February 22, 2005
Hon. Bill Nelson
United States Senate
716 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Dear Senator Nelson:
I am greatly discouraged over your vote consenting to the appointment of Alberto Gonzales for Attorney General of the United States. Your staff tells me your decision was based on your opinion that he was “fit for the job.”
Mr. Gonzales was a bad choice for attorney general because of his record, not his ethnic background.
It was Mr. Gonzales who asked for the original legal advice from the Justice Department on the treatment of prisoners in the “war on terror.” There was no need to go through that exercise; the rules were clear. But Mr. Gonzales gave the president the flexibility he wanted, first in the Justice Department memo outlining ways to make torture seem legal, and then by offering the Orwellian argument that the president can declare himself above the law and can order illegal actions like detaining prisoners without a hearing and authorizing torture.
Mr. Gonzales testified that he agreed with the substance of the original torture memo, and he still takes the view that the president can declare himself to be above the law. In written responses to senators’ questions, Mr. Gonzales argued that intelligence agents could “abuse” prisoners as long as they did it to foreigners outside the United States.
Mr. Gonzales has written memos, and stated during testimony that the President may act outside the law in certain circumstances. I’m not an attorney, but I’ll bet dinner at Sam and Harry’s there is neither law nor Constitutional provision granting the President the power to act in an “extra-legal” capacity.
All of these statements are enough to, without question; disqualify Gonzales for the job of Chief Law Enforcement officer for the United States. Your belief that these positions and actions do qualify him is disturbing. Bob Herbert, writing in the New York Times said, “Any government that commits, condones, promotes or fosters torture is a malignant force in the world. And those who refuse to raise their voices against something as clearly evil as torture are enablers, if not collaborators.”
I am beyond disappointed that you have chosen to support Mr. Gonzales. Americans have tended to view the U.S. as the guardian of the highest ideals of justice and fairness. But that is a belief that’s getting more and more difficult to sustain. If the Justice Department can be the fiefdom of John Ashcroft or Alberto Gonzales, those of us in search of the highest standards of justice have no choice but to look elsewhere.
Once again, you Democratic members allowed yourselves to be blamed for feeding the atmosphere of bitter divisiveness that grips the inner sanctums of the Capitol. These pompous fat little Republican kings, who control all three branches of government by the way, are still trying to play the “victim card” as they always do when they feel threatened.
However, they are now all safe and secure again. The Bush administration’s practice of rewarding incompetence is still firmly intact and all is well with their little place in the world — until the next time somebody dares to speak up.
You would do well to take a lesson from Barbara Boxer. It is time for you and the other Democrats in Congress to start acting like an opposition party. When Boxer stood with Stephanie Tubbs Jones back in January in protest to the acceptance of Ohio’s electoral count, she was not trying to undo the re-appointment of the worst president in America’s history, even though such action was more than justified. Senator Boxer and the members of the Congressional Black Caucus were speaking out against the questionable procedures used by state officials and private companies who were poisoning the electoral process to the point where it is no longer above suspicion. As disappointed as many were with the election of Reagan, Bush Sr. and Clinton, there was little if any doubt that when voters pulled a lever, punched a card or touched a screen that their vote was counted accurately.
Millions worldwide will never accept George W. Bush’s reign in the same way as all of his predecessors’ were, as history will eventually show. And that is why it was important and justified for Senator Boxer and the CBC to speak up.
In fact, Barbara Boxer was doing what every member of the opposition should be doing. She was speaking up on behalf of the people she represents — not just with words, as Joe Biden did, but with that most important action, her vote.
This is not a game where some might vote against their conscience in order to maneuver for possible future favors by the Republicans. There will be no “favors” from this Republican Party. In fact, this administration and the Congressional leadership have leaned so far to the right that even moderates of their own party have been shoved outside the circle. The only thing that will make any difference or leave any impression is for these reckless ideologues to be challenged over and over again. It’s the only thing that these people are not used to and it shakes ’em up.
Congressional Democrats have spent far too long trying to play fair with this administration, acting like satirical little Rodney Kings wondering why we “can’t just all get along.” And even after the opposition broke the rules and broke the laws, the Democratic leadership only wondered why they couldn’t seem to get the Red State of Minders to like them and vote for their guy.
Since November of last year, there has been this pathetic hand-wringing by the left over how to appeal to those who don’t presently support them. Some want to move more to the center while some want to de-emphasize the traditional core principles that make up this party. This would be a drastic mistake because it ignores something so obvious and so simple: Leadership like Howard Dean’s and Boxer’s will help the Democrats – not hurt.
The fact is there are more than eighty million people who were eligible but did not participate in what was the most important election of our age. That number is a disgrace because it points to the despair still consuming far too many Americans. These are the people that need to be brought into the fold. These are the people we must reach out to and instill a sense of pride and participation.
I don’t think Democrats ever got over the despicable and disrespectful slap in democracy’s face that Bush gave America back in 2000. But instead of standing up and speaking out, even when it meant the media would beat them up over it, you all fell to your knees while trying to work with a leadership that held as much disdain for you as it did those it purported to “serve.” Now because of your inability, or maybe unwillingness, to shove the lies and the crimes and the corruption back down the opposition’s throats, Democrats find ourselves with less than we had a year ago. Because of this, America is led by liars and thieves who wage illegal wars, advocate torture, rape the environment, dismantle the social structure and security of this country while they profess to be empowered by God Almighty Himself.
While other members of their party fret over conservative’s calling them mean old names like “obstructionist,” Democratic leaders like Sen Boxer and others like her have demonstrated the desire — the need — to stand up to what they know is wrong and what is harmful to the people and the country they love and serve. They have cleaned the ashes and filth of 2000 from themselves and persist in calling out the members of this administration whenever necessary, armed with nothing but the truth and their convictions. The timid, accommodating members of the DNC should buck up and do the same.
There were almost sixty million Americans willing to stand behind the alleged left last November. There are more than eighty million who still need to hear the voices that speak to them. They need to hear the voices that speak what they feel in their hearts and in their guts – not voices who speak what they think people want to hear.
As my representative, I need you take a stand for what is right, for the real moral values of this country. Belief systems that condone torture and hold certain people above the law, and others below the law (enemy combatants) are not part of the core values of America. Please don’t capitulate to this Administration. You have nothing to gain, and America has everything to lose.