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July 13, 2005

Who is Alberto Gonzales?

Scott points out that we have no reason for thinking he's a moderate.  Mark smells a plot to dress him up in a false reputation for moderation and sneak him through the Senate.  Julie says that he's a Bush henchman first and anything else second, which I completely agree with, and it's this point that interests me the most.  Sure, for the next 3.5 years, he'll do Bush's bidding on the Supreme Court.  But he'll be 53 when Bush retires, and being a Supreme Court Justice isn't exactly asbestos removal.  What happens to the servant when he spends decades without his master?  I have no idea.  One can see his slipshod work on Texas death penalty cases not as an expression of any pro-death-penalty principle, but as an attempt to make a politically popular position more comfy for Bush.  His work on torture strikes me pretty much the same way. 

On a related note -- I suppose it's a sign of good taste that the media doesn't write too much about the age and health status of SCOTUS candidates.  These issues are, however, very important, because the number of years you get out of a SCOTUS nominee depends on them. 

--Neil the Ethical Werewolf

July 13, 2005 in The Supreme Court | Permalink

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» Gonzales Is Like a Box of Chocolates ... from Pennywit.Com
Neil the Ethical Werewolf points out that we really don't know what Attorney General Alberto Gonzales will turn into if he reaches the Supreme Court: Sure, for the next 3.5 years, he'll do Bush's bidding on the Supreme Court. But he'll be 53 when Bush re [Read More]

Tracked on Jul 13, 2005 9:49:58 AM

» Gonzales Is Like a Box of Chocolates ... from Pennywit.Com
Neil the Ethical Werewolf points out that we really don't know what Attorney General Alberto Gonzales will turn into if he reaches the Supreme Court: Sure, for the next 3.5 years, he'll do Bush's bidding on the Supreme Court. But he'll be 53 when Bush re [Read More]

Tracked on Jul 13, 2005 9:51:13 AM

Comments

Now that's the rub with SCOTUS justices isn't it? They're like a box of chocolates, you never know what your going to get. Without his stoogedom as a Bush underling Gonzalez becomes something of a wild card which is exactly why the reactionary far right doesn't want him.

Posted by: Sonny | Jul 13, 2005 8:08:08 AM

I tend to agree with Sonny - I think the biggest piece of foolishness the right puts forth on these judicial things is that they get a known quantity who will do exactly what they expect, on everything, forever. It's perhaps the most hardcore denial of liberalism imaginable - a person will never change, will never grow, will never encounter a new idea or a different way of thinking about an issue. I don't think anyone's got a good handle on what Gonzales - who mostly comes of as a bit of a toady - will do when there's no one left to toady to, which would be where Chief Justice (or even O'Connor replacement) would put him. I don't think the left should be more than cautiously pessimistic, but I can see why the right is anxious, and their anxiousness seems more than double secret reverse psychology fake-out.

Posted by: weboy | Jul 13, 2005 8:58:54 AM

Yup.I have no illusions of Gonzales being anything more than the lesser of any evils Bush could send up. He has shown nothing of distinction throughout his career except to be an excellent Igor.

The only upside is that once he is entrenched on the court with no more ladders to climb and no longer answering to this cabal of fucking crooks and maniacs, he's likely to end up inching towards the left. Enlightenment and freedom tend to have that effect.

Posted by: Mr Furious | Jul 13, 2005 9:43:04 AM

being a Supreme Court Justice isn't exactly asbestos removal.

Good line, lupine-one.

Posted by: TJ | Jul 13, 2005 12:27:28 PM

"Sure, for the next 3.5 years, he'll do Bush's bidding on the Supreme Court.  But he'll be 53 when Bush retires, and being a Supreme Court Justice isn't exactly asbestos removal.  What happens to the servant when he spends decades without his master? "

He spends the rest of Bush's life keeping him out of prison and/or a war crimes tribunal.

Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Jul 13, 2005 12:35:06 PM

Right on, Ginger Yellow.

Posted by: bostoniangirl | Jul 13, 2005 2:04:24 PM

Actually, they do write about the age & health of potential nominees, but only in the following sense:

"Because Emilio Garza is 60, and conservative groups will probably want to select a justice who will server for many decades like Clarence Thomas, he is unlikely to be selected".

Posted by: Electoral Math | Jul 13, 2005 2:26:10 PM

Obviously 'moderate' and to a lesser extent 'liberal' and 'conservative' are in the eye of the beholder.

A moderate is someone who is a little more toward the opposite side of the spectrum than you are, but not too much.

I am more interested in how sound a persons reasoning is, in respect to interpreting the laws, and their devotion to the principle of the law, as opposed to their devotion to their ideological backgrounds rather than just looking at those backgrounds or not.

An example of failure to do properly analyze sort of thing can be found with Gonzales and the whole torture issue.

I have seen a lot of people complain that he didn't give the answer they think is the moral one, that the U.S. has to treat these people in a certain fashion. Regardless of how you feel about torture though, I haven't seen a lot (any actually) of analysis of where (if anywhere) Gonzales went wrong in his understanding of the law.

It is certainly possible for Torture to be absolutely immoral, and also be absolutely legal. I hold that a Judge should only deal with legalilty, not morality. It is the duty of the Legislature to determine where our collective moral viewpoints should be transmitted into laws.

Obviously, a lot of morality has been put into law, not the least being in the constitution itself, and Judges should enforce was is there.

Posted by: Dave Justus | Jul 13, 2005 3:07:52 PM

Dave, you've missed the point of the above commenters. You can't predict much of anything from his past behavior about how Gonzalez might behave if nominated and confirmed to the Supreme Court, because most if not all of his past actions were taken when he was in toady mode. Toady mode means doing what's most advantageous to your boss in order to continue to gratify your ambition.

Once on the Supreme Court, there is no more boss and no higher scope for career ambition. Obviously the fact that someone has been a toady means that there is not a centered character of principle or ideology at the core. That's clearly what frightens the far right -- they're not assured of what they'd get. But as commenters above also noted, it does mean Gonzalez would be a wild card -- who knows what will motivate a toady when the basis for being in toady mode goes away. Maybe he'll think for himself, as Blackmun gradually did (remember, when he was first appointed he voted so regularly with Burger that they were nicknamed the Minnesota Twins). Or maybe he'll want to be well-liked by the other Court far-righters and the wingnut commentariat, and go that way. Or maybe he'll become best friends with Tony Kennedy and be unpredictable.

The point his, his previous career-long toady mode gives one next to no basis on which to predict.

Posted by: Steady Eddie | Jul 13, 2005 3:33:24 PM

It is certainly possible for Torture to be absolutely immoral, and also be absolutely legal. I hold that a Judge should only deal with legalilty, not morality. It is the duty of the Legislature to determine where our collective moral viewpoints should be transmitted into laws.

Quite right, Dave. That is why the legislature is elected and the justices aren't. That being said, it has been common practice for the left to shop well-meaning judges to get their way when they couldn't win at the ballot box that now the specter of someone who actually follows LAW and lets the chips fall where they may just scares the bejesus out of them.

Posted by: Robert Zimmerman | Jul 13, 2005 3:45:42 PM

So maybe Gonzales, without anyone to suck up to, will feel free to take positions contrary to the political will and fortune of the party for which he was an apparatchik. Let's not forget his career, Bush's GC, Texas Secretary of State, Texas Supreme Court for only 2 years, WH council, AG. 9 of the past 11 years he's been an exclusively political animal.

He seems both less independent than Kennedy, O'Connor and Souter and less committed to a particular ideology than Scalia, Thomas, or the Chief (though that may be a good thing). He wasn't as big a hack as Owen, but in the context of a lifetime Supreme Court appointment is that saying a lot?

I'd say that there's as much a chance of him being a O'Connor-Scalia hybrid, a jurist who consumes different legal philosophies omniverously to arrive at a hack-ish outcome as there is of him being like either the OC or Nino. And it's the hybrid outcome that, in the context of a criminally insane Republican Party, should be of some concern.

Posted by: SamAm | Jul 13, 2005 4:12:56 PM

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Posted by: peter.w | Sep 17, 2007 3:15:16 AM

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