After the odious John Ashcroft and the reprehensible Alberto Gonzales, the idea that former federal judge Michael Mukasey may soon be confirmed as US attorney general is almost a welcome relief. But it should not be. Just because Mukasey is probably the best nominee the nation can hope for from this White House, that does not mean he is what the government needs, or what the nation deserves.
At his recent Senate Judiciary confirmation hearing, Mukasey actually answered most questions put to him, and offered an admirable promise: that he would resign rather than violate the US Constitution. This is a novel idea for most officials in the upper reaches of the Bush–Cheney regime. So even if Mukasey’s promise turns out to be limp lip service, there is a degree of wonder in the fact that a Republican cabinet candidate would even recognize that principle should trump politics — at least on occasion.
But Mukasey also showed his flaws. Namely, he waffled and dodged shamefully when it came to discussing torture by water boarding. Plus, he shares the Republicans’ obsession with voter fraud, at least if it’s perpetuated by Democrats — Mukasey doesn’t seem to find allegations of GOP voter fraud so bad at all.
And, as is the case with voter fraud, it is doubtful that Mukasey will break ranks with the Bush White House on the issue of executive privilege, a now almost-time-honored practice that has absolutely no basis in constitutional law. The Bushies (as well as many other modern presidents) have invoked the privilege to curtail congressional investigation of questionable White House practices, most recently regarding the roles of Karl Rove and Harriet Miers in the politically motivated dismissals of US Attorneys.
Dwarfing the issue of getting to the bottom of six years of compromised and possibly criminal administration within the Justice Department itself, is the simple question of whether the president is above the law. Or, to put it another way, must the president obey the laws that Congress has enacted? Mukasey, in effect, says the president must — most of the time. His exception to this rule is the loophole that the president can ignore the law “to defend the nation.”
That is a very bad answer, so bad as to be unacceptable. Mukasey should not be confirmed on the basis of that wrong-headed response.
The president may be the commander in chief, but even a quick skim of the Constitution shows that it is Congress that is charged to “provide for the common defense.” In other words, Congress’s power to make laws and appropriate funds is superior to the president’s power to do as he sees fit, or merely as he pleases. This sounds like a radical idea, but it is not. The radical idea here is the one that Bush holds: that the president is above the law.
Deval’s Barack endorsement
There is more to Governor Deval Patrick’s endorsement of Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama than race and similarly challenging backgrounds.
Both men are mavericks.
Because Patrick is governor, it is easy to forget that his political base is among Massachusetts insurgents.