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The Progressive

No-Confidence Vote, Appeals Court Ruling Are Two Strikes Against Administration

Ruth Conniff

With no one but George Bush and Joe Lieberman in his corner, it must be a drag for Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to get up and go to work every morning. The Justice Department insists that Gonzales couldn't care less that a majority of the U.S. Senate favored a historic no-confidence vote against him--the first of its kind against a cabinet member. The Attorney General is far too focused on Internet sex predators and terrorists who threaten our cities to notice a little thing like whether his colleagues in Washington think he should resign in disgrace. The Republicans managed to block the resolution (the vote was 53 to 38, seven shy of the 60 votes needed to proceed), with Lieberman joining the yellow-dog Republican side. Even the Republicans who voted to block the measure (seven voted for it) have harshly criticized Gonzales. Like Bush they see the resolution as "wasting time" and "political." Of course, it is the politicization of the Justice Department that is at issue here. Hearings continue on the flagrantly political firings of U.S. attorneys who failed to toe the Bush line.

Now that No Confidence is over, why not try another tack: impeachment? Gonzales, after all, is behind not only Republican hackery at Justice, but a whole range of despicable Bush actions, including concocting the theory that OKs the use of torture against loosely defined "enemy combatants," and the Military Commissions Act, which denies people so-named the basic right of habeas corpus.

The Military Commissions Act is the subject of another bit of bad news for the Administration this week: the federal appeals court in Richmond, Virginia, just ruled that the Administration may not continue its policy of indefinite detention of civilians. "To sanction such presidential authority to order the military to seize and indefinitely detain civilians, even if the President calls them 'enemy combatants,' would have disastrous consequences for the Constitution--and the country," one of the judges in the case, Diana Gribbon Motz, wrote for the court. In other words, Bush and Gonzales cannot continue to overreach.

They will argue otherwise--all the way up to the Supreme Court. Yesterday, Justice released a statement declaring the plaintiff in the appeals court case, Ali al-Marri, a grave threat to the United States. He may well be. (Since he was already in custody on separate, criminal charges, it's unclear why this justifies holding him in a military brig.) The real trouble is, Gonzales and Bush have no credibility. They have lied, repeatedly, to justify their illegal, political, and unconstitutional acts. They have detained the innocent along with the guilty. They have blocked the accused access to lawyers, and the public access to records, that would clarify their policies and practices.

In the al-Marri case there is also the now familiar allegation of torture, justified in Gonzales's infamous "torture memo."

"The President cannot eliminate Constitutional protections with the stroke of a pen," Judge Motz wrote. Time to get rid of the pen, and the lawyer who holds it for the President.

Ruth Conniff covers national politics for The Progressive and is a voice of The Progressive on many TV and radio programs.

© 2007 The Progressive

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