Update: Well, whaddya know: Schumer and Feinstein to vote for Mukasey.
Sens. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) announced this afternoon that they will vote in favor of confirming Michael B. Mukasey as attorney general, effectively ending a growing revolt by fellow Democrats that had threatened Mukasey’s confirmation.
By announcing their support, the two Democrats virtually guarantee that Mukasey, with support from the nine Republicans, will be narrowly approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., right, talks with Attorney General-designate Michael Mukasey on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Oct. 18, 2007, following Mukasey’s second day of testifying before the committee’s hearing on his nomination. Mukasey’s nomination for attorney general runs into new trouble with Senate Democrats after President Bush accuses them of being unfair in questioning the former judge about waterboarding, the interrogation technique that simulates drowning.
Five Democrats on the panel have said they would oppose Mukasey because of the nominee’s refusal to say whether an interrogation technique known as waterboarding amounts to torture. Three others are undecided.
Placing bets on how long it will be before Schumer runs away from his decision, claiming he was “hoodwinked.” Remember?
The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee said Friday he won’t support Attorney General nominee Michael Mukasey, further undercutting his chances for a quick confirmation, because Mukasey hasn’t taken a firm enough stand against torture.
“No American should need a classified briefing to determine whether waterboarding is torture,” said U.S. Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt. He planned an afternoon news conference to make the announcement in Burlington.
Sliding support among Democrats on the panel, which will vote on the nomination Tuesday, makes it somewhat less likely the full Senate will send Mukasey to a Justice Department that has been leaderless for weeks.
Leahy became the firth of the panel’s 10 Democrats so far to say they will not support him.
Once viewed as a sure thing, Mukasey’s nomination was threatened during hearings last month in which he repeatedly refused to say whether he considers the simulated drowning interrogation technique known as waterboarding to be a form of torture.
Safe bet, huh? Nothing to worry about, right?
President Bush today again urged the Senate to approve Mukasey. I’m afraid that appealing to the Democrats’ sense of fairness and urgency over national security is going to fall on deaf ears:
“He’s a good man, he’s a fair man, he’s an independent man, and he’s plenty qualified to be the attorney general,” Mr. Bush said at the airport here. “And I strongly urge the United States Senate to confirm this man, so that I can have an attorney general to work with to protect the United States of America from further attack.”
Here is Leahy’s statement released this afternoon at a press conference in Burlington, VT. The phony waterboarding pretext has proved quite useful to partisan Dems who were searching for any excuse to obstruct this nomination. Leahy gets extra bonus nutroots points for the Abu Ghraib reference:
Nothing is more fundamental to our constitutional democracy than our basic tenet that no one is above the law.
This Administration has undercut that precept time and time again. We have seen this Administration promote immunity over accountability, secrecy over responsiveness to congressional oversight, and unilateral power over the checks and balances that have defined this Nation and protected Americans’ rights and freedom for more than two centuries.
This Administration’s corrosive view that the President is above the law and may override the law as he chooses is about as extreme a view of executive power as I have witnessed. That not only is dead wrong in constitutional terms, but it is extremely dangerous to our republic. The cost to American liberty, to our standing in the world and to the security of our soldiers and citizens is staggering — even more than the trillion dollar cost of the war in Iraq. The Administration has compounded its lawlessness by cloaking its policies and miscalculations under a veil of secrecy, leaving Congress, the courts and the American people in the dark about what they are doing.
It is the duty of the Attorney General to uphold the Constitution and the rule of law — not to try to bend the law to a President’s agenda. When the infamous Bybee Memo came to light, even this Administration had to formally withdraw it. Yet I am concerned that the defining down of torture, of the rule of law and of American values continues in this Administration.
The United States and its Attorney General must stand for the rule of law – and stand in the breach, if need be. There is no question in my mind that waterboarding is torture and is illegal under our laws and treaty obligations.
This issue is not new. It was an important factor in my vote against the previous nomination of Alberto Gonzales. At that time I noted that when we came into Iraqi prisons and found torture, America’s standing to object was sorely compromised. This week we hear reports of the militia of Muqtada al-Sadr showcasing torture victims. The searing photographs from Abu Ghraib have made it harder to create and maintain the alliances we need to prevail against those who threaten us. Those abuses serve as recruiting posters for the terrorists. When the United States cannot declare clearly that waterboarding is torture, that it is illegal, and that it will not be tolerated, what does that mean to other governments, and what comfort does that provide the world’s most repressive regimes?
To be true to America’s purpose and values, we need a government that leads the way in upholding human rights — not one secretly developing legalistic rationalizations for circumventing them.
…The America I grew up in has been a beacon to the world, standing for human rights and calling out the tyrants and despots who abuse them. Like Americans across the land, when we were growing up, Vermonters knew instinctively that it is hard to defend the moral high ground by taking the low road.
I am eager to restore strong leadership and independence to the Department of Justice. I like Michael Mukasey. I wish that I could support his nomination. But I cannot. America needs to be certain and confident of the bedrock principle – deeply embedded in our laws and our values – that no one, not even the President, is above the law.
Accordingly, when the Judiciary Committee considers this nomination on Tuesday, I must vote no on this nomination.
Yesterday, Charles Schumer, whose initially encouraging words about Mukasey persuaded the White House to go the appeasement route, was “agitated” by the turn of events. Now, he “wrestling” with whether to vote for him.
“Wrestling?” Try “squirming.” “Sweating.” Or, come on, let’s be honest and pardon my language: Crapping. In. His. Pants:
As Democratic opposition builds over attorney general nominee Michael B. Mukasey, no Democratic lawmaker has found himself in a tighter spot than Sen. Charles E. Schumer (N.Y.), who had eagerly recommended the former federal judge as a consensus candidate.
After Mukasey refused to say whether an interrogation technique called waterboarding amounts to illegal torture, Schumer has watched a growing number of his colleagues announce their opposition to the judge.
Schumer, who has remained uncharacteristically quiet throughout the furor, said in an interview yesterday that he is now “wrestling” with whether to vote against a nomination that he was instrumental in bringing about.