I was for confirming Judge Michael Mukasey as Attorney General before his stumbles and somersaults over defining what is and is not torture. The fact is that there are people in the administration — some still serving and some recently departed — who can answer the question on water-boarding far more directly than Mukasey did. That alone should be enough for Senator Chuck Schumer to say no to the person he helped recommend to serve as this nation’s Attorney General.
On paper, Mukasey was a good choice. But in his performance, he decided to lick and polish the boots of Bush administration torture-meister, Cheney chief-of-staff David Addington. When that happened, Mukasey went to the dark side and abandoned the excellent efforts put forward by other Bush administration anti-torture advocates like Legal Adviser to the Secretary of State John Bellinger, former State Departement Policy Planning Deputy Director Matthew Waxman, Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England, and former Counselor to Secretary of State Rice Philip Zelikow.
During the “third” major effort by the administration to get John Bolton confirmed as US Ambassador to the United Nations, one of the shocking parts of that battle was not only trying to get Republicans like former Senator Lincoln Chafee to stand strong against Bolton — but to undo the damage that Schumer was doing inside the Democratic Caucus.
Two Democratic Senators involved in that part of the Bolton battle — one on the Foreign Relations Committee and one not — told me personally that Senator Schumer called them to say “a vote against Bolton is a vote against Israel.”
Well, who does Schumer work for? The United States or Israel? And how ridiculous is that statement anyway?! Democrats and Republicans both have been excellent stewards of the US-Israel relationship in the United Nations. To personalize the national security issues between America and the Israelis was a sloppy, reckless mistake by Schumer — one that he and everyone now involved in this Mukasey matter should remember.
One heavyweight Democratic donor who tried to encourage Schumer to do whatever he needed to do on Bolton but stop lobbying the caucus was so frustrated with Schumer’s hyperventilating support for Bolton and enthusiastic conflation of the unconfirmed Ambassador and Israel that the donor told me, “that call just saved me a lot of money” — meaning he wouldn’t deal much with Schumer or his designs any longer.
Fortunately, Senator and Democratic presidential candidate Christopher Dodd undid the damage done by Schumer in a Democratic Caucus Luncheon and Dodd got the Dems to stand strong on Bolton despite Schumer’s lobbying against Democratic Party and American national interests.
That allowed Senator Lincoln Chafee — and behind the scenes Senator Richard Lugar — to deploy the final coup de grace to the Bolton confirmation effort.
Schumer has a chance to prove people like me wrong — that he’s not soft on pugnacious nationalism of the Jesse Helms and John Bolton sort — and he’s not soft on torture ala David Addington style.
Past experience says he’ll support Mukasey and consider this his “profiles in courage moment” where he weighed the country’s interests, his party’s interests, and screwed both because of his own idiosyncratic involvement with this nominee.
But I hope I’m wrong.
— Steve Clemons