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.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Bithead says:

    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.

    I think you may be judging this on only part of the evidence. I, too, made such comments this evening. However, a new side of Chuckles the Clown Schumer has come forth Ed Morrissey is saying:

    Chuck Schumer has begun his rapid retreat from his statements of support for Michael Mukasey. The New York Sun reports that Schumer, who had openly championed Mukasey as a “consensus candidate” to replace Alberto Gonzales as Attorney General, suddenly appears unsure of Mukasey after the White House reportedly settled on the retired New York judge for the nomination…

    Says Ed:

    “Bush has managed to strip Schumer of his last pretenses of fairness and honesty, and the Alliance for Justice may be next. Uncle Chuck couldn’t give a fig for “consensus”. He used Mukasey as a club to beat Bush two years ago, and Nan Aron of AJ jumped on the bandwagon. Schumer just had his bluff called, and one can expect that the confirmation hearings will feature several Republican committee members read into the record over and over again Schumer’s endorsement of Mukasey for the lifetime appointment.”

    Pass the popcorn.

  2. Grewgills says:

    And all the fuss is because Schumer said,

    For sure we’d want to ascertain his approach on such important and sensitive issues as wiretapping and the appointment of US attorneys, but he’s a lot better than some of the other names mentioned and he has the potential to become a consensus nominee,

    I can see why you left this part out.
    Schumer preferred him to Roperts or Alito on the supreme court yet has not guaranteed to shepherd him through the AG hearings without any tough questions. Yep all pretense of fairness and honesty have been shattered by this shocking quote from Schumer.