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September 16, 2007

Mukasey In The Hall Of Mirrors

By Neil the Ethical Werewolf

The early word is that Bush will nominate Michael Mukasey for Attorney General.  You can read Jeralyn Merritt's post on his history of rulings, Steve Benen's post on how he's regarded by groups on the left and right, or look at his Wikipedia page.  Unfortunately, much of the information out there now is of the strange hall-of-mirrors form where you want to like him because right-wing bloggers are disappointed with him because Chuck Schumer and Nan Aron like him. 

Putting everything together, he looks like a staunch conservative, but one who will be independent enough to not let Bush get away with Gonzales-era politicization of the judicial system.  In a best-case scenario, he might pull a Paul O'Neill and rebel if he gets fed up with Bush Administration malfeasance.  And going into 2008, I want to be confident that the AG's office isn't going to be used for nefarious election-year partisan plots.  Mukasey doesn't set off any obvious alarms there. 

As a sidenote, I'm a lot less impressed with Harry Reid this year than I was in 2005-2006, when he got Bush to nominate Harriet Miers, and did his best to promote a filibuster of Alito.  This year, he should've been forcing Republicans to filibuster a lot more than they've had to.  But apparently he's been able to force Bush into nominating a principled Attorney General instead of a mindless partisan.  From Thursday's New York Times:

"Ted Olson will not be confirmed," Sen. Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) said in a statement. "I intend to do everything I can to prevent him from being confirmed as the next attorney general.

Olson was the lawyer who argued Bush's side in Bush v. Gore.  During the 1990s, he worked on the Arkansas Project -- a Republican effort to dig up dirt on Bill Clinton, funded by $1.8 million from Richard Mellon Scaife.  That's the sort of record where I start worrying about election-year mischief of the sort Gonzales was helping Heather Wilson and Pete Domenici run against the US Attorney from New Mexico.  And I really can't imagine the words "we can't do that, it wouldn't be constitutional" being spoken by Olson to Bush.  Pending further information, I don't have those concerns about Mukasey.

Update: Word from the wolf community is that Glenn Greenwald has more. 

September 16, 2007 | Permalink


Can we call him mucousey?

Posted by: tomtom | Sep 16, 2007 11:05:08 PM

Glenn Greenwald has a good article on Mukasey that's worth reading as well/

Posted by: Shadow Wolf | Sep 16, 2007 11:25:20 PM

I'm not sure this makes the best moment to air the old grievances about Reid - it does strike me that on this - being so categorical about Olson's chances - he stage manages things very well. Mukasey may be conservative, but he also seems mature, which can't hurt (I'm thinking of how Gates has turned out not to be the worst thing at Defense), in an Administration well in need of father figures. As well, while the conservative "concerns" are overstated, his clear ties to New York and to Giuliani may well give the party fits internally. Which wouldn't be such a bad thing, either.

Posted by: weboy | Sep 17, 2007 12:03:54 AM

I feel the need to stick up for Reid. Reid does not have effective control of the Senate; on any question of military or terrorism policy, Joe Lieberman is a de facto Republican, leaving the Senate at 50-50. This makes it very hard for Reid to be confrontational on the very places where he ought to be the most confrontational.

This is why it's important to cleave away the moderate wing of the GOP. Once they start voting with the dems, they will have a hard time going back. And, in cases like Warner and Hagel, they may not have much inclination either.

Posted by: Nicholas Beaudrot | Sep 17, 2007 12:38:06 AM

I agree with what you guys have said about Reid, for the most part, but the halfhearted Iraq War filibuster scene didn't impress me very much. And I'm sympathetic to the Chris Bowers point that Republicans should've been reading phone books more often, perhaps on the minimum wage legislation.


He's consistently excellent on judicial stuff, though.

Posted by: Neil the Ethical Werewolf | Sep 17, 2007 1:14:30 AM

Quick, how many bush appointees have NOT ended up being, however they appeared before or during nomination, crooked or incompetent or politically useful or all three?

I don't have any inside information here but I'm a bit surprised at the idea that people like you and Josh Marshall are so accepting of this guy while at the same time admitting there isn't a lot of information about him. Wouldn't then the prudent, perhaps common sense policy to be to view him as the rest of the bush appointees, just another crony that will serve bush and cheney?

You can call this blind bush bashing or whatever you like but what it is not is inaccurate. Better to be very skeptical than to, once again, be burned. I would suggest that anyone who thinks bush will appoint anyone with a scrap of independence or ethics to the Justice Department is very good at forgetting what the JD has been since 2001.

You know the old saying, "those who forget history are doomed to repeat it."

Posted by: ice weasel | Sep 17, 2007 1:39:31 AM

how many bush appointees have NOT ended up being, however they appeared before or during nomination, crooked or incompetent or politically useful or all three?

I mention Paul O'Neill in the post. There's a few others too -- Bernanke, Henry Paulson, John DiIulio.

Posted by: Neil the Ethical Werewolf | Sep 17, 2007 2:03:56 AM

No hearings until the subpoenas are answered. No confirmation until we know what needs fixing. Rinse. Repeat.

Mukasey may be the least worst option, but this is about using all the parliamentary tools that can't be pissed over by Joe the Ho to ensure that the investigation isn't shoved under the carpet.

Posted by: pseudonymous in nc | Sep 17, 2007 2:06:47 AM

Ice weasel has a good point. Dig long and hard before believing *anything* about Mukasey. If he were really a man of integrity, why would Bush nominate him? Bush knows how many skeletons are buried at Justice, and how badly he needs someone to keep them buried.

Remember, if you're not thinking like a conspiracy theorist, then you don't understand the Bush Administration; that's been proved over and over and over again in the past six years. They really are that crooked.

Posted by: Chris | Sep 17, 2007 7:25:26 AM

> Putting everything together, he looks like a staunch
> conservative, but one who will be independent enough to
> not let Bush get away with Gonzales-era politicization
> of the judicial system.

Except that he is being nominated by George W. Bush. Which means he has been approved by Karl Rove, Dick Cheney, and Josh Bolten among others. Notice anything about that group? Yeah, they are all under the threat of indictment by.... wait for it.... the Justice Department.


Posted by: Cranky Observer | Sep 17, 2007 7:34:15 AM

I wonder if Mukasey isn't intended as Miers redux. Get the right-wing to mount an opposition, and watch as the left becomes so complacent in watching that they forget to properly vet the stealth Roberts follow-up.

Posted by: George Tenet Fangirl | Sep 17, 2007 8:46:15 AM

I'm with GTF. Watch out for the head-fake, followed by a fumbling inability to lay out the case for why, e.g., Karl Rove shouldn't be Attorney General.

Posted by: mds | Sep 17, 2007 9:43:23 AM

This isn't Harriet Miers - indeed, some of the description of what happened with Miers here misses that the Bush people were quite serious about getting her on the Court; they were blind-sided by the base not going along with their every whim. Second, the reason Alito (Roberts was confirmed first, then Miers came along - remember, she was supposed to replace O'Connor) got in was that the GOP had the majority and all Democrats could do was filibuster, something that all parties were nervous about, and that would have been hard when Alito's legal qualifications were not in question. In this case, with Democrats in the majority, the only filibuster threat is from the GOP , and though there's some rumbling that Mukasey is unknowable, tere's not the anti-Miers type push gaining steam... but as noted above, had Bush thumbed his nose at threats and nominated Olson, Reid and Schumer were right - he'd never have cleared the Judiciary committee, and Bush would be back to renominate someone else. They picked Mukasey because they need an AG and they need it to go smoothly. And it will.

Posted by: weboy | Sep 17, 2007 10:15:46 AM

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