The Washington Post analyzes the career of Attorney General nominee Michael Mukasey and delivers a positive review, calling Mukasey "conservative, but not doctrinaire, and fair". The Post's conclusions have largely been accepted across the political spectrum. Could this indicate a relatively free ride for Mukasey?
Many lawyers who have practiced before Mukasey, 66, describe him as conservative but not doctrinaire, and fair. The long judicial record created by Mukasey's 18 years as judge on the U. S. District Court for the Southern District of New York included thousands of cases that ranged from high-profile terrorism trials to lengthy insurance battles over liability in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the twin towers, and a case in which a jury awarded $100 to a woman who said boxer Mike Tyson grabbed her buttocks.
His generally conservative demeanor on the bench and his self-confidence seem particularly pronounced in his handling of the complex trial of Omar Abdel Rahman, the "blind sheik," after the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. After a long Rahman complaint at sentencing, he said: "You should be assured that there is no shortage of will in this country to deal with the threat of violence from any source. If you look at the record of even the relatively recent past -- the last 50 years of this country -- you will find that this country has faced militant fascism, and prevailed; it faced militant communism, and prevailed." ...
Scott Horton, a former partner at Mukasey's law firm of Patterson Belknap Webb & Taylor who specializes in human rights law, wrote on his blog at Harper's Web site that "civil libertarians will find no shortage of things to dislike about Michael Mukasey." Nonetheless, Horton enthusiastically endorsed Mukasey's nomination, calling him "not just a prominent judge, he is a judicious personality."
Despite Mukasey's conservatism, liberal advocacy and civil rights groups have signaled tentative support for the confirmation of the now-retired judge. "It's premature to endorse his confirmation," said Wade Henderson, president of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights. "Early reports have been encouraging."
It seems as though everyone, from the White House to advocacy groups, have tired of partisan sniping over non-judiciary appointments. The resignation of Alberto Gonzales may have given everyone a chance to take a breath. The short tenure of his replacement will also factor into the small amount of resistance that will arise with Mukasey.
Of course, Democrats would have two problems in fighting Mukasey. First, they practically pre-endorsed him by offering him as an alternative to John Roberts and Samuel Alito for the Supreme Court in 2005. It would be difficult to argue that he deserved a lifetime appointment to the highest court, but somehow can't be trusted to lead the Department of Justice for 16 months. Second, the Democrats have used the mess at the DoJ as a club with which to beat the Bush administration. If they want the department to get back to business, they need a new AG as quickly as possible, and that doesn't leave much room for power plays.
The Senate Democrats made a demand that the Bush administration release more paperwork regarding the firing of eight US Attorneys this week as a prerequisite for confirmation. However, they haven't mentioned it since, and it almost seems like a reflex action, one designed to make a token effort to their base. No one seems to have the stomach for a confirmation battle at this point, probably because both sides have kept their powder dry for the Iraq war debate.
If Mukasey continues to get positive reviews in the media, this process will go quietly and quickly. Let's hope that it signals at least a truce in these bruising confirmation fights.