MORE MUKASEY….Neil makes the case for swallowing hard and confirming Michael Mukasey as attorney general:
If someone can make a case that the next nominee will be any better (Ted Olson is worse), or that rejecting all nominees and keeping Peter Keisler as Acting Attorney General is a better plan, I’ll be happy to change my mind.
If this were the first year of the Bush presidency, I’d think differently. It’d be valuable to send Bush a message that he can’t nominate jackasses who claim not to know whether waterboarding is torture. But we’re just a year from elections and Bush is close to gone. What matters is making sure that the 2008 elections are free from Gonzales-style interference. If the Attorney General is a GOP fixer (Ted Olson), plotting dirty tricks to help his friend of 25 years, Rudy Giuliani, win the presidency, it’ll be a greater blow to the cause of freedom than if Mukasey is permitted a year as AG under a lame-duck president.
Sadly, there’s much truth in this. The plain, dismal fact is that no modern Republican is going to make the kind of straightforward denunciation of torture and indefinite detainment that we’d like to see. So the choice is either Mukasey or a long stonewall that leaves Peter Keisler as acting AG for the next 15 months.
There’s really no good solution here — and like it or not, we don’t have the votes to defeat Mukasey anyway. But as an unsatisfactory compromise, I’d recommend that Democrats simply vote present as a bloc when Mukasey’s nomination comes to the floor, allowing the GOP to confirm him using only their own votes. It’s one way of letting the American public know clearly that although we’ll let the president choose his own advisors, they’re his advisors and he’s responsible for them. It may not be feasible to block Mukasey’s nomination, but there’s no reason any Democrat needs to actively approve of it.