On the day that Senator Charles Schumer used his vote on the Senate Judiciary Committee to all but assure that George
W. Bush's latest pick, Michael B. Mukasey for attorney general, would be confirmed, The New York Times obliged him by
publishing - in a featured Op-Ed - his reasons for doing so. The Times did not see fit to publicize any other senator's
thoughts on the matter. That is fitting, because the only voice that mattered in the end was Chuck Schumer's.
In his Op-Ed, Schumer spelled out numerous reasons for his decision. He appears to argue that Mukasey can help to turn
around and repair a Department of Justice badly damaged by Bush's last two picks: John Ashcroft and Alberto Gonzales.
All this would be possible, in Schumer's view, due to Mukasey's independence from George W. Bush, and his
professionalism. Mukasey's testimony, of course, clearly indicated he was - as is always a prerequisite for Bush
appointees - first a guardian of Mr. Bush's interests, and perhaps after that a guardian of the nation's interests. Make
no mistake. Michael Mukasey will serve at the pleasure of the president.
When Mukasey says that he will enforce a law banning waterboarding, "if Congress passes one," he is saying several
things: a) That torture does not exist. Because if waterboarding is not torture, then nothing is. b) That torture is not
currently illegal under US law, or that each act of violence against a detainee has to be specifically deemed to be
illegal, whichever you prefer. c) That no one in Mr. Bush's entourage can be held responsible legally for authorizing
acts of torture, which is what international law, and the Geneva Conventions - to which the United States is a signatory
- require. d) That both he and Mr. Bush are supremely confident that Congress would never dare to pass legislation
confirming that torture is illegal under US law.
This is a darker day still. In addition to personally making the decision that Michael Mukasey would be confirmed,
Schumer now leads Congress by proxy to ratify torture as legal under US law, by virtue of its inaction. Game, set,
match: Bush, Mukasey and Schumer.
One reason that Republicans can get away with whatever they like is that, in the end, they always stick together. Some
call it lockstep, others call it goose step, but whatever you call it, they don't break ranks. Democrats do - regardless
of the consequences. In this case, Mr. Schumer played the role of the powerbroker fatale. It was Schumer who assured the
White House that, if nominated, Mukasey would be confirmed. So Schumer promised, and so he delivered.
Congress, the Democrats and the Nation be damned.
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