Mr. Mukasey Finds His Groove

I’ve been pretty supportive of Judge Michael Mukasey’s nomination for Attorney General.  I  posted about him before it was announced, while he was being  dissected by the media, and as he was  first subjected to Senate interrogation.  While these haven’t been my most popular posts, I felt they were important enough, and that I had enough of a personal perspective about Judge Mukasey, to merit my continued attention.

I don’t feel as good about it today.  According to the New York Times, Judge Mukasey’s second day of questioning by the Senate Judiciary Committee went very differently than his first.  The bright line of day 1 blurred into a semantic position on day 2.  Suddenly, while torture was still wrong, what constituted torture became all fuzzy and equivocal.

Pushed by Senator Patrick Leahy, the powers of the President, subject to the law on day 1, became subject to interpretation of the law on day 2.   No longer did Judge Mukasey offer clear, precise answers to discrete questions. 

The nominee was asked whether something happened between day 1 and day 2.


“In your answers yesterday, there was a very bright line on questions of torture and the ability of an executive, or inability of an executive, to ignore the law,” Mr. Leahy said. “That seems nowhere near as bright a line today, and maybe I just don’t understand.”


“I don’t know whether you received some criticism from anybody in the administration last night after your testimony,” he said, “but I sensed a difference, and a number of people here, Republican and Democratic alike, have sensed a difference.”



The Judge Mukasey I knew would never had allowed me to waffle like this under his questioning.  He would have nailed me to the wall, and properly so.  Hiding behind semantic distinctions is exactly the sort of garbage positions that his predecessor did, although Alberto also had a remarkably poor memory when push came to shove. 

But Judge Mukasey knows nothing about what is delightfully called “waterboarding,” a water torture method that is given a name to make it sound like an Olympic sport.  Are we to believe that he was not prepped on the various interrogation techniques that would, without a shadow of a doubt, be the subject of his questioning?  Judge Mukasey responded to questioning by stating:

“I don’t know what is involved in the technique,” Mr. Mukasey replied. “If waterboarding is torture, torture is not constitutional.”


See it for yourself.




This answer is not credible.  It’s not even remotely credible.  This is very disappointing, since the Senate Judiciary Committee will approve the nomination and send it to the full Senate for fast-track approval.  And Judge Mukasey said something that no one can reasonably believe to be true.  Today is a new day.  I hope the Mukasey that appears for questioning will be the one I think was nominated for AG, and not the one who showed up yesterday.

A little more of day 2 that might prove disconcerting.

4 thoughts on “Mr. Mukasey Finds His Groove

  1. rick geiger

    Scott,

    While there are politics in law, law is not politics. The judge gave a political answer to a pointedly political question. His questioners are highly partisan and his response was demure. Would you want him to say at a public hearing that no matter what the circumstances are, e.g. there is a nuclear bomb in NYC that will go off if 2 hours and the guy being questioned you are 99.9% knows where the bomb is, we would be unwilling to do what is necessary to get the information to stop the nuke?? Any president that had that policy would not be doing his Constitutional duty.

  2. SHG

    Sorry, but the question just wasn’t all that hard to answer.  For Judge Mukasey to claim he doesn’t know what “waterboarding” is was simply not credible.  I found the questions pretty straight forward.  I found the answer hardly demure.  It was an effort at politics, from someone not particularly well practiced, but what we don’t need in DOJ today is some rookie politico.  We need integrity.  If this is nothing more than another round of partisan politics, then I’m wasting my time.

    As for the Jack Bauer argument, that makes for great TV but one very bad nation.  If you’re right, then there is no Constitution.  Not for the terrorist.  Not for me.  Not for you.

  3. rick geiger

    People get killed and murdered by terrorists in real life every day, if you only experience that on television, trust me, it is not the same. Thankfully, we don’t, too often, experience that fear of death and torture here. But what if there had been not only 9/11, but also, 9/12, and 9/13 and 9/14…..until even 10/19/07??? Do you think you would feel the same way? I doubt it. And in fact you may not have gotten the chance the way nearly 3000 people no longer have the chance to tell their views. Integrity is telling the truth as you see it, not some pie in the sky wishful thinking based on the premise that we will never experience deadly fear for the lives of our families in our homes. In the real world, US president’s have the responsibility to maintain our opportunity for life. And the old chestnut about losing the constitution by protecting our country from real physical threats just does not cut it anymore. Here is a better old chestnut: The Constitution is not a suicide pact.

    On 9/11 someone told me that when people tell you repeatedly that they want to kill you and they are every day trying to get the means to do it, you probably should take them seriously.

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