The Gonzalez Debacle & the Limits of Nationalism

The racial spoils system

By Roberto Rodriguez
Published on LatinoLA: July 27, 2005

The Gonzalez Debacle & the Limits of Nationalism

When Clarence Thomas was up for consideration to the U.S. Supreme Court, many African Americans found themselves in a bind: Should they support his candidacy and maintain a Black on the court, or fight against him and possibly end up ?unrepresented??

The dilemma stemmed from his extreme hostility toward civil rights. Some chose to be silent or actually supported his nomination. Others demurred, holding on to the belief that Thomas would eventually come around. The ?wait? continues.

With the nomination of 50-year-old judge John Roberts to replace Sandra Day O'Connor, a showdown is lurking over Roe v. Wade. A Roberts confirmation would also surrender government and the environment to the war-industrial complex.

At the same time, with the possibility of another court vacancy (William Rehnquist), we may again find ourselves with a Thomas-like situation with the potential nomination of U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. Some Latino/Hispanic civil rights groups are giddy at the prospect that if confirmed, he would become the ?first Hispanic Supreme Court Justice.?

When Gonzales was up for attorney general, it was several Hispanic/Latino organizations that ran interference for the president in support of his candidacy. Principle lost out to blind ethnic loyalty.

Apparently, they turned two blind eyes to the fact that it was Gonzales who wrote the memos that, in effect, authorized torture by U.S. forces worldwide and put forth the notion that the Geneva Conventions on war are obsolete (particularly in regards to ?The War on Terror?). In fact, his memos served as guidelines on how the administration could artfully avoid international treaties and conventions against torture, while avoiding prosecution.

In one sense the conundrum that these Hispanic/Latino groups find themselves in is that they have to weigh the balance between domestic vs. foreign policy. Domestically, these groups claim that Gonzales - as well as the president - has a moderate agenda in regards to immigration and prison sentencing reform. That was why they supported him.

Five years into this administration, and the only thing that the president has managed to do on the immigration front is to funnel all the nation's 911 and ?war on terror? fears into the jingoistic belief that the solution lies in closing the Mexican (not the Canadian) border. (Under his watch, anti-immigrant fervor has reached a crescendo).

Of course, Gonzales has been in office but several months, thus, too early to pass judgment on his effect at the Justice Department. Too early for that, yet apparently not too early to catapult him to a lifetime appointment to the nation's highest court. (This would also ensure a complete right-wing stranglehold at the court for the next 20 years - even though he's not trusted by extremists within his own party).

Giving Gonzales a pass because he would become the first Hispanic on the court demonstrates the absurdity of what the right wing has long-termed: the racial spoils system (they actually play it better than the Democrats).

There was a time when a judge was considered to be a person of wisdom. On this count alone (the attorney general is not yet 50), he cannot be considered wise even though admittedly, age alone does not confer wisdom. With Gonzales, however, his age and lack of experience, tell us that on those counts alone he should be disqualified.

Yet, the short record that he has - as a torture enabler and a rubber stamp on death penalty cases for then Gov. Bush in Texas - sends a quite troubling and disqualifying message. The message is one regarding loyalty and cronyism. Couple that with that blind ethnic support and it becomes even more troubling. (These groups, have no problem denouncing the Memin Pinguin Mexican stamp -- for its harmful effects on race relations -- yet they are seemingly unable to see the incredible harm the torture memos have wrought upon the cause of human rights worldwide).

There are respected human rights groups that consider the entire Bush administration (including Gonzales) to be guilty of foisting an illegal war upon the world based on false intelligence. For Hispanic/Latino groups to act as though that is a minor matter proves the absurdity of what is permissible when one is guided by a skewed allegiance to that form of ethnic nationalism.

Perhaps, like Thomas, he will become some sort of role model? but at what cost? Hey? let?s not discount right-wing pundit Linda Chavez as the next nominee? and on the affirmative action scale, she?d be a two-fer.

? Column of the Americas 2005

About Roberto Rodriguez:
The writers can be reached at: 608-238-3161 or or Column of the Americas, PO BOX 5093 Madison WI 53705.

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