The Mukasey nomination in jeopardy: Why appeasing Democrats gets you nowhere; Update: Bush defends Mukasey, Teddy Kennedy on the attack; Update: Democrat scalp-hunters salivate, Schumer “agitated”
Update 9:16pm Eastern. The Hill files a report tonight on the growing Democrat scalp-hunting party:
Opposition in the Senate to President Bush’s attorney general nominee continued to grow Thursday, and Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) signaled the Senate would not consider the nomination if it does not clear a crucial vote next week in the Judiciary Committee.
Sen. Edward Kennedy (Mass.), a senior Democrat on the committee, said he would oppose the choice of Michael Mukasey to succeed Alberto Gonzales. “This is a nomination I hoped to support,” Kennedy said on the floor Thursday.
Kennedy now joins three other Judiciary Committee Democrats — Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.), Dick Durbin (Ill.) and Joseph Biden (Del.) — who have announced their opposition to Mukasey. The nominee has seen his support evaporate after he declined to state whether he believes waterboarding constitutes torture, saying that he had not been briefed on U.S. interrogation techniques.
The Judiciary Committee meets next Tuesday to consider the nomination, which will need 10 votes to advance to the floor.
Kennedy’s opposition puts more pressure on Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) to decide whether to join the chorus of Democratic opposition or vote for Mukasey, whom he recommended and endorsed for the position. On Thursday, Schumer faced a barrage of questions about his intentions, but repeatedly refused to discuss how he will vote at the Nov. 6 Judiciary Committee meeting.
“When I make a decision, I will let you know,” an agitated Schumer said. “I’m not going to have a public discussion on it.”
Update 3:00pm Eastern. Here are Bush’s remarks on the Mukasey nomination in Q&A this morning before a speech at the Heritage Foundation…
I’ve submitted a highly competent, smart, independent nominee in Judge Mukasey to the Senate. I am disappointed that the process is taking so long to get his name to the floor.
I believe that the questions he’s been asked are unfair; he’s not been read into a program — he has been asked to give opinions of a program or techniques of a program on which he has not been briefed. I will make the case — and I strongly believe this is true — that Judge Mukasey is not being treated fairly. He’s made the rounds on Capitol Hill, he’s answered questions, he’s been to hearings. I do thank the Senate for setting up what I hope will be an opportunity to move him out of Judiciary Committee to the floor on Tuesday. It is time to get his nomination to the floor so the Senate can vote him up or down.
Q Judge Mukasey is experienced in terrorism trials, he’s been around. Why is it wrong for him — or why will you not let him say whether he thinks that waterboarding is illegal torture?
THE PRESIDENT: He has not been read in — first of all, let me put this in perspective. The Congress did pass a law, the Detainee Detention Act [sic]*, that I signed into law. The techniques we use informed that law and members of the Senate and House — select members of the Senate and House, both parties, have been briefed on the law.
Secondly, he doesn’t know whether we use that technique or not. And thirdly, it doesn’t make any sense to tell an enemy what we’re doing. One of the fundamental questions that the American people have got to know is that in order to protect America, if we capture somebody who may have data about whether or not he’s going to — he is ordering an attack or there’s an impending attack or there’s a threat, we need to know that. And the techniques we use by highly trained professionals are within the law. That’s what’s important for America to know.
Q Mr. President, is legal liability in U.S. or foreign courts a concern when it comes to this issue of waterboarding and –
THE PRESIDENT: The main concern is, is that the American people must know that whatever techniques we use are within the law. And secondly, it doesn’t make any sense — unless, of course, you don’t think there’s an enemy that’s dangerous — it doesn’t make any sense to broadcast to the enemy what they ought to prepare for and not prepare for.
Q Are these concerns legitimate that are being raised, or is it playing politics?
THE PRESIDENT: I think it’s — I think this is — I’m just extremely disappointed that a good man with a good reputation, who has met with a lot of senators, his nomination is being held up. You can listen to the voices that are out there talking as to whether or not this is politics or not. My point is, is that it’s creating a — to have the Attorney General seat vacant for this long — there’s an Acting Attorney General, of course, but not to have a confirmed Attorney General is not good for the country.
Update 1:41pm Eastern. Rich Lowry says everything is “fine.”
Update 1:00pm Eastern. President Bush tries to salvage the Mukasey nomination. Teddy Kennedy–shocked, shocked, aren’t you–will announce his opposition. McCain and Grahamnesty will support it:
President Bush, seeking to salvage the embattled nomination of Michael Mukasey as attorney general, on Thursday defended the former judge’s refusal to say whether he considers waterboarding as illegal torture. But the nomination was headed for another setback in the Senate.
Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., planned to announce his opposition to Mukasey in a speech on the Senate floor.
On the upside for the administration, Republican Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, announced they would support Bush’s nominee.
C-SPAN’s Mukasey resources page is here.
Andrew McCarthy on the waterboarding issue here.
Judge Michael Mukasey was supposed to be a “consensus” attorney general candidate. In September, he was touted as a “safe bet,” in part due to the supposedly warm feelings he engendered in rabid liberals Charles Schumer and Nan Aron.
Staunch conservative attorney and former solicitor general Ted Olson was reportedly passed up to avoid a long, bitter partisan fight. Paul Mirengoff rightly called it a “an act of preemptive surrender.”
So, what has offering a “consensus” candidate gotten the Republicans?
Nothing except, well, a long, bitter partisan fight. Just like I predicted.
The WaPo reports this morning:
Democratic support for attorney general nominee Michael B. Mukasey dwindled further yesterday over his refusal to comment on the legality of a harsh CIA interrogation technique, setting the stage for an unexpectedly close vote next week by the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin (Ill.) and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.) announced that they will join Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (Del.) in voting against Mukasey on the Judiciary panel, after the nominee said in a four-page letter to Senate Democrats that he does not know whether a type of simulated drowning called waterboarding constitutes illegal torture under U.S. law.
Other Democrats on the Judiciary panel have pointedly refused to disclose how they will vote during a special meeting to consider Mukasey’s nomination, which has been scheduled for Tuesday. Chairman Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) also declined to say whether he will allow the nomination go to the full Senate with a negative recommendation, which occurred with some past nominations.
White House officials said yesterday that they remain confident Mukasey will be confirmed, and Republicans again accused the Democrats of attempting to hold the nomination hostage to score political points. “No one is ready to declare it DOA,” White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said.
The nomination has become a particularly thorny problem for Mukasey’s original Senate patron, Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.). He had suggested Mukasey as a consensus nominee to the White House and declared two weeks ago that he should be confirmed, but he was noncommittal yesterday.
“I’m reading the letter, I’m going over it,” Schumer told reporters. “That’s all I’m going to say.”
I repeat: With the nutroots-ifed Democrats, there’s no such thing as a “consensus candidate” and “safe bet.”
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