Senator Chuck Schumer wrote a tortured OP/ED in today’s N.Y. Times explaining his vote to confirm Michael B. Mukasey for attorney general. The gist, Schumer explained was based “one critical reason: the Department of Justice — once the crown jewel among our government institutions — is a shambles and is in desperate need of a strong leader, committed to depoliticizing the agency’s operations.”
Lovely. Yes, Senator Schumer we all know full well that the Justice department “has been devastated under the Bush administration.” And many feel that confirming Mukasey will only mean a continuation of the devastation. But, Schumer wwas willing to take Mukasey on his word that he would enforce a law banning waterboarding if such a law is passed. Schumer says:
I deeply oppose this administration’s opaque policy on the use of torture — its refusal to reveal what forms of interrogation it considers acceptable. In particular, I believe that the cruel and inhumane technique of waterboarding is not only repugnant but also illegal under current laws and conventions. I also support Congress’s efforts to pass additional measures that would explicitly ban this and other forms of torture. I voted for Senator Ted Kennedy’s anti-torture amendment in 2006 and am a co-sponsor of his similar bill in this Congress.
Judge Mukasey’s refusal to state that waterboarding is illegal was unsatisfactory to me and many other members of the Senate Judiciary Committee. But Congress is now considering — and I hope we will soon pass — a law that would explicitly ban the use of waterboarding and other abusive interrogation techniques. And I am confident that Judge Mukasey would enforce that law.
On Friday, he personally made clear to me that if the law were in place, the president would have no legal authority to ignore it — not even under some theory of inherent authority granted by Article II of the Constitution, as Vice President Cheney might argue. Nor would the president be able to evade a clear pronouncement on the subject from the courts. Judge Mukasey also pledged to enforce such a law.
From a Bush nominee, this is no small commitment.
And so, now the damage has been done, Mukasey has been confirmed by the Senate Panel and the full Senate will take up the vote:
The vote was 11 to 8, with two Democrats, Senators Charles E. Schumer of New York and Dianne Feinstein of California, joining all nine Republicans on the panel in backing the nominee. Eight Democrats voted against Mr. Mukasey.
We hope that Congress will pass a law banning waterboarding and other forms of torture, but it’s hard to feel confidence that the Bush administration will uphold the law. A new poll shows that a “majority of Americans consider waterboarding a form of torture.” In fact “more than two-thirds of respondents, or 69 percent, said yes” waterboarding is torture. Indeed it is and it was once a crime in this country.