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.