Mukasey Next Attorney General
Michael Mukasey, a respected retired judge without close ties to the Bush Administration, will be nominated as the next Attorney General. Barring some dramatic revelation, he’s expected to sail to easy confirmation.
President Bush has decided to nominate Michael B. Mukasey, a former federal judge from New York who has presided over some high-profile terrorism trials, as his next attorney general and is expected to announce the selection Monday, according to several people familiar with the decision.
Should the Senate confirm him, Mr. Mukasey (pronounced mew-KAY-see) would become the third attorney general to serve under Mr. Bush. As the top law enforcement officer in the United States, he would preside over a Justice Department that has been buffeted by Congressional inquiries into the firing of federal prosecutors and the resignation of the previous attorney general, Alberto R. Gonzales.
Unlike Mr. Gonzales, Mr. Mukasey is not a close confidant of the president. Nor is he a Washington insider. But people in both political parties say he possesses the two qualities that Mr. Bush has been looking for in a nominee: a law-and-order sensibility that dovetails with the president’s agenda for the fight against terror, and the potential to avoid a bruising confirmation battle with the Democrats who now run the Senate. With 16 months left in office, Mr. Bush can ill afford a drawn-out confirmation fight.
One of those Democrats, Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York, who led the fight to oust Mr. Gonzales, issued a statement on Sunday evening praising Mr. Mukasey — a suggestion that Democrats, who are already challenging Mr. Bush over the war in Iraq, have little appetite for another big fight. “While he is certainly conservative,” Mr. Schumer said, “Judge Mukasey seems to be the kind of nominee who would put rule of law first and show independence from the White House, our most important criteria. For sure we’d want to ascertain his approach on such important and sensitive issues as wiretapping and the appointment of U.S. attorneys, but he’s a lot better than some of the other names mentioned and he has the potential to become a consensus nominee.”
Even six months ago, it would have been inconceivable for Bush to choose someone for such a sensitive position that would earn such praise from Schumer, let alone a man without demonstrated loyalty to him. Going with a safe choice indicates that the president is bowing to political reality.
Amusingly, my wife and I are watching “The West Wing” on DVD and last night we saw the 9th episode, “The Short List,” about President Bartlett’s decision on a Supreme Court nominee. An unpopular president with an opposition Congress faced with a choice between a moderate who would sail through easily and give him a much-needed boost in the polls and an ideological soulmate that would require a bruising battle picked the latter. But that’s a TV show; this is real life.