October 31, 2007, Torture schmorture
Not sure what to make of this WaPo account of Democrats' bizarre and sudden emergence of a backbone with respect to an otherwise pretty good nominee, Michael Mukasey, the President's choice for the next attorney general. When he was on the bench here in New York, Mukasey was regarded as a very good judge, who by and large, kept his politics to himself; even in Padilla, he figured out a way to repudiate the Bush Administration's position finding that Jose Padilla had a right to counsel and a right to some kind of hearing, even if he didn't quite find that the Constitution said, you know, what it says (the Second Circuit Court of Appeals corrected him on this, and the Supreme Court held that venue statutes are always the most important Constitutional consideration when embarrassment of the Bush Administration might result otherwise).
The latest flap concerns whether or not Judge Mukasey believes that waterboarding (a practice we inherited from the Spanish Inquisition-- so you know it's good) is "torture" under American law; Mukasey is equivocal in his response, calling it personally repugnant, but not necessarily illegal-- the kind of answer he has to give if he doesn't want the President to withdraw his nomination!
Here's what I don't get: why the backbone now over an otherwise pretty good nominee (and a great one by Bush standards!) for a caretaker position that evaporates in 447 days? Where was this newfound backbone for John Fucking Roberts, or for Sam Fucking Alito, who, unlike Mukasey, will serve in an infinitely more important law interpreting role, and serve in it for the rest of their lives, which might well be decades and decades? Or for that matter, then, why is impeachment still off the table? Again-- it was nice to see the Dems get together to block nominees like John Bolton (or more accurately, try to block them). But... who cares? For God's sake, Gonzales signed the torture memos themselves, and they confirmed him without much of a fight!
Where is the substance? I appreciate the vehemence of opposition to the President's position on S-Chip, but the Constitution permits the President to veto a funding bill-- even a popular one. The Constitution does not
permit the President to thumb his nose at laws he doesn't like, such as our statutory and treaty bans on torture, or bans on warrantless eavesdropping of Americans, or disappearing people without charge or trial, or otherwise unilaterally imposing a "suspend the Constitution clause when I feel like it" provision that isn't in the Constitution, and ignoring the Bill of Rights, the habeas corpus suspension clause, the treason clause and any other inconvenient provision...
Imagine if either candidate Gore or candidate Bush had suggested that in the event of a national crisis (9-11 hadn't happened yet, but "some crisis" could clearly be suggested), that their solution would be to sign executive orders permitting American personnel to engage in torture... the press would have excoriated either as insane-- even the Republican (I know, I don't really believe they would ever really excoriate a Republican on anything, no matter how insane, but you get the idea).
And yet, here we are. 9-11 changed everything, it seems. Including our national tolerance for insanity. The rot starts at the top: if Democrats are unable or unwilling to take on Bush and Cheney directly-- starting with impeachment with the express intention of prosecuting them for grave breaches of Geneva Conventions-- as high crimes as it gets-- then they should lay the f*** off of minor mandarins like "Attorney General", and just get out of Judge Mukasey's way.