Bush stands be­hind Mukasey, crit­i­cizes im­pos­si­ble stan­dards

Calls Democrats be­holden to MoveOn.org

The Washington Times Weekly - - Front Page - By Jon Ward

Pres­i­dent Bush on Nov. 1 warned Democrats that if they do not con­firm his at­tor­ney gen­eral nom­i­nee, Michael B. Mukasey, the U.S. might have no at­tor­ney gen­eral for the re­main­der of his term.

The pres­i­dent painted the nom­i­na­tion as a key part of the war on ter­ror dur­ing two talks in a day dur­ing which two of the Demo­cratic Party’s most prom­i­nent sen­a­tors pub­licly an­nounced their op­po­si­tion to the Mukasey nom­i­na­tion based on his un­will­ing­ness to de­clare an in­ter­ro­ga­tion tech­nique called “wa­ter­board­ing” to be tor­ture and thus il­le­gal.

Mr. Bush, while re­fus­ing to dis­cuss or con­firm any tech­niques, said Mr. Mukasey has not been briefed on clas­si­fied gov­ern­ment in­ter­ro­ga­tion pro­grams and should not be ex­pected to give his le­gal opin­ion about such things.

“It’s wrong for con­gres­sional lead­ers to make Judge Mukasey’s con­fir­ma­tion de­pen­dent on his will­ing­ness to go on the record about the de­tails of a clas­si­fied pro­gram he has not been briefed on,” Mr. Bush said in an af­ter­noon speech at the Her­itage Foun­da­tion in Wash­ing­ton.

Mr. Bush al­ready had spo­ken to a small group of re­porters in the morn­ing and in both venues framed the need to con­firm Mr. Mukasey, who was a fed­eral judge in New York for 18 years and presided over a hand­ful of high-profile ter­ror­ism

cases, in the broader con­text of the war against ter­ror­ism.

“If the Se­nate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee were to block Judge Mukasey on th­ese grounds, they would set a new stan­dard for con­fir­ma­tion that could not be met by any re­spon­si­ble nom­i­nee for at­tor­ney gen­eral,” he said. “That would guar­an­tee that Amer­ica would have no at­tor­ney gen­eral dur­ing this time of war.”

Demo­cratic sen­a­tors orig­i­nally ap­peared ready to con­firm Mr. Mukasey, but his an­swers to wa­ter­board­ing ques­tions have caused sev­eral to say they will vote against him, the two latest be­ing Sens. Ed­ward M. Kennedy and John Kerry, both of Mas­sachusetts.

Mr. Kennedy said Mr. Mukasey’s an­swers in­di­cate that he “lacks ei- ther the judg­ment or the in­de­pen­dence that the De­part­ment of Jus­tice des­per­ately needs.”

“I, there­fore, in­tend to op­pose this nom­i­na­tion,” he said on the Se­nate floor.

Mr. Kennedy be­came the fourth of the 10 Democrats on the 19-mem­ber Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee to say he would vote against con­firm­ing Mr. Mukasey, join­ing Sens. Joseph R. Bi­den Jr. of Delaware, Shel­don Whitehouse of Rhode Is­land and Richard J. Durbin of Illi­nois.

The next Ju­di­ciary hear­ing on Mr. Mukasey is sched­uled for Nov. 6. The an­nounce­ment note from Chair­man Pa­trick J. Leahy, Ver­mont Demo­crat, said sen­a­tors should “be pre­pared to de­bate the nom­i­na­tion and vote.”

Mr. Kerry, who is not a Ju­di­ciary mem­ber, said he is “not com­fort­able con­firm­ing any­one who can­not see that this method of in­ter­ro­ga­tion is an­ti­thet­i­cal to Amer­i­can val­ues and tra­di­tions.”

Wa­ter­board­ing is a tech­nique that sim­u­lates drown­ing by plac­ing a cloth over a detainee’s face and pour­ing wa­ter down his throat and has been used on de­tainees at least three times, ac­cord­ing to re­ports.

Mr. Mukasey, in a four-page let­ter sent to sen­a­tors Oct. 30, said he finds wa­ter­board­ing “on a per­sonal ba­sis, re­pug­nant” but added that “the ac­tual facts and cir­cum­stances are crit­i­cal” to whether such an in­ter­ro­ga­tion prac­tice is or was il­le­gal.

He cited U.S. code in defin­ing tor­ture as any ac­tion “in­tended to cause se­vere phys­i­cal pain or suf­fer­ing, or pro­longed men­tal harm re­sult­ing from cer­tain spec­i­fied threats or acts.” An­other stan­dard es­tab­lished by the U.S. Supreme Court would be any ac­tiv­ity that “shocks the con­science,” Mr. Mukasey said.

Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Harry Reid, Ne­vada Demo­crat, told re­porters that if the Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee does not ap­prove the nom­i­na­tion, he could not guar­an­tee a floor vote.

Mr. Bush could ap­point an at­tor­ney gen­eral while Congress is in re­cess, which would not re­quire Se­nate con­fir­ma­tion for the 14 months left in his pres­i­dency or could even have no at­tor­ney gen­eral, with some­one over­see­ing the Jus­tice De­part­ment in an act­ing ca­pac­ity only.

White House spokes­woman Dana Perino said she didn’t “be­lieve it would come to that,” but she re­it­er­ated the pres­i­dent’s words that “no nom­i­nee could meet” the stan­dard that Democrats are ap­ply­ing to Mr. Mukasey.

In his af­ter­noon speech to about 250 peo­ple at Her­itage, Mr. Bush said that the ag­gres­sive ques­tion­ing tech­niques that he has au­tho­rized the CIA to use “are safe, they are law­ful, and they are nec­es­sary,” prompt­ing ap­plause from the crowd at the con­ser­va­tive think tank. He also blasted the Democrats as be­holden to an­ti­war, lib­eral in­ter­est groups and dis­loyal to the U.S. mili- tary and the safety of the Amer­i­can peo­ple.

“When it comes to fund­ing our troops, some in Wash­ing­ton should spend more time re­spond­ing to the warn­ings of ter­ror­ists like Osama bin Laden and the re­quests of our com­man­ders on the ground, and less time re­spond­ing to the de­mands of MoveOn.org blog­gers and Code Pink pro­test­ers,” Mr. Bush said.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who is of­ten cited as one of the most sym­pa­thetic to left-wing groups, did not di­rectly re­spond to the pres­i­dent’s charge but did say his re­marks were “be­neath the dig­nity of the of­fice that he holds.”

“And I don’t want to go there with him,” the Cal­i­for­nia Demo­crat said.

Code Pink founder Medea Ben­jamin shot back later in the day that her group rep­re­sents “the ma­jor­ity of Amer­i­cans” and that Mr. Bush has al­ways sur­rounded him­self in a “bub­ble of true be­liev­ers” to avoid re­al­ity.

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