In his press conference this afternoon, President Bush attacked Congress for not moving faster on the nomination of Judge Michael Mukasey for Attorney General. In a baffling statement, President Bush reportedly said that it was improper for Congress to ask the nominee how he feels about interrogation methods on which the nominee has not been fully briefed. And yes, we’re talking about torture here–that is the use of violence and/or intimidation to extract information from a prisoner. Apparently, the president expects the Senate to vote on a nominee without any knowledge about what that nominee thinks about the most pressing legal issue he will have to deal with as Attorney General. Someone needs to look up the phrase “advise and consent”.
Look, once and for all, let’s just make this clear. The President of the United States thinks that it is OK to torture people. He can dance around it all he wants, but at the end of the day, that’s what he has said and demonstrated on multiple occasions. It’s a cowardly, stupid, and morally abhorrent position to take, but hey, we knew about it when we reelected the guy in 2004, so the fault is ours. (To paraphrase something my brother said, “I’m not a big fan of Kerry, but I think I’ll vote for the guy who thinks that torture is a bad idea.”)
That being said, President Bush will NEVER nominate an Attorney General who disagrees with him on that issue. Therefore, Congress has three options:
1) They can confirm Mukasey, who besides this issue seems to be a reasonably competent guy. (Although there is an NY Times Op-Ed from today that disagrees with that assessment.)
2) They can not confirm Mukasey, and confirm the next pro-torture sycophant that Bush nominates.
3) They can refuse to confirm another Attorney General until Bush leaves office–which won’t actually stop the Bush Administration from torturing folks, of course.
Personally, I think Option #2 is probably the best move politically, and does at least send some message to the president and the American people that we think the issue is important. Option #3 sends the strongest message, but it doesn’t really change policy and I am afraid that it would leave the Democrats a little vulnerable on the issue in the 2008 elections. And Option #1 is reasonable, if and only if we think that the next guy Bush nominates will do a significantly worse job at all the other things that the Attorney General does.
None of them are good options, but again, that’s our fault. We’re getting exactly what we paid for.