Editorials: Gonzales Will Be Confirmed, But It's Not Clear He Should Be

By: Brian Orloff While members of the Senate Judiciary Committee question attorney general nominee Alberto Gonzales, editorial pages in newspapers across the country have contributed to the discussion. The prevailing view remains that he will be confirmed by the Senate, but many papers have expressed reservations or clear disapproval of Gonzales as a candidate, at least partly for his advice as President Bush's counsel regarding torture.

An E&P survey of editorials during the past few days in 19 leading newspapers finds strong doubts about Gonzales' fitness to be U.S. attorney general. Eight newspapers in that group have called on the U.S. Senate to reject his nomination. Seven others expressed serious reservations, and four others endorse him strongly.

Among those saying Gonzales does not deserve to be confirmed are the Los Angeles Times, the St. Petersburg Times, The Boston Globe, The New York Times, The Oregonian in Portland, The Record in Bergen County, N.J., and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The Star-Tribune in Minneapolis had perhaps the strongest headline: "Alberto Gonzales has blood on his hands."

The Dallas Morning News, on the other hand, advocates confirming Gonzales, writing that he possesses an "incisive legal mind" and referencing the hearings' larger political contex: "His assurances should begin to satisfy Americans even if they do little to placate the Senate Democrats for whom these confirmation hearings are less about Mr. Gonzales and more about opposition to Bush administration policies."

The Arizona Republic is equally fierce in its attack on Democratic senators. "At some point it might be valuable for the senators to weigh Gonzales' actual qualifications, which are considerable," the editorial says.

The Chicago Tribune supports Gonzales, but with reservations. The editorial's headline, "An adequate attorney general," sums up the newspaper's less-than-enthusiastic support. "It's safe to assume he'll do a competent job running the Justice Department," the editorial reads. But, the writers continue, "When was the last time the American people had an attorney general they could truly be proud of?" Ultimately, the newspaper concludes that Gonzales will "most likely perform respectably as attorney general."

Other newspapers, including The Denver Post, The Tennessean in Nashville, and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, write that Gonzales must conclusively answer questions about his record on torture and the Geneva Conventions and strongly disavow any support for using torture on political prisoners. "Mr. Gonzales would have better served the president -- and the country -- as White House counsel if he had advised the president to adhere to international norms of conduct and constitutional restraints regarding the treatment of prisoners and terrorist suspects," the Post-Dispatch declared.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's editorial echoes these sentiments, saying, "What is on public record about Mr. Gonzales begs for hard questioning, especially his role in formulating the administration's policy on detention and torture."

But many papers have already heard enough. The Los Angeles Times' sharp editorial carries the headline "A Window on a Man's Morality." It reads, "Gonzales' record as White House counsel is not just a series of unfortunate missteps; rather, it is a troubling window into the man's morality." The editorial encourages senators "to demonstrate that they understand the principles at stake by actually voting no."

The St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times editorial board criticizes Gonzales for refusing to answer several direct questions at last week's hearings. "All in all it was not a reassuring performance by a man who knew he would be confirmed as long as he didn't say anything outrageous," the editorial reads. "So he chose not to say anything illuminating at all."

Many newspapers critical of Gonzales are also concerned with what is perceived as dogged loyalty to the president. The New York Times writes: "The nation deserves an attorney general who is not the public face for inhumane, illegal and clearly un-American policies." His refusal to answer certain questions, the editorial says, "served to confirm that Mr. Bush had made the wrong choice when he rewarded Mr. Gonzales for his loyalty."


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