Monday, January 10, 2005

Gonzales: Defending the Indefensible

In a recent post, MaxSpeak employs a tortured juxtaposition (if you'll forgive the pun) to argue against the appointment of Alberto Gonzales as Attorney General. His metaphor may be overwrought, but the reference to Orwell is apt. What other name than "Orwellian" can be used to describe Bush's attempt to ensconce a defender of torture and prisoner abuse at the helm of the Justice Department?

Andrew Sullivan, who has been blogging exhaustively (and persuasively) on the subject, has this to say:
After Abu Ghraib, you might expect some kind of reckoning. But what's stunning about this president is his complete indifference to these facts. His nomination of Gonzales to attorney general is a de facto statement that he believes that someone who enabled these things needs rewarding, not censuring. This from a president elected in part on something called "moral values." If "moral values" mean indifference to torture, they are literally meaningless.
It is in this sense that the Orwell reference carries the most weight: language must have a meaning that transcends the individual using it for it to have any value at all. To borrow the famous example from 1984, "war is peace" only if both terms have ceased to mean anything in and of themselves.

Everyone knows what torture is, and no creative definition of the term will ease the revulsion with which decent people view the practice. The Abu Ghraib photos show what they show and nothing can wish that away. The politicization of a subject that should be self-evident to anyone who takes the idea of American values seriously is indefensible and dispiriting. I would only ask the more zealous Bush backers to remember how they felt when a certain other president attempted a creative definition of "sexual relations."

President Bush is making a serious miscalculation by going forward with the nomination of Gonzales for Attorney General. His dismal past as White House counsel and Bush's legal advisor in Texas make him unfit for the office. His nomination will hurt our prestige abroad (moreso), but more importantly, it will disillusion all those loyal American who were scandalized and embarassed by what was being done in their name.

For all those people who looked at the Abu Ghraib photos and said, "this is not America": the Bush administration begs to differ.

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