Thursday, January 27, 2005


The lead editorial in the January 26 edition, titled "Tainted justice" (Online version), of the Sacramento Bee opines that Alberto Gonzales should not be Attorney General (you're surprised, I know). It isn't for lack of experience says the Bee, it is because of "his inability or unwillingness to confront head-on questions about the administration's policy on the treatment of prisoners designated as 'unlawful combatants.'" The example the Bee gives clearly contradicts the Bee's own position that Gonzales was evasive.

The Bee states that when asked whether U.S. soldiers or intelligence agents could "legally engage in torture under any circumstances," Gonzales stated: "I don't believe so, but I'd want to get back to you on that and make sure I don't provide a misleading answer." The Bee stated that this "statement itself is as misleading as it gets." Huh? How? The Bee never explains why. Can't blame the Bee, their editorials are not known for heady analysis.

The Bee admits that after the hearing, Gonzales wrote a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee that although non-military personnel were not bound by a 2002 presidential directive that promised the humane treatment of prisoners, the President had also banned the use of torture by all non-military personnel. The Bee calls this "sidestepping." Huh? What exactly was sidestepped? Remember, the Bee opposes Gonzales because he was unwilling to confront issues on the treatment of prisoners. Gonzales said that the administration banned all forms of torture by military and non-military personnel. What more does the Bee want?

The Bee goes on to state that the "accumulating evidence of abuses" goes "far beyond" a few "bad apples." What evidence in particular suggests this? The Bee doesn't say. True to the Bee's pattern of editorial writing, it writes in broad, abstract language without providing much factual foundation for its position.

The Bee goes on to state that even if Gonzales' involvement was limited to his "legal advice" to the president, this was sufficient for the Bee to take the position that this was an "appalling lapse in judicial prudence." Oh my, this is just sophomoric. First, was Gonzales' role limited to "legal advice" to the president?

Second, what "legal advice" is the Bee talking about? Is the Bee saying that Gonzales advised the president that torture was ok? I thought the Bee just informed its readers that the president banned torture.

Third, how is the "legal advice" an "appalling lack of jurisprudence"? Was he wrong on his interpretation of domestic and/or international law? How? The Bee doesn't explain, but hey, if you want opinions grounded in abstract nothingness, this paper is for you.

But wait! Near the end of the editorial the Bee posits that Gonzales failed to "give straight answers about what constitutes torture" and "how the administration plans to end to end it once and for all." The Bee doesn't give the reader any insight on how exactly Gonzales failed to live up to the Bee's standard on the "what constitutes torture" issue. And what on earth is the Bee talking about regarding ending torture once and for all? I thought the Bee already said that Gonzales explicitly told the Committee that the president banned torture! What more do they want, a presidential directive stating "therefore, it is our stated policy that we really, really, really prohibit the use of torture."

The Bee portrays the administrations policy as somewhat of a mystery. In fact, the administration has stated that torture is "abhorrent" and "unlawful" even when premised upon protecting national security. Woops. This doesn't exactly figure into the Bee's analysis here, so why bother mentioning it to the readers.

Note to the Bee editorial board: time to take the happy pills.


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