years?
And since then, he has stood firmly for expanding the rights of federal police at the expense of your rights, pretty much no surprise to those of us who were horrified to see him confirmed. Just about two weeks ago, on June 21, he made a speech expressing support for strict mandatory sentencing laws, including for nonviolent drug offenders, a position way out of tune with the majority of people in America, who prefer to save prison space for violent felons, and also at odds with the positions taken by the American Bar Association, the U.S. Sentencing Commission and all 11 circuit courts.
So why is he suddenly being hailed as a 'moderate?'
Certainly there are those on the right who would prefer a more hardline conservative, since he actually recognized, while upholding a Texas statute on parental notification of minors wanting an abortion, that in some cases there could be abuse or worse awaiting some of them at home so there had to be some limited exemptions in the law.
This rare flash of common sense (in contrast to Priscilla Owen, apparently) hardly qualifies him as a 'moderate.' If he is viewed as such, it is only because the Bush administration has brought out worse and worse nightmares as time goes on. And we can only imagine what kind of hideous vampire lies at the bottom of their vault.
However the philosophy that we as Democrats should somehow be happy if the President picks Alberto Gonzales for a lifetime appointment to decide the fate of millions because 'it could be worse' does not hold water. There is always something worse that can be imagined for purposes of comparison (Karl Rove on the SC?) but dare we imagine not something worse, but something BETTER than Zap Albert?
We should hold out for a justice of the Supreme Court of the United States who, for one thing, is independent-- truly independent, and does not simply produce written opinions that simply justify what this administration has already determined to do.
Although as Democrats we are the minority party in the United States Senate, we should demand that the President seek at least the advice of the Senate. This is not out of line with what has been done in the past. Who do you suppose recommended the name of Ruth Bader Ginsberg to Bill Clinton? The answer may surprise many: Orrin Hatch.
When the vacancy on the court opened up, Clinton, not wanting to go against the will of the people or of the Senate, bypassed such names as Lawrence Tribe and Mario Cuomo, who would be sure to spark a divisive confirmation fight, and instead went to Hatch, then an archconservative and the leader of the Republicans on the Judiciary Committee, and asked him about left leaning judges who Hatch felt were qualified and would not risk a divisive floor fight. The vote on Ginsberg was 87-9 in the Senate.
Bush has the opportunity to do the same. Of course he is a conservative and will choose a conservative justice. We know that. But he has the opportunity to ask the advice of Democrats as to whether they can name some conservatives who are qualified and who can be confirmed in a bi-partisan manner.
I hope he does.
And for those who still think that we will be dodging a bullet if we end up with Zap Albert, just ask yourself if you would feel comfortable with him casting the deciding vote on whether police or federal agents can torture you.