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Hispanics Make In Roads With Republicans


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Not only is Bush meeting with his Commitment to the Hispanic Community, but surpassing most expectations.


This trend of the Bush Administration appointing Hispanics on an equal level in his Administration is a welcomed sign.







Bush Names Counsel Gonzales First Hispanic Attorney General

Nov. 10 (Bloomberg) -- President George W. Bush named White House counsel Alberto Gonzales as the first Hispanic U.S. attorney general, elevating his top lawyer to help lead the nation's war on terrorism.


Gonzales's ``sharp intellect and sound judgment have helped shape our policies in the war on terror, policies designed to protect the security of all Americans while protecting the rights of all Americans,'' Bush told reporters at the White House with Gonzales at his side.


Gonzales, 49, a confidant of Bush when he was governor of Texas in 1990s, would succeed John Ashcroft as the Bush administration heads into a second term. Republicans and Democrats predict he will be confirmed by the Senate.


A priority for the next attorney general will be to press for renewal of the USA Patriot Act, which expanded law enforcement powers to monitor suspects and seize documents. The Justice Department also may have to revise the handling of detainees at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba because of a federal judge's ruling this week that they may be entitled to prisoner-of-war status.


As White House counsel, Gonzales helped develop U.S. policy toward ``enemy combatants'' captured in Afghanistan and Iraq, writing rules that limited the rights of suspected terrorists at Guantanamo Bay. He helped negotiate the closed-door questioning of Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney by the commission that investigated the Sept. 11 attacks, and he ended the American Bar Association's role in vetting candidates for federal judgeships.


Court Vacancy


Gonzales was regarded by lawyers who served in Republican administrations as a possible nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court should an opening arise. A former partner in the Houston law firm of Vinson & Elkins LLP, he served four years as White House counsel. When Bush was governor of Texas, he named Gonzales to the state's Supreme Court in 1999.


Republicans will hold a 55-45 majority in the Senate next year after adding four Senate seats in the Nov. 2 election, strengthening Bush's hand to win confirmation of his nominees. Republicans need 60 votes to shut down any filibuster, a tactic used to prevent roll calls on appointments and legislation.


Democratic Senator Carl Levin said on Fox News that Gonzales probably would win Senate confirmation, though the Michigan lawmaker said he isn't sure he will vote for him. While ``loyalty to the president is fine,'' Gonzales must show he will be objective and fair as the nation's leading law enforcement officer, Levin said.


``There are a lot of questions he needs to answer as far as I'm concerned,'' Levin said.


Legal Advice


Democrats will probably press Gonzales during Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearings on the legal advice he and the Justice Department gave Bush regarding people captured in the war on terrorism.


Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, said the panel should be tough on Gonzales.


``The road from Guantanamo to Abu Ghraib was paved with the memos of Gonzales,'' Ratner said. Photos of inmates at Abu Ghraib prison outside Baghdad showed them being mistreated by U.S. guards.


Anthony Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, said in a statement that lawmakers should probe Gonzales's beliefs about the Guantanamo Bay detentions, the legality of torture and the constitutionality of the Patriot Act.


Sixteen provisions of the act, including some that deal with wiretaps and access to business records, will expire at the end of 2005 unless Congress renews them.


Wrong Fight


Senator John Cornyn, a Texas Republican who serves on the Judiciary Committee, said he expected the Senate will confirm Gonzales and urged Democrats not to be obstructionists. ``This would be the wrong fight to pick,'' he said.


In a January 2002 memo, Gonzales advised Bush to declare the war in Afghanistan, and the detention of Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters, not subject to the Geneva Conventions, which are treaties that set standards for international law in wartime. That step would protect U.S. officials from being charged with war crimes, Gonzales wrote.


``We face an enemy that lies in the shadows, an enemy that doesn't sign treaties, they don't wear uniforms, an enemy that owes no allegiance to any country,'' Gonzales said in a June press conference.


The U.S. Supreme Court in June rejected the White House view that battlefield detainees being held at Guantanamo Bay are beyond the reach of U.S. legal protections.


Anti-Torture Law


In an August 2002 memo to Gonzales, then-Assistant Attorney General Jay Bybee wrote that U.S. anti-torture law only restricts ``extreme acts'' such as inflicting pain ``equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury.'' When the White House released the memo and others in June, Gonzales told reporters that Bush hadn't approved them.


Responding to release of the memos, 12 former federal judges and seven past presidents of the American Bar Association joined more than 100 colleagues in urging an investigation of the administration's approach to torture.


``The most senior lawyers in the Department of Justice, the White House, Department of Defense and the vice president's office have sought to justify actions that violate the most basic rights of all human beings,'' the group said in a statement released in August.


Election Day


Ashcroft submitted his resignation letter on Election Day, and Bush accepted it yesterday, White House press secretary Scott McClellan said. Ashcroft plans to stay on until his successor is confirmed.


Ashcroft, 62, helped lead the Bush administration's war on terrorism and often was a target of criticism from civil rights groups. ``The objective of securing the safety of Americans from crime and terror has been achieved,'' Ashcroft wrote in his letter of resignation.


Gonzales is viewed as a political moderate and a supporter of abortion rights and affirmative action, positions that would make him unacceptable to many conservatives for any U.S. Supreme Court vacancy, the Los Angeles Times reported in June. Some activists spoke out against the possibility of a Gonzales court nomination and others began a whispering campaign against him, the newspaper said.


Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist, 80, is being treated for thyroid cancer, and three other justices are in their 70s and 80s.


Early Days


In the early days of the Bush administration, Gonzales signaled a major change in the way the White House would be picking federal judges when he told the American Bar Association that, for the first time in 50 years, the group wouldn't be allowed to vet potential candidates privately before they are nominated.


``It would be particularly inappropriate'' to continue allowing the ABA have its voice ``heard before and above all others,'' because it ``takes public positions on divisive political, legal, and social issues that come before the courts,'' Gonzales said in a March 22, 2001 letter to then ABA President Martha Barnett.


The ABA, long a target of criticism from groups that say it favors activist judges, said it had vetted potential judicial candidates since Dwight Eisenhower's administration and was neither partisan nor ideological.


Gonzales represented the White House in negotiations with the bipartisan National Commission on Terrorist Attacks over access to administration officials and classified administration documents. The White House struck compromises with the 10-member commission, which was led by former New Jersey Governor Thomas Kean, a Republican.


Joint Interview


The commission agreed to interview Bush and Cheney together, and without a tape recorder. Bush's national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, appeared before the commission in an open hearing after the panel agreed not to seek public testimony from any other White House official. Gonzales said such appearances could undermine the constitutional separation of powers between the executive and legislative branches.


Also, the commission agreed that only a few of its members would examine classified intelligence documents, and that their notes would be subject to a White House review.


Gonzales, born in San Antonio, is a graduate of Rice University and Harvard Law School. He served in the U.S. Air Force from 1973-75, and attended the Air Force Academy between 1975-77, according to a White House biography.




To contact the reporter on this story:

Laurence Arnold in Washington at larnold4@bloomberg.net.

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