The Torture General and the Commander-in-Chief Override

Ken AshfordBush & Co., Crime, War on Terrorism/TortureLeave a Comment

To me, the most troubling thing about Gonzales is not his understanding (or lack thereof) on the "legal" use of torture, but his apparent lack of understanding on the powers of the Presidency. 

One thing is for sure: what ever "torture" is — and I am willing to concede that we can have open debates about that — the President cannot and should not have the unilateral power to disobey or circumvent any law or treaty on any topic.

It is odd how Gonzales cannot simply say this.  Read how Slate describes yesterday’s cat-and-mouse game:

Then comes the question of the day: "Now, as attorney general, would you believe the president has the authority to exercise a commander-in-chief override and immunize acts of torture?" Leahy asks. That’s "a hypothetical that’s never going to occur," Gonzales says, because we don’t torture people. He continues, "This president has said we’re not going to engage in torture under any circumstances, and therefore that portion of the opinion was unnecessary and was the reason that we asked that that portion be withdrawn." Translation: Yes, I think the president has the legal authority to immunize acts of torture, but he doesn’t want to, so I’m not going to bother with defending the idea.

Pressed for an answer, Gonzales concedes, "I do believe there may come an occasion when the Congress might pass a statute that the president may view as unconstitutional," and therefore the president may ignore it. That’s a general statement of principle, Leahy says, but I’m asking a specific question. Can the president immunize torture? Gonzales retreats to the that’s-hypothetical-and-it’s-not-gonna-happen defense. OK, Leahy says. What about leaders of other countries? Can they immunize torture? I’m not familiar with their laws, Gonzales replies.

The law should be above politics, and this guy has demonstrated that he cannot act as the chief law enforcement officer and be above his loyalties to Bush.  Bad nominee.  He’ll be confirmed, but he shouldn’t be.