Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Oh, Please...

Sen. Charles Schumer tries to square the circle:

I AM voting today to support Michael B. Mukasey for attorney general for one critical reason: the Department of Justice — once the crown jewel among our government institutions — is a shambles and is in desperate need of a strong leader, committed to depoliticizing the agency’s operations.
Translation: Michael Mukasey rides a white horse, wears a black mask, and shoots silver bullets. All that's missing is a sidekick named "Tonto."

The department has been devastated under the Bush administration. Outstanding United States attorneys have been dismissed without cause; career civil-rights lawyers have been driven out in droves; people appear to have been prosecuted for political reasons; young lawyers have been rejected because they were not conservative ideologues; and politics has been allowed to infect decision-making.
So now, we shouldn't let politics decide for us; instead, we should decide this issue on the basis of...politics! Irony! Here, however, is the linchpin of the argument: Mukasey is a stand-up guy:

Most important, Judge Mukasey has demonstrated his fidelity to the rule of law, saying that if he believed the president were violating the law he would resign.
Now pay careful attention here, because this is where the game turns into three card monte, and Schumer assures you that you can win:

Should we reject Judge Mukasey, President Bush has said he would install an acting, caretaker attorney general who could serve for the rest of his term without the advice and consent of the Senate. To accept such an unaccountable attorney general, I believe, would be to surrender the department to the extreme ideology of Vice President Dick Cheney and his chief of staff, David Addington. All the work we did to pressure Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to resign would be undone in a moment.
Okay, there's the rock, there's the hard place. The Senate really has no choice, see. But it's okay, Mukasey is a stand-up guy!

Judge Mukasey’s refusal to state that waterboarding is illegal was unsatisfactory to me and many other members of the Senate Judiciary Committee. But Congress is now considering — and I hope we will soon pass — a law that would explicitly ban the use of waterboarding and other abusive interrogation techniques. And I am confident that Judge Mukasey would enforce that law.

On Friday, he personally made clear to me that if the law were in place, the president would have no legal authority to ignore it — not even under some theory of inherent authority granted by Article II of the Constitution, as Vice President Cheney might argue. Nor would the president be able to evade a clear pronouncement on the subject from the courts. Judge Mukasey also pledged to enforce such a law.

From a Bush nominee, this is no small commitment.
Leave aside the fact that last sentence can only charitably be described as damning with faint praise. First, let's examine the question of which is more important: the Justice Department, or the integrity of the justice system. Four retired military officers say it's the latter:

Two retired generals and two retired admirals have written a letter (pdf) to Patrick Leahy, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, stating that “waterboarding detainees amounts to illegal torture in all circumstances. To suggest otherwise — or even to give credence to such a suggestion — represents both an affront to the law and to the core values of our nation.”
But it's okay, because Mukasey is a stand-up guy! He's promised to enforce a law Congress hasn't passed. Of course, elided in that analysis is the small fact that the President would undoubtedly veto any such law, and since the Congress has yet to override any Presidential veto, it's not very likely Judge Mukasey is going to find himself in the position of having to enforce such a law. But hey, he's a stand-up guy!

And after all, what is finally more important: our Constitutional system, represented through our justice system? Or our Justice Department? The answer is clear: it's the government, of course! That's what really matters! If we don't stand for the smooth functioning of our governmental agencies, we don't stand for anything!

Good grief.

UPDATE: Or, you could read what Keith Olbermann had to say on the subject. Righteous indignation has a certain power behind it.

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