Our Democrat friends think they may have found a strong candidate to compete for the U.S.Senate seat to be vacated by Kay Bailey Hutchison, who is retiring at the end of her term next year. According to the Star-Telegram, He’s retired Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez of Rio Grande City. A graduate of what was then Texas A&I (now Texas A&M University, Kingsville), Sanchez has been earning his living as business consultant and speaker since his 33-year career in the U.S. Army ended in 2006. The man has impressive credentials, but he carries some heavy baggage. Maria Recio reports:
Former Texas Lt. Gov. Ben Barnes, a Democrat, confirmed that Democratic Senate campaign chief Patty Murray, D-Wash., was referring to Sanchez on Thursday when she said Democrats were close to announcing a candidate in Texas.
Sanchez, reached by phone at his San Antonio home, asked where the reports of a Senate run came from and then said, “I can neither confirm nor deny.”
Sanchez, the former top military commander in Iraq who was left under a cloud from the Abu Ghraib prison scandal, would not discuss the Senate race. But he did respond to questions about his career and political philosophy.
“I would describe myself as during my military career as supporting the president and the Constitution,” Sanchez said. “After the military, I decided that socially, I’m a progressive, a fiscal conservative and a strong supporter, obviously, of national defense.”
But the shadow of Abu Grahib hangs like a heavy cloud over Sanchez if the Democrats have made him a serious offer to be their candidate and he accepts. The general claims that he was unaware of the sordid things that were going on at the prison, and he says an Army investigation cleared him. Not so fast, argues RedState.com’s Beltway Whispers:
A 2004 panel that investigated prisoner abuse found Sanchez, once the nation’s highest-ranking Hispanic officer, was derelict in overseeing Iraqi detention. According to a classified report by three Army generals, Sanchez approved the use of harsh military interrogation techniques that were once limited to prisoners held at facilities in Cuba and Afghanistan.
The irony that Democrats who once raked the lieutenant general over the coals now view Sanchez as their savior will no doubt be a hallmark of the campaign.
Senator Patty Murray, who steers the Democrats’ Senate campaign arm and vaguely teased reporters earlier this week of a top Texas recruit, said in 2004 that all those responsible for Abu Ghraib — no matter where they fell in the chain of command — must be held to account for their actions.
“These actions are a disservice to the thousands of American soldiers in the region who serve us honorably each and every day, and, sadly, are likely to make their efforts to calm a troubled region even harder,” Murray said of the controversy.
When former President George Bush tapped then-White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales to fill the nation’s top law enforcement post, Murray joined Senator Maria Cantwell in opposing the nomination over his green-lighting of Sanchez’s interrogation techniques.
In a 2004 statement, Senator Patrick Leahy accused Sanchez of authorizing “the use of techniques that were contrary to both U.S. military manuals but also international law.” “Given this incredible overstepping of bounds, I find it incredible that the reports generated thus far have not recommended punishment of any kind for high-level officials,” he added.
The onslaught of Congressional criticism came as military brass looked to give Sanchez his fourth star. The promotion never materialized and months later he retired.
With the balance of power in the U.S. Senate hanging on the 2012 election, Democrats need to tread carefully when considering which candidate they put forth to run for Hutchison’s seat. The last thing they need is for the same damning photos of naked prisoners being abused that the Dems and their media pals so successfully used against George W. Bush to be turned against them. And the Republicans are no doubt salivating at the prospect of doing just that. Payback is not just a dog, but a rabid one. No matter how the Democrats try to spin this, Abu Ghraib happened while Sanchez was on watch, and that should be reason enough for them to try to find a candidate who is clean as the proverbial whistle.
Cross-posted from Brazos Valley Pundit