A Remarkably Stupid (Or Dishonest) Attorney

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

UPDATE AND BIG BREAKING NEWS:  Fortunately, breaking news suggests that the days of Bush’s secret and illegal surveillance may now be over.  Bush now intends his surveillance program to be monitored and overseen by the "secret" FISA court, as the lawmakers who passed FISA originally intended.  In other words, Bush caves.  Victory for freedom and privacy lovers, but more importantly, victory for the founding fathers, the Constitution and the rule of law.  I hasten to add that the Bush gang also seems to have cut off at the knees every right-wing supporter who said the domestic surveillance program was absolutely necessary, had to be kept separate from FISA, and could not be altered under any circumstances. [Glenn Greenwald, who waxed eloquent about this issue for months, has some observations]

U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is not fit for the bar:

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales says federal judges are unqualified to make rulings affecting national security policy, ramping up his criticism of how they handle terrorism cases.

In remarks prepared for delivery Wednesday, Gonzales says judges generally should defer to the will of the president and Congress when deciding national security cases. He also raps jurists who “apply an activist philosophy that stretches the law to suit policy preferences.”

The text of the speech, scheduled for delivery at the American Enterprise Institute, was obtained Tuesday by The Associated Press. It outlines, in part, what qualities the Bush administration looks for when selecting candidates for the federal bench.

“We want to determine whether he understands the inherent limits that make an unelected judiciary inferior to Congress or the president in making policy judgments,” Gonzales says in the prepared speech. “That, for example, a judge will never be in the best position to know what is in the national security interests of our country.”

Now, on one level, Gonzales is correct.  Judges should not be making political decisions, nor policy decisions.  But obviously, when those political and policy decisions are made into laws and statutes, or carried out through laws and statutes, then judges have not only the power but the sole responsibility to determine the constitutionality of those laws.

As the article points out, Gonzales was coyishly silent about what "policy decisions" he was referring to.  He was also silent on who these supposed "judges" are.  But last August, U.S. District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor ruled the government’s warrantless surveillance program unconstitutional and ordered it stopped immediately.  So it’s pretty clear what he was talking about.

Again — to stress my point — in reaching her decision, Taylor was not giving her political opinions about the soundness of the warrentless surveillance program, but on the constitutionality of it.  Gonzales, I suspect, knows ththe difference.  If not, he shouldn’t be practicing law.

We are a nation of laws, not a nation of policies.  Nothing trumps the Constitution, and it is federal judges (and nobody else) who have the final word on what is and isn’t constitutional. It is astounding that the number one attorney in the country (a man obviously beholden to the Leader’s politics, rather than his vocation) could suggest otherwise.