Schumer Hands Mukasey a Victory

What seems important to our Senior Senator is that the Department of Justice will be less political (probably he thinks) and that, crossing his fingers, maybe this Attorney General won’t be as keen on torture as his predecessor (anyhow, Schumer hopes so). 

To me, the opening comments in Sen. Schumer’s commentary, phrased slightly differently, could serve as a preliminary speech to issuing articles of impeachment. But “the best we can hope for” dashes all that, and coming from the third most powerful United States Senator, serves perhaps as the fitting epitaph on the crypt, filled with a series of sorry letdowns, of the 110th Congress.

The best we can hope for.  Gee whiz, Wally, they really gave me the business, didn’t they?

Come on! If this is the best we can hope for, why are we tolerating this? Because it’s too close to a national election? Because Joe Klein says the people (he talks to) don’t want the country bogged down in an impeachment? For crying our loud,

a) Andrew Johnson was impeached and tried in the Spring of 1868, which was itself a presidential election year. We’re four months to the good 139 3/4 years later. So if Sen. Schumer believes that this administration does not believe in the rule of law, why isn’t he  exercising his constitutional duty to do something about it, instead of whining?

b) And who gives a hoot who the beltway bloviators talk to? If all of them went out and voted together, they wouldn’t form a large enough block to elect a dogcatcher in Baker’s Mills, New York!

Well the capitulation Sen Schumer’s statement follows in it’s entirety: 

I will support Judge Michael Mukasey for attorney general.

I have spent the last nine months doing everything I can to get new leadership at the Department of Justice, and I believe the job will not be finished until we get a strong and independent attorney general. I believe Judge Mukasey is that type of person. Should we reject him, it is almost certain that an acting, caretaker attorney general will take office without the advice and consent of the Senate. Inevitably, that would enable those in this administration, who do not believe in the rule of law, and have done things that caused even former Attorney General Ashcroft to threaten resignation, to have the complete upper hand.

Only a strong and independent attorney general can return the Justice Department to what it once was and should always be. Under this administration, that nominee will certainly never share our views on issues like torture and wiretapping. The best we can hope for is someone who is independent, has integrity, will put rule of law first and, above all, will clean the stench of politicization out of the Justice Department. I believe Judge Mukasey will be that type of attorney general.

This is an extremely difficult decision. When an administration, so political, so out of touch with the realities of governing and so contemptuous of the rule of law is in charge, we are never left with an ideal choice. Judge Mukasey is not my ideal choice. However, Judge Mukasey, whose integrity and independence is respected even by those who oppose him, is far better than anyone could expect from this administration. He is recommended by and reminds me of Jim Comey, another Bush nominee who — while he didn’t agree with us on the issues — showed the kind of independence and integrity this department needs.

I would also like to say something about torture, particularly waterboarding. I deeply oppose it. I supported Senator Kennedy’s amendment in 2006 and am a co-sponsor of his bill in this Congress. Unfortunately, this nominee, indeed any proposed by President Bush, will not agree with this. I am, however, confident that this nominee would enforce a law that bans waterboarding as I hope it will.

This afternoon, I met with Judge Michael Mukasey one more time. I requested the meeting to address, in person, some of my concerns. The judge made clear to me that were Congress to pass a law banning certain interrogation techniques, we would clearly be acting within our constitutional authority. And he flatly told me that the president would have absolutely no legal authority to ignore such a law, not even under some theory of inherent authority under Article II of the Constitution. He also pledged to enforce such a law and repeated his willingness to leave office rather than participate in a violation of law.

Judge Mukasey is a lawyer’s lawyer. He will not leap to quick judgments. When we want him to do so, such as on torture, we will be disappointed. But when he resists those in the administration who want quick and facile answers, so they can get their way, so they can roll over civil liberties and blot out separation of powers, it is they who will be disappointed.

I realize that, should he become attorney general, Judge Mukasey and I will disagree on many issues. I have told him that I will battle just as fiercely against him as I did against previous attorney generals when we disagree.

These are troubling times at the Justice Department. We cannot afford or allow the department to languish and limp along for the next 14 months. I deeply esteem those who believe the issue of torture is so paramount that Judge Mukasey’s views on it should be the sole determinant of our vote. But I must respectfully disagree. The Justice Department is a shambles: politicized and demoralized. The belief and hope that Justice Mukasey, with his experience, independence and integrity, can restore the department motivates my vote.


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