Thursday, January 31, 2008

Michael Mukasey is our new Attorney General. So, how did he do on his first oversight hearing? Quoth Greenwald:

He repeatedly endorsed patently illegal behavior -- including torture -- and refused even to pretend that he cared what the Senate thought about any of it. He even told Republican Senators that they have no right to pass a whistleblower law allowing federal employees who learn of lawbreaking to inform Congress about it, because such a law would infringe on the President's constitutional powers. In Mukasey's worldview, the President has unlimited power and Congress has none. ...

All day long, in response to Mukasey's insistence that patent illegalities were legal, that Congress was basically powerless, and that the administration has no obligation to disclose anything to Congress (and will not), Senators would respond with impotent comments such as: "Well, I'd like to note my disagreement and ask you to re-consider" or "I'm disappointed with your answer and was hoping you would say something different" or "If that's your position, we'll be discussing this again at another point." They were supplicants pleading for some consideration, almost out of a sense of mercy, and both they and Mukasey knew it.

A few months ago, when Mukasey was up for a vote in the Democratic Senate, there were those who quibbled on such minor things as his refusal to say clearly whether one of the Spanish Inquisition's favorite torture techniques was actually torture. They believed that the Democrats needed to stand firm and demand that Mukasey show he clearly believed in accountability and the long-established principles of the rule of law. But these impractical idealists were confronted with the pragmatic realities of the situation: if they failed to confirm Mukasey, we'd all be stuck with a time-serving former deputy of the disgraced Alberto Gonzales, who would do Dubya's bidding and nothing else.

The pragmatists won. The Senate chose to eschew empty, dramatic gestures in favor of its more dignified, established, mature, bipartisan approach. And look how much better off we all are for it.

At the very least, we know what they stand for.


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