Preposterous Universe

Thursday, January 06, 2005
Torture dance

In case you aren't listening to NPR or watching C-SPAN (or reading Human Rights First), Pandagon provides a nice paraphrase (N.B.: just a paraphrase, not a transcript!) of Patrick Leahy's noble attempts to squeeze a straight answer out of future Attorney General Alberto Gonzales:
LEAHY: "Does U.S. law allow for torture, in your opinion?"

GONZALES: "Bush has already said there won't be any torture."

LEAHY: "That's not what I asked. In your opinion, does U.S. law allow for torture?"

GONZALES: "That's a hypothetical question that I won't answer."

LEAHY: "U.S. law. Torture."

GONZALES: "That involves a lot of complex law that I don't know."
Joe Biden also said something sensible (you're nominated for Attorney General, not the Supreme Court, so you can't actually weasel out of giving us your opinions), but is such a pompous jerk that he does more harm than good to his own case.

Update: This guy claims not to have a view about whether Senate filibusters are constitutional. And he wants to be Attorney General?

It's funny to hear the Republicans throw softballs. "Judge, do you think terrorism is bad?" Or course, for most nominees, "Do you think torture is bad?" would qualify as a softball.

Update again: Gonzales slipped for a moment and actually answered a question. Asked if he thought the President had the right to ignore a law that he personally suspected was unconstitutional, he said "Yes." Nobody asked the obvious follow-up, whether we should consider changing the title "President" to "God-Emperor."

Last update: I hadn't realized that the Justice department finally backed off its classification of torture as unacceptable only when the interrogator intentionally inflicted pain on the order of major organ failure or death. A new memo has been issued that takes a wider view of what is unacceptable. Of course, it came out last week, which is more than two years after the original memo. But just in time for the Gonzales hearings!

If you want info on the new FBI reports expressing shock at the torture going on at Guantanamo Bay, see articles at Newsweek and the ACLU.

In the Comments, Kriston very naturally wonders whether I was perhaps exaggerating about the President's divine right to declare laws unconstitutional. Nope. I haven't found a transcript, but Gonzales repeated this belief again later, so it wasn't a slip. Here a quote from the Human Rights First site, which is not the most clear but gives you the gist:
Gonzales - The Executive branch should always look with great care at a law before it decides that law is unconstitutional and should not be followed.
Many of us had thought that was the Judicial branch's job. But hey, if they look with great care, what more can we ask?

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