Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Jonathan Turley Gets It

Jonathan Turley's op-ed piece in today's Los Angeles Times should be mandatory reading for the Senate Judiciary Committee and for all the other senators as well. Mr. Turley, a law professor at George Washington University, makes the case that Michael Mukasey, President Bush's nominee to head the Justice Department, should not but probably will be confirmed as Attorney General. And he places the blame for this shameful state of affairs directly where it belongs: on Senate Democrats.

For Mr. Turley, and for many of us appalled and shamed by the use of torture by American authorities, the key moment in the confirmation hearings came when Mr. Mukasey was directly asked about the use of "water boarding."

The senators pushed Mukasey to go beyond the Bush administration mantra. He refused and then said something that made many of us who were listening gasp: "I don't know what is involved in the technique," he said.

There are only two explanations for this answer, either of which should compel the senators to vote against confirmation. The first is that Mukasey is the most ill-informed nominee in the history of this republic. Torture, and water-boarding in particular, is one of the top issues facing the Justice Department, the subject of numerous lawsuits and one of the most obvious, predictable topics at the hearing. It has been discussed literally thousands of times in the media during the last six years. To say he is unfamiliar with the technique is perhaps the single greatest claim of ignorance since Clarence Thomas testified at his confirmation that he really had not thought enough about abortion to have an opinion on the subject.

The second possibility is, unfortunately, the more likely explanation: Mukasey is lying.

What shocks Mr. Turley, and what should shock all of us, is that Mr. Mukasey's answer doesn't seem to bother the Democrats on the committee.

...Democratic leaders are still supporting the nominee as if torture is some marginal or ambiguous question. Even Democrats such as Chuck Schumer, who have been vocal in their criticism of the use of torture, have showered Mukasey with compliments for his "independence," as if an independent mind means that one no longer needs a moral backbone. It seems that with polls running against the GOP, Democrats hope to win the World Series without ever leaving the dugout: They want to denounce torture but won't expend the political capital it would take to fight a time-consuming and risky confirmation battle.

...This confirmation vote should be about torture. It is truly a defining issue, not just of the meaning of torture but of the very character of our country. It is the issue that distinguishes a nation fighting for the rule of law from a nation that is a threat to it. If members of the Senate consider torture to be immoral, they must vote against Mukasey.
[Emphasis added]

Sadly, if the past 10 months are any indication of Democratic leadership, Mr. Mukasey will be confirmed, and quickly.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good for the L.A. Times to reference Clarence Thomas' testimony! The fact is, that's when the GOP figured out how to game confirmation hearings -- just say you never thought about (controversial issue), or never heard of it, and you will get a free pass.

To my mind, that answer from Thomas should have disqualified him, just as Mukasey's answer should disqualify him. This isn't a jury pool where you get extra points for claiming to be utterly ignorant of everything that goes on in the world around you.

4:58 AM  

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