MUKASEY ON TORTURE….It’s the details that keep coming back to haunt us. Last week I wanted fewer caveats from Hillary Clinton regarding torture of detainees in American prisons, and this week I’d like fewer from attorney general nominee Michael Mukasey. Mukasey had a good start the other day, telling the Senate that we didn’t liberate Nazi concentration camps “so we could then duplicate it ourselves.” Unfortunately, when the questioning got a little more specific, it turned out he wasn’t entirely sure what counted as torture and what didn’t. Mark Kleiman:
I understand Mukasey is supposed to be a reasonably good guy, by comparison with the run of Bush appointees. But if Mukasey won’t say that waterboarding is torture and claims that the President has some undefined power to violate statute law — even criminal laws, such as the ban on torture and other war crimes — under his “Article II powers,” then why should the Senate Judiciary Committee even bring his nomination to a vote? If he says he hasn’t read the latest torture memos or decided whether waterboarding is torture, Sen. Leahy ought to tell him to read the memos and observe a waterboarding session and come back when he’s done his homework.
An attorney general who believes a president has a permanent right to ignore the rule of law because peacetime is now wartime for ever, is an attorney-general defending the rule of one man over the rule of law….I think we’re in denial about this. Following Mukasey’s statements with confirmation would set a precedent we may well deeply regret. Think of another terrorist attack. Think of the Cheney precedents. Think of Giuliani in the White House. Now think of what would be left of democracy and the Constitution the day after.
This just shouldn’t be hard stuff. It’s a sign of the moral decay of the Bush era that we even find ourselves arguing about it.