Mukasey Takes Us Back To Square One

1 11 2007

Alberto Gonzales’ greatest flaw as attorney general was his inability to draw a clear line between being the President’s lawyer’s and the people’s lawyer. When Bush and his team of operatives wanted to fire U.S. Attorneys for not prosecuting enough voter fraud cases, Gonzales did it. When Bush wanted to politicize the civil rights division at the Justice Department, Gonzales did it. When Bush wanted the Justice Department to give its blessing to other agencies in ignoring international and domestic law, Gonzales did it.

So when Mukasey was nominated to replace Gonzales as the nation’s top law enforcement officer, we were supposed to be reassured by the appointment because he was not Gonzales, he was not Ted Olson. Mukasey was touted as an  independent-minded nominee who would stand up to the Bush administration when warranted  You know umm….like a real Attorney General should.

Of course, that consesus is now challenged given Mukasey’s refusal to call waterboarding torture.  At the hearing, Mukasey now famously said “if it amounts to torture it is not Constitutional.” That of course, is far from an unequivocal denoucement of the practice. He could have redeemed himself in his responses to follow up questions, but instead resorted to the same legalistic dodge he propagated before the Senate Judiciary Committee in saying the technique

seem over the line or, on a personal basis, repugnant to me and would probably seem the same to many Americans. But hypotheticals are different from real life, and in any legal opinion the actual facts and circumstances are critical.

But just repugnant, not illegal.

News reports are circulating about how Mukasey and the rest of the administration is worried that if the nominee says if waterboarding is torture all sorts of people from the lowly interrogators to the President himself could be held liable for encourgaging and administering torture.

This seems to take us back to square one, where the next Attorney General is reluctant to hold the President and others accountable for unlawful acts, and probably defend them. Perhaps, Mukasey was never apart of George W. Bush’s inner circle of loyalists, but Muskasey’s views on executive power alone does not necessarily mean he is a real improvement from Gonzales.

When asked about the the Bush administration legal basis for its illegal wiretapping program Mukasey provided another legal dodge.

I have no reason to believe that the state secrets privilege has been asserted in bad faith. If confrimed I would ensure that any assertion of the state secrets privilege was based on national security considerations.

When asked about his view of the material witness statue particularly his interpretation of it after 9/11, where Mukasey approved the indefinite detention of numerous Arab and Muslim men, Muskasey said:

To my knowledge, the criteria of the material witness stature were met in each of the cases.

And on virtually every civil rights issue from voting to housing discrimination to the civil rights division itself, Mukasey’s automated response was he either was not familiar with the issues or did not have sufficent information about this or that case or policy.  That’s reassuring.

If Mukasey is not really going to stand up to the administration on abuses of executive power and remains uninformed or indifferent regarding civil rights issues, how is he better than the potted plant that just got uprooted two months ago?

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