Senate Confirms Gonzales as Attorney General

By Maura Reynolds

Los Angeles Times

February 4, 2005

WASHINGTON — Despite a stronger than expected protest vote from Democrats, the Senate voted 60-36 today to confirm Alberto Gonzales as attorney general.

Gonzales, the son of Mexican immigrants, rose from poverty to serve in the White House for four years as counsel to the president. He will be the first Latino to serve as the nation's top law enforcement officer.

The margin was the smallest given to any of President Bush's Cabinet nominees with the exception of the 58-42 vote by which the Senate confirmed Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft, whom Gonzales will replace.

Although Democrats were originally favorably inclined toward the nomination, their opposition grew over what they considered evasive and equivocal answers to questions about his role in administration memorandums that appeared to condone some types of torture of prisoners held in the campaign against terrorism.

And Democrats argued that Gonzales, who has served as a close aide and advisor to Bush for more than a decade, was too close to the president to be an independent arbiter of the law.

"Embodying the American dream is not sufficient reason to serve as attorney general," said Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.), the Senate minority leader. "The attorney general of the United States is the people's lawyer, not the president's lawyer."

In particular, Democrats spoke out against a memo commissioned by Gonzales early in the days after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks that appeared to condone "harsh" treatment of prisoners that many senators, including many Republicans, believed strayed into defining torture. The administration did not repudiate it until a few weeks ago.

Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) accused Gonzales of playing a role in "establishing the legal framework that set the stage for the torture and mistreatment of persons in the United States' custody."

"Prisoner abuse in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere have deepened the anger and resentment that some feel toward our country and have given a propaganda club to our enemies," Levin said before the vote.