November 6, 2007

Democrats Hand Their Victory To Bush

The Senate Judiciary Panel reported Michael Mukasey's nomination to the full Senate today, recommending confirmation by an 11-8 vote. Chuck Schumer and Dianne Feinstein voted to support Mukasey, as announced earlier, all but guaranteeing his confirmation on the floor of the Senate later this month. The opposition of the other Democrats transformed what had been a victory for them into another triumph for the White House:

Amid protests outside the Justice Department and opposition by key Democrats, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted 11-8 Tuesday to send the nomination of Michael Mukasey as attorney general to the full chamber for a confirmation vote.

Democrats Dianne Feinstein and Chuck Schumer, two key committee Democrats who said last week they would vote for confirmation, gave him the majority vote needed to advance his nomination. Every panel Republican voted for Mukasey and every other Democrat opposed the nomination.

Feinstein, D-Calif., argued that a leaderless Justice Department is "not in the best interest of the American people or of the department itself. That's worthy of consideration."

Saying she believes torture is illegal, Feinstein said Mukasey should not be denied confirmation "for failing to provide an absolute answer on this one subject."

Schumer, D-N.Y., who suggested Mukasey to the White House in the first place, countered that the nominee's statements against waterboarding and for purging politics from the Justice Department amount to the best deal Democrats could get from the Bush administration.

And here's where the Democrats almost literally snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. They had pressured the White House to dump Alberto Gonzales, who gave the administration plenty of reasons to succumb. Instead of appointing Ted Olson, the apparent first choice of the White House, Schumer pushed for Mukasey as a "consensus candidate" -- and won.

If the Democrats had left it at that, they could have claimed a significant victory over the White House. Instead, they engaged in a fruitless colloquy over whether waterboarding was illegal -- when Congress has the power to make it explicitly illegal at any time. Not only did that irony escape them, but towards the end of the debate, the White House announced that only three detainees had ever been waterboarded, and the practice was forbidden after 2003 in any case.

Leading Democrats demanded the withdrawal of Mukasey anyway. All of the Democratic presidential candidates insisted on it. The Bush administration made clear that the AG post would get filled in the recess if Mukasey didn't win confirmation, and likely by someone a lot less palatable than Mukasey. Schumer, who pushed Mukasey in the first place, had to find a wingman in Feinstein to get the Democrats out of the large hole in which he'd placed them.

Instead of looking like they control the appointment process, this exercise just confirms for the Democratic Party base that their Congress has assumed a mostly-supine position vis-a-vis George Bush. What an absurd piece of political theater. As Casey Stengel once said of the Mets, can't anyone in the Senate Democratic caucus play this game?


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» Some Praise For….Chuck Schumer? from Blue Crab Boulevard
Michael Goodwin praises Chuck Schumer today for daring to buck the far left wing of his party. In voting for Michael Mukasey, Schumer is now enduring the adoration of the nutroots. Which is lot like being savaged by badgers - only more r... [Read More]