Michael Mukasey

Word is that President Bush will nominate former federal Judge Michael Mukasey to be the next Attorney General. The consensus of other leftie bloggers: It could be worse. See in particular Glenn Greenwald, Neil the Ethical Werewolf and Jeralyn Merritt. What little reaction I’ve seen from rightie bloggers suggests acceptance, if not enthusiasm.

Mark Tran at The Guardian:

Mr Mukasey’s nomination will be seen as evidence of Mr Bush’s political weakness as his presidency enters its final stretch. Some conservatives have already expressed unhappiness with the choice.

Mr Olson had appeared to be the leading contender for the job.

“There is a case for nominating Olson, and inviting a senate confirmation fight over issues of legal philosophy and executive power,” Mr Kristol wrote in a column posted on the internet soon after he learned that Mr Mukasey was Mr Bush’s likely pick.

However, Kristol approved Mukasey.

The most contentious fights over the next year are likely to be on war-on-terror issues. And as Andrew McCarthy (no liberal softy on such matters!) explained on National Review Online, Mukasey is first-rate on these: “He deftly handled the enemy-combatant detention of Jose Padilla (recently convicted of terrorism crimes), forcefully endorsing the executive branch’s wartime power to protect the United States from an al Qaeda operative dispatched to our homeland to conduct mass-murder attacks, but vindicating the American citizen’s constitutional rights to counsel and to challenge his detention without trial through habeas corpus.” Judging also by what Mukasey has written and said outside the courtroom about the Patriot Act and related matters, we can be confident he’ll be effective at making the case before Congress and the public for tough legislation and sound policies on national security issues.

Yet Glenn Greenwald said,

I want to highlight one extremely relevant consideration concerning Judge Mukasey — the impressive role he played in presiding over the Jose Padilla case in its earliest stages. After Padilla was first detained in April 2002 and declared an “enemy combatant,” he was held incommunicado, denied all access to the outside the world, including counsel, and the Bush administration refused to charge him with any crimes. A lawsuit was filed on Padilla’s behalf by a New York criminal defense lawyer, Donna Newman, demanding that Padilla be accorded the right to petition for habeas corpus and that, first, he be allowed access to a lawyer. That lawsuit was assigned to Judge Mukasey, which almost certainly made the Bush DOJ happy.

But any such happiness proved to be unwarranted. Judge Mukasey repeatedly defied the demands of the Bush administration, ruled against them, excoriated them on multiple occasions for failing to comply with his legally issued orders, and ruled that Padilla was entitled to contest the factual claims of the government and to have access to lawyers. He issued these rulings in 2002 and 2003, when virtually nobody was defying the Bush administration on anything, let alone on assertions of executive power to combat the Terrorists. And he made these rulings in the face of what was became the standard Bush claim that unless there was complete acquiescence to all claimed powers by the President, a Terrorist attack would occur and the blood would be on the hands of those who impeded the President.

Mukasey is a conservative judge who supported the Patriot Act and is a legal advisor to Rudy Giuliani. But it could be worse.

Update: Sen. Chuck Schumer floated Mukasey’s name as a Supreme Court appointment awhile back, no doubt thinking that a conservative capable of independence from the White House was preferable to a conservative not so independent from the White House, e.g. Alito and Roberts. And yesterday Schumer said,

In a statement issued last night, the senator was somewhat guarded. “For sure we’d want to ascertain his approach on such important and sensitive issues as wiretapping and the appointment of US attorneys, but he’s a lot better than some of the other names mentioned and he has the potential to become a consensus nominee,” the statement said.

Somehow, in Captain Ed’s mind, Schumer has flip-flopped.

Bush has managed to strip Schumer of his last pretenses of fairness and honesty, and the Alliance for Justice may be next. Uncle Chuck couldn’t give a fig for “consensus”. He used Mukasey as a club to beat Bush two years ago, and Nan Aron of AJ jumped on the bandwagon. Schumer just had his bluff called, and one can expect that the confirmation hearings will feature several Republican committee members read into the record over and over again Schumer’s endorsement of Mukasey for the lifetime appointment.

Schumer will provide us a prime-time example of eating one’s words. He misunderestimated George Bush again.

Seems to me Schumer pushed Mukasey as an “it could be worse” Supreme Court appointment, and no doubt he will vote to approve Mukasey AG in the same light. But expect to see the Right Blogosphere work itself into a frenzy over Schumer’s “flip flop” for the next couple of days. The VRWC is pushing this to distract its Kool-Aid soaked followers from their disappointment that Ted Olsen didn’t get the appointment.

Update 2: Today’s WTF? Non Sequitur Award goes to this blogger, who looks at the reaction to the Mukasey nomination and concludes

What this exposes is the current governing dynamic in the United States among the political left — if Bush is for it, then they are against it, period. The obsession with “getting” George W. Bush has already taken over policy-making (witness the refusal among most Democrats to even consider the possibility of military progress in Iraq — even with lots of room for legitimate criticism in non-military areas, Democratic leaders are insisting on a pure “nothing but bad news” narrative) and is now moving into cabinet appointments.

What this exposes is the current ideological dynamic within the political Right — if the Left is for it, the Right has to be against it, so if the Left is mildly ambivalent this somehow must be whipped up into a controversy anyway, because the raison d’être of the Right is bashing the Left. Ultimately, to them nothing else matters.