Bush has nominated retired New York Federal Judge Michael Mukasey to replace Alberto Gonzales at the helm of the Justice Department. At a glance, this seems like about the best the Democrats could have hoped for, although it’s too early to say who’s really “won” here.
Bush was clearly motivated to avoid a public defeat, it seems. Harry Reid had promised a bloodbath over the candidate apparently preferred by the conservative wing of the GOP, former U.S. Solicitor General Ted Olson (although it’s hard to imagine how a threat from Reid could scare a nervous schoolgirl, let alone a pack of battle-toned werewolves like the Republican leadership). Chuck Schumer likes Mukasey. So does Rudy Giuliani. But the right wing is evidently not happy about him at all because … well, read Time’s take. I’m just a simple country boy and it’s all starting to make my head hurt.
So let’s see. FOR: Bush, Shumer, Reid, Giuliani, Bill Kristol. AGAINST: the Wide Right. I’m happy about that last part, but all those people for him at the same time? That kind of consensus in DC makes me edgy.
I would credit Reid with the funniest line of the day so far, though. In his official statement on the nomination he said:
“I’m glad President Bush listened to Congress and put aside his plan to replace Alberto Gonzales with another partisan Administration insider. Judge Mukasey has strong professional credentials and a reputation for independence. A man who spent 18 years on the federal bench surely understands the importance of checks and balances and knows how to say no to the President when he oversteps the Constitution.
Ummm – A man who spent 18 years on the federal bench surely understands the importance of checks and balances and knows how to say no to the President when he oversteps the Constitution….
I’ll take Antonin Scalia for $1,000, Alex….
When I first heard about Mukasey and his connections to Giuliani (this morning on Democracy Now!), I groaned, “Here we go again!” But yeah, there’s a lot to be ambivalent about here, and frankly, I’m not at all sure what to make of it.
The first thing that really got my attention, as far as arguments for why this may not be such a bad appointment, was this entry by Scott Horton: http://www.harpers.org/archive/2007/09/hbc-90001230
Overall, it’s not what I would call a glowing endorsement, though it may seem that way in parts. But given my familiarity with Horton’s work and political orientation, the reasons he gives in favor of such an appointment are impossible for me to ignore. That doesn’t mean I’m ultimately going to agree with him, but it does mean that I’m not going to just shit-can a Mukasey nomination without further thought.
*sigh* Well, even at worst, he’s not about to make Gonzales look almost saintly by comparison, the way Gonzales so astoundingly did with Ashcroft, of all people.
But that’s not good enough. I need more information.
Notice how you never see me and John Denver in the same room together?
Mukasey is, in all likelihood, just a placeholder to keep that seat warm and prevent one of the Regent University crew from completely taking over the DOJ and subverting it fully into an arm of the GOP. Even the relatively milquetoast Reid has been known to find his spine now and again, and he might have been willing to pick a fight over Olson, so they get the compromise guy instead.
Given the absolute shame and perfidy committed by Ashcroft and Gonzales in the past near-decade, Mukasey looks like friggin’ Gandhi by comparison. It says something both about the soft bigotry of low expectations and the hard reality of how far our concept of ethical leadership has fallen.