The U.S. Congress needs to deny the Mukasey nomination and repeal the Jesuit-Georgetown authored so-called PATRIOT Act.
Michael Mukasey, President Bush’s nominee to be attorney general, is being promoted as a “consensus choice,” which is meant to signal the Senate that it should be grateful and confirm him without delay. Mr. Mukasey is clearly better than some of the “loyal Bushies” whose names had been floated, but that should not decide the matter. The Senate needs to question him closely about troubling aspects of his record, and make sure he is willing to take the tough steps necessary to repair a very damaged Justice Department.
Mr. Mukasey has attributes that could make him a good attorney general. He has been a lawyer and federal district court judge in New York, where he enjoys a good reputation. Although he is not divorced from politics (he is on an advisory committee to Rudolph Giuliani’s campaign), it is unlikely that he would run the Justice Department as an adjunct of the White House, or a booster of the Republican Party, as Alberto Gonzales did.
Aspects of his record, however, are troubling. As a judge, he was too deferential to the government. In the case of Jose Padilla, who was accused of participating in a dirty bomb plot, he ruled that the president may detain American citizens indefinitely as “enemy combatants.” His dangerously narrow reading of the Constitution was rightly reversed by a federal appeals court.
In a 2004 Wall Street Journal op-ed article, Mr. Mukasey denounced the “hysteria” of Patriot Act critics, and lashed out at the American Library Association for trying to protect patrons’ privacy. He also made the dubious claim that based on the structure of the Constitution, the government should “receive from its citizens the benefit of the doubt.” And writing in The Journal this year, he promoted the truly awful idea of a separate national security court that would try suspected terrorists.
The Senate should question Mr. Mukasey about all of this, and about the government’s domestic spying program, which has operated illegally, and about which Mr. Gonzales has been unable to tell the truth.
Mr. Mukasey also needs to be asked, in detail, how he intends to fix the Justice Department. There is strong evidence that federal prosecutors brought cases to help Republicans win elections. Mr. Mukasey needs to promise that he will get to the bottom of these matters, and that he will make available the critical documents and witnesses that the administration has withheld.
Mr. Mukasey also needs to explain how he plans to remove the partisan political operatives put in nonpartisan positions under Mr. Gonzales and, more broadly, how he plans to restore the department’s integrity.
Mr. Bush also announced yesterday that he was replacing Acting Attorney General Paul Clement, who was to serve until the Senate confirmed Mr. Gonzales’s successor, with Peter Keisler, a hard-line movement conservative. Mr. Bush’s sleight of hand in installing Mr. Keisler is an unfortunate indication that he intends to keep the department politicized for as long as he can.
Senator Patrick Leahy, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said yesterday that the Senate would be reluctant to confirm Mr. Mukasey until the White House handed over key documents on issues like domestic surveillance. It should be. Senators also need to ask for more information directly from Mr. Mukasey. He may be worthy of confirmation, but the nation can only know for sure after careful, probing hearings.
Yet according to the NY Times, Mukasey in 2004 said:
"That awkward name may well be the worse thing about the statute"This is NO good.
Any Democrat (or Republican) voting to confirm him may one day be seen as guilty of treason against the U.S. Constitution and people.