February 2005
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Day February 3, 2005

Low moments in American history: Gonzales confirmed as AG

In what must surely rank as one of our low moments as a country, Gonzales was confirmed 60-36 as Attorney General today. Six Democrats voted to confirm. Their names and states are listed here, so that we will not forget them during their next primary campaigns:

Landrieu (D-LA) Lieberman (D-CT)
Nelson (D-FL) Nelson (D-NE)
Pryor (D-AR) Salazar (D-CO)

Regardless of Republican attempts to paint Gonzales as the target of a Dem smear campaign designed to target Administration foreign policy, the documentary record is clear.

But let’s get beyond the legalisms, the constitutional arguments, and the Geneva Convention for a moment. Even if Gonzales can, on specific legal grounds, be construed as not "condoning" or "advocating" torture, the mere fact that we need scholars and lawyers determining how thinly we can slice the terminology is an indication of a more basic failure.

That failure is our willingness to drop our moral self-image and commitments at the first sign of fear and threat. While never perfect, Americans have always held the moral self-image that we are a people that don’t do things like torture. That self-image, and its historical realization in policy and law, has allowed us to serve as an example and claim some moral high ground from which we can help oppressed peoples when necessary.

We do not, I do not, want our country to lose that moral high ground, particularly without a much more serious debate and a much more serious and immediate threat.

As a result, I view Gonzales’ confirmation as a dark day in our history. Moreover, I congratulate the 36 Democrats, my own Senators Cantwell and Murray included, who took the moral and courageous step of voting against confirmation. Not that you didn’t have my support before, but today you earned it again.