BY PETER LEROE-MUNOZ
Just weeks after the reelection of President George W. Bush, the Executive Branch is undergoing a substantial renovation, as numerous Cabinet leaders have recently resigned. One such resignation offered was that of Attorney General John Ashcroft, and President Bush was quick to announce Alberto Gonzales as his replacement nominee.
Gonzales graduated from the Harvard Law School in 1982, and his political trajectory mirrors that of President Bush. In 1995, he served as general counsel on then-Governor Bush’s staff, and was later appointed by the Governor to positions as the Texas Secretary of State, and a justice on that state’s Supreme Court. In January of 2001, President Bush appointed him as head counsel for the White House.
Although not nearly as polarizing a political figure as the former Attorney General, Alberto Gonzales has managed to spark some controversy regarding his record in the Lone Star state and the White House. Liberal critics contend that Gonzales was an integral participant in a Texas administration that oversaw more than 150 executions, raising concerns over his willingness to resort to capital punishment. More vigorous criticisms have been leveled against Mr. Gonzales as a result of his perceived preference to trade civil liberties for national security. In the aftermath of the 9/11 terror attacks, Gonzales authored a White House memo in which he asserted that President Bush could ignore anti-torture laws and international treaties providing for the protection of prisoners of war. In the memo, Gonzales was quoted referring to certain protections of the Geneva Convention as “quaint” and “obsolete.”
Surprisingly, some of the more vocal critics of Mr. Gonzales have come from within his own party. Many pro-life activists have criticized Gonzales for joining a majority decision in a case in which the Texas Supreme Court found that some teenage girls do not need parental consent to receive an abortion. In defending his decision, Gonzales has asserted that it is his obligation as a judge to impartially apply the laws of his state, regardless of his personal feelings. However, such a defense is of little comfort to the many pro-life groups critical of his nomination, among them the American Life League, the Christian Defense Coalition, and Operation Rescue.
If Alberto Gonzales were to clear the confirmation hurdle of his record on civil liberties, the death penalty and abortion, he would become the 80th Attorney General, and the first Latino to assume the position of the nation’s top law enforcement official.