Confirmation Déjà Vu?
The re-election of President George W. Bush by a solid majority of American voters apparently made no difference at all
at least when it comes to how the Left is handling confirmations.
During the Presidents first term, Senate Democrats, urged on by liberal special interest groups, obstructed the confirmation of Miguel Estrada to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit for more than two years. They did so despite Estradas impeccable credentials, including the highest possible rating from the American Bar Association, and in spite of his incredible life story, which many noted was a perfect example of the American dream.
The liberals simply didnt care. It didnt matter that Estrada came to America from Honduras knowing little English. It didnt matter that Estrada worked his way through Columbia College and then Harvard Law School, graduating from both with honors. It didnt matter that Estrada then served his adopted country as a law clerk to both a federal appellate judge and a U.S. Supreme Court justice before joining the Justice Department, where he rose to become an Assistant to the Solicitor General, representing the United States in the highest court in the land. None of that mattered, because the liberals could not be sure whether Estrada agreed with them on the issues that motivate the radical Left.
Thus, the liberals doomed Estrada to more than two years of confirmation limbo and eventual withdrawal not because they thought him unqualified to be a judge, but because they did not know how he would judge. Over and over again the liberals asserted that Estrada would not be given a simple up-or-down confirmation vote because the President refused to release confidential documents Estrada authored as a Justice Department attorney and Executive Branch advisor. And, without that information, the liberals could not be sure Estrada would decide cases in the "right" — or, for them, the "left" — way.
So it was before the 2004 presidential election, and so it remains today.
As if history is repeating itself, the same characters are now leveling the same charges against another Hispanic attorney, who until recently had himself been living the American dream. His name is Alberto Gonzales.
Just eight days after being re-elected, President Bush nominated Gonzales to be the next Attorney General of the United States. But in the weeks following the nomination, Gonzales road to confirmation has begun to resemble the dead end path that kept Estrada off the bench.
Today, more than two dozen liberal human rights and civil liberties groups are once again calling on Senate Democrats, specifically those on the Senate Judiciary Committee, to challenge a nominee based not on his qualifications but on his thoughts and beliefs. This time their target is Gonzales and the role he played in giving legal advice to the President about prosecuting the War on Terror.
Specifically, the liberal special interests have focused their sights on a single memorandum authored by Gonzales in which he weighed the pros and cons of applying the Geneva Convention to captured members of al Qaeda and the Taliban. Based on that memo, several more advisory opinions and good old common sense, the President concluded that the terrorists and enemy combatants captured in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere in the War on Terror are not prisoners of war because they represent no nation-state and themselves have no intention of abiding by the rules of war that underlie the Geneva Convention.
In spite of those obvious truths, liberal groups are insisting that Gonzales was "an architect of policies that undercut some of America most fundamental moral and legal principles," and that he should not be confirmed until the Senate closely scrutinizes his "record, his positions and his future plans for the Justice Department." In fact, according to the Washington Times, the National Lawyers Guild is claiming that Gonzales is "unfit to serve as the head of the Justice Department," and has called on Senate Democrats to filibuster his nomination.
Can the Estrada hold-up routine be far away? Senator Patrick Leahy, the ranking minority member on the Senate Judiciary Committee, is already asserting that Gonzales will have to explain his advisory role in the detention and interrogation of terrorists and enemy combatants. And that comment stops just short of telling the President that he will need to release every piece of paper Gonzales ever touched before Senate Democrats will allow an up-or-down vote on Gonzales nomination to be Attorney General.
How little things change.
Once again, it doesnt matter that Gonzales pulled himself up from humble beginnings, the second of eight children to parents who were the children of Mexican migrant workers. Theres no mention of Gonzales enlisting in the Air Force and, after two years, being admitted to the U.S. Air Force Academy. No praise for Gonzales graduation from Rice University and Harvard Law School. No "thank you" for the years of public service Gonzales gave to Texas and to America, first as general counsel for then-Governor Bush, then as Texas Secretary of State, then as a Texas Supreme Court justice, and finally as White House Counsel.
Yes, its a different face this time, up for a different government position. But the story is exactly the same: Liberals are attacking the American dream for an Hispanic attorney who did nothing but pull himself up to graduate from Harvard Law School and serve the public in the best way he knew how.
This is not confirmation déjà vu; its an American nightmare all over again.
December 15, 2004]