Better, But Good Enough?

A strange phenomenon that has been cultivated by this administration seems to be that the game of low expectations has made it to where a presidential appointee may seem qualified by merely not being either outright evil, or by being sound enough of mind to not drool on themselves.

When looking at this from a more sane point of view, the mere concept of this is outright ludicrous.  Enter Michael Mukasey.

After Alberto Gonzales’ tenure as head of the Justice Department, the above principle would appear to be in effect in spades.  The idea that we could have someone put in place as the Attorney General who can actually manage to “recall” something of significance when questioned would seem like a Godsend.

But under normal standards, Mukasey still fails to stand up.

For instance, despite the unprecedented and woefully successful power grabs by the president, Michael Mukasey still upholds that there are instances when the president is allowed to act outside the boundaries of the law.  While he may take a considerably less broad approach than his would be predacessor, it can not be ignored that he still allows the precedent to stand.

Even more worrisome is Mukasey’s stance on torture:

But what exactly does that mean? Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) asked Mukasey if he thought waterboarding was Constitutional. “If waterboarding is torture… torture is not Constitutional,” he replied.

Whitehouse wasn’t satisfied. “That is a massive hedge…. It either is or it isn’t.” Doesn’t Mukasey have an opinion on whether waterboarding is torture? He went on to describe the technique, which involves using a wet rag to make the detainee feel like he’s drowning. Mukasey replied with the same answer: “If it amounts to torture, then it is not Constitutional.”

The problem here, of course is that this is not even a slight departure from the same kind of legalistic tactics that the administration has employed from the very beginning: refusing to enter the torture debate on level ground, and instead playing word games in an attempt to condemn torture as a practice, though still technically (or not technically, depending on the view.  That’s the whole point of all of this, to obfuscate the legal language around torture to provide the administration with viable wiggle room on the subject) employ it.

There can be little doubt that Alberto Gonzales was an incompetent, and that Mukasey is arguably better.  However, given the history of this administration, it would almost be more favorable to have an incompetent in place than one who knows what he is doing.  At least in this way it would be more difficult for the administration to try and pull a fast one on the American public.

4 Responses to “Better, But Good Enough?”

  1. mick says:

    A year ago I would have said this was a function of Bork Fear: reject a bad nominee and they’ll just send you someone far worse. But now, I don’t know.

    For the Pubs, no Democrat can ever be good enough unless, like Holy Joe, he’s actually a Republican in drag. If the Second Coming they’ve been waiting for with baited breath really happened and it turned out Jesus was a Democrat, the Right would scream he was the antiChrist, never mind the halo and the angels surrounding him and the walking-on-water thing. Donkeys, the Pub obverse, seem to think any Republican will pass as long as he doesn’t actually piss on them while the cameras are rolling or fuck a dog in the Rotunda. Even then, they might still vote for him if he represents a large enough corporation, like, say, Baby Seal Clubbers, Inc. or Wal-mart.

    I knew I should have moved to Canada when Bush stole his second consecutive presidential election. But then I thought, “No. The pendulum will swing back and the Democrats will undo the worst of it.”

    Imagine my chagrin now. Is my face red!

  2. I will do the moving to Canada for this blog thank you…(forgetting of course that Matt is already here).

  3. I’m not going to say don’t worry about Mukasey- there was definitely some hedging going on there. But it’s equally plausible that he was hedging to avoid trouble with the President and the Republican mainstream as it is that he was hedging to give himself some wiggle room. If it were Gonzales or another one of Bush’s close cronies, I’d say only the latter is plausible. But Mukasey has a pretty good reputation for independence in legal circles (which, of course, is why Bush had to nominate someone like him for PR purposes). I suspect he’ll be much more similar to Ashcroft than Gonzales- just with less of a penchant for religious fundamentalism (which means, hopefully, no more hiring pipeline from the Christian Broadcast Network School of Law, er, Regents University Law School).

    I know you guys hated Ashcroft- and with plenty of justification- but now that we know a lot about his role behind the scenes, you have to give him credit for being a man of integrity who had a respect for the rule of law. So Mukasey will be a definite improvement over Gonzales no matter what.

  4. matttbastard says:

    Pshh, Canada just ain’t the communist paradise it used to be (even if Uncle Steve has been really letting his Stalin fetish show recently.)

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