President Bush is expected to nominate former federal judge Michael Mukasey for attorney general, say lawyers close to the White House — a move that could avoid a fight with Congress but spark friction with disaffected conservatives.
An announcement could come as soon as today, officials said.
For President Bush, Mr. Mukasey, 66 years old, would be a nominee who stands firm on the administration's legal assertions on national security and broad presidential power.
But why the possibility of friction with disaffected conservatives?
US News & World Report's Political Bulletin says:
Mukasey "partially ruled against the administration in the case of Jose Padilla, who was recently convicted on terrorism charges. The ruling overturned the administration's attempt to block Mr. Padilla's right to meet with his lawyers. The case suggests the judge has an independent streak that might make him more acceptable to Democrats." In "some conservative circles," meanwhile, "there is wariness of Mr. Mukasey," and "some compared" his "potential ascendancy with the nomination of Bush confidante Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court."
Some Republican lawyers have privately bristled that lawmakers like Charles E. Schumer, the Democratic senator from New York who led the effort to oust Mr. Gonzales, has publicly suggested that Mr. Mukasey would be a credible candidate. Mr. Schumer said in March that Mr. Mukasey, among others, were “conservative Republicans, but they put the rule of law first.”
In 2003, Mr. Schumer submitted Mr. Mukasey’s name along with several others as a possible nominee to the Supreme Court.
It would appear that Bush is trying to avoid a contentious and extended confirmation hearing with such a nomination. It became apparent that the Dems were spoiling for a fight when the name of Ted Olsen was floated out there and Democratic Majority leader Harry Reid announced that if nominated he'd ensure the nomination was blocked.
Mukasey seems a compromise candidate nominated to avoid that sort of a reaction from Dems. As if to make that point, Schumer said last night:
In a statement Sunday night, Schumer said 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 has the potential to become a consensus nominee."
Mukasey's background is mostly that of a judge. His possible nomination is being greeted "cooly", per NYT, by the Justice Department because of his lack of managerial experience (and, of course, that did Gonzales a lot of good, didn't it?).
Mr. Mukasey, 66, spent 19 years as a federal judge in New York, including serving as chief judge, after being appointed by President Reagan in 1987. Before that, he was a prosecutor in Manhattan when Rudolph W. Giuliani was the United States attorney.
Mr. Mukasey would bring a familiarity with legal issues surrounding terrorism. In 1993, he presided over the prosecution of Omar Abdel Rahman, the so-called Blind Sheik, whom he sentenced to life in prison for his role in a plot to blow up New York landmarks and tunnels. In 2003, as chief judge, he ruled that Jose Padilla was an enemy combatant but entitled to access to his lawyers.
Still the Schumer support has conservatives a bit skeptical:
Schumer's endorsement of Mukasey raised questions with Mark Levin, president of the conservative Landmark Legal Foundation. Levin said he is "curious" as to why the liberal Schumer would support Mukasey, though he is still learning about the judge.
"I sense a few rumblings here and there" among other conservatives, Levin said. "But my sense is there are enough conservatives at this point who are supportive."
And it may turn out, even with Schumer supporting him, that conservatives may end up supporting the nomination as well:
Prominent conservatives with ties to the White House praised Mukasey over the weekend. "Judge Mukasey is a very solid, conservative, law-and-order guy," Jay Lefkowitz, former White House domestic policy adviser and now an attorney in New York, said in an interview Sunday. "He has impeccable credentials."
Lefkowitz said Mukasey is both confirmable and highly qualified, calling the combination a "happy coincidence."
Yeah, we'll see. Depending on the politics and pressure brought to bear by the usual pressure groups, Schumer's support may prove to be illusory. It wouldn't be the first time he turned on a dime after sniffing the political winds. In fact, Ed Morrisey is sure that last night's statement by Schumer is actually the beginning of Schumer backtracking on his support for Mukasey. I'd have to say it wouldn't come as much of a surprise if true.
Andy McCarthy likes Mukasey. McCarthy is about as strong on dealing with terrorists as they come. In fact, on that basis he would make a good AG himself, in my opinion.
I would say that an AG who has a good strong position on terrorism is about the most important thing right now, with the U.S. entering a political season that will probably be as vicious and evil as those from the lead-up to the Civil War. Although I think that I resort to understatement there.
In other words, we’ll need an AG who focuses on the external threat and leave the more serious internal threat posed by the Left to the political process, which, unfortunately, is likely to fail.