Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
October 25, 2007

Wrong Question to Mukasey

Ten Senate Democrats sent a letter to Michael Mukasey, Bush’s nominee for attorney general.

They ask him to 'clarify' his position on water-boarding. Mukasey said he doesn't know if making someone believe s/he will immediately die amounts to torture.

The Democrats letter is totally besides the real point. What Mukasey thinks about water-boarding is irrelevant. Only relevant is his opinion on presidential powers. As WaPo reported:

Mukasey suggested that the president can ignore a law, including the surveillance act, if it unduly impinges on his constitutional authority as commander in chief during wartime.

If the president has the priviledge to decide the issue of lawfullness himself, and Mukasey obviously believes so, he as attorney general has no basis to hinder the president to act outside of the law.

Even if Mukasey would believe that water-boarding is forbidden by law, the 'right' of the president to disregard that law would supersede Mukasey's personal legal opinion on torture.

So why are various 'liberal' op-eds and editorials pressing the water-boarding point? Why are the Democrats writing letters with questions about water-boarding and not about presidential powers?

It's a diversion. They want to get this small false 'victory' before bending over and confirming Mukasey as AG.

A real fight would be about the alleged power of a president to fudge the law of the land whenever he likes to. Everything else is kabuki and a sorry excuse for lacking spine.

Posted by b on October 25, 2007 at 11:52 AM | Permalink


Threads of torture lead to false confessions. But some courts don't want you to know this: Second Court Ruling Redacts Information About Interrogation

The FBI interviewer allegedly gave Abdallah Higazy a choice: Admit to having a special pilot's radio in a hotel room near the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, or the security service in his native Egypt would give his family "hell." Higazy responded by confessing to a crime he didn't commit.

Posted by: b | Oct 25, 2007 12:14:25 PM | 1

Thank you for cutting to the point.

And thank you. also, for getting off it again. It will not sustain us at all to win clarity on any one point. Torture and tyrants, torturing tyrants, is there even room for a breath of air to slip through between those words.

It was, I gather, with the end of the dream that they lived in the demotic air of a Soviet revolution that people withdrew their energy from that government. It is now with the dying of the faith that we still breath the air of Washington and Jefferson that this doppleganger will rot away into compost as well.

Posted by: 'citizen' | Oct 25, 2007 1:16:31 PM | 2

Bernhard is correct again. Kabuki faces suggest traces of whitewash, diversion and skullduggery.

Posted by: plushtown | Oct 25, 2007 1:24:18 PM | 3

It's no accident that the 10 Democrats are asking the wrong question. This is only an attempt to give themselves a fig leaf on the real issue. They want to look like they're asking tough questions without actually asking any.

They are with Mukasy on the issue of presidential power. This makes them a danger to the Republic and they should be voted out of office.

Posted by: zak822 | Oct 25, 2007 1:59:44 PM | 4

Yep, once again they miss the real point. By design I fear. It's all a part of the diversion process, by which our elected officals refuse to attack the real process that allows the puppeteers in our society to do their work, and at the same time ,allow the puppets to claim they're really working for we the people. Nice game.

Posted by: Ben | Oct 25, 2007 2:30:53 PM | 5

Repub Senator Spector asks the right question.

Specter writes: “If you believe the President can act outside the law, how do you square that belief with your statement at the hearing that ‘The President doesn't stand above the law[?]’ How do you deal with the public concern that the rule of law is supreme and the President at times appears to put himself above the law?”
It will not matter though because Spector ALWAYS votes in/on Bush/Repub direction after making some fuss about things like this.

But at least, unlike the Dems, he doesn't obfuscate the real issue.

Posted by: b | Oct 25, 2007 3:01:44 PM | 6

Benito Giuliani on Torture

Ms. Gustitus said: “He said he didn’t know if waterboarding is torture.”

Mr. Giuliani said: “Well, I’m not sure it is either. I’m not sure it is either. It depends on how it’s done. It depends on the circumstances. It depends on who does it.

Shorter Benito:
- If I dribble in my pants that's fine (pees himself a tiny bit) ...
- If my sex partners piss in my mouth, that's okay too (hee, hee) ...
- If I'd do it, that's okay anytime, anywhere ...

Posted by: b | Oct 25, 2007 3:06:16 PM | 7

The whole torture hoopla is:

-- to provide a shifting smokescreen, a murky moral mirage for pundits that veils, say, the killing of maybe a million Iraqis; Afghanis...Yugoslavs...all the others...Cheney and them know that in itself it is of no importance

-- to stop ppl considering the rule of law as important; the Geneva conventions, all that outdated crap, we are Americans, only our determination and clout counts.

A sink pit morality fools many, distracts attention, polarizes. Khalid Sheik Mohammed was a main plotter in 9/11, it is said, the ultimate evil, ugly chest hair and green claws! so He Deserved Torture! To get information! Never mind the rest of the story or what really happened...

Posted by: Tangerine | Oct 25, 2007 4:06:25 PM | 8

but torture works, my MP says so. He's from Harvard.

Posted by: | Oct 25, 2007 6:26:58 PM | 9

You continue to hold these politicians to some moral standard or expectation. In order to get elected to their exalted positions they have spent their entire lives stealing, cheating, lying, forging, fucking, hiding and dealing.

Backbone, spine, conscious, humanity; these are are drags on the job - as they are to realitors and used car salesmen.

No democrat or republican is going to gallantly save the day. We have to start dealing with the notion that republican democracy is as failed a notion as was communism or feudalism. It has some sinister problems as an idealogy, as we're learning.

So where do we go from here?

Posted by: Allen/Vancouver | Oct 26, 2007 1:00:08 AM | 10

What someone thinks about torture is NEVER irrelevant. If they hedge or equivocate even the slightest, they must be tossed. A test of character & politics for starters. Sadists & fascists should be left to clean latrines or pick cotton. That simply isn't the only issue. He/It also supports what the fascists call court-stripping. That is removing political dissent, currently hiding under the meaningless term "terraism", from the jurisdiction of Am. Court system & creating a parallel system... It starts w/Padilla & moves on to anyone who doesn't kiss their asses fast enough...

Posted by: jj | Oct 26, 2007 2:32:31 AM | 11

Torture is the abuse of someone you have under your total control. Reasons for the abuse or level of abuse are totally irrevelent.

As the immediate function of "water boarding" is to make the victim feel they are going to die, this is abuse and therefore torture.

Posted by: Chuck Cliff | Oct 26, 2007 2:54:37 AM | 12

of course you are right bernhard. what difference his opinion on torture, if he believes the president can do what he wants wrt it, and anything else..

the AG is supposed to be OUR lawyer. who prosecutes ANYONE who offends us. not anyone except the prez.

Posted by: annie | Oct 26, 2007 3:33:16 AM | 13

the AG is supposed to be OUR lawyer. who prosecutes ANYONE who offends us. not anyone except the prez.

Well said annie.

b#6, A. Spector is the worst - it is all for show. You are right, he votes with the Republicans - Party fist, Americans last.

Posted by: Rick | Oct 26, 2007 4:59:52 AM | 14

Subconscious slip there above, that “fist” should be “first” – but fist works even better there I guess.

Posted by: Rick | Oct 26, 2007 5:04:01 AM | 15

Very astute post, b, and Arlen Specter is not the only Judiciary Committee member to grasp the essential point:

Mukasey should not be confirmed because he could not muster a simple, straightforward answer at his confirmation hearing when he was asked the simple, straightforward question: Is the president of the United States required to obey federal statutes?

"That would have to depend," he weaseled, "on whether what goes outside the statute nonetheless lies within the authority of the president to defend the country."

Posted by: Nell | Oct 27, 2007 4:33:17 AM | 16

Five days behind someone in the press catches on - marginal: USA Today: Our view on presidential power: Is Mukasey willing to be a 'no' man in the White House?

of far greater concern [than torture], is what Mukasey said about the limits of presidential power. While the president cannot act illegally, he said, "illegal" is a fuzzy concept when it comes to the president.

The nominee asserted that the president has broad and ill-defined powers to ignore a law when he believes his constitutional authority to defend the nation empowers him to do so.

They still don't make on thing clear:

It doen't matter if Mulasey believes a, b or c when he also believes that d: the President can over-rule his opinion on a, b and c.

The only thing relevant is d, the unitary executive 'theory'. That is the point where Mukasy agrees with Cheney. It is the only relevant point - a, b, and c are irrelevant when d is agreed on.

Posted by: b | Oct 30, 2007 5:52:23 PM | 17

the unitary executive is otherwise known as the führerprinzip

Posted by: remembereringgiap | Oct 30, 2007 5:59:12 PM | 18

the unitary executive is otherwise known as the führerprinzip

I'd argue that it is even stronger - it is not bound to the formal leading person (führer - Bush), but the informal leading (unitary) voice within the executive (i.e. Cheney).

A small but important difference. The new 'Führer' as a front person not a genuine decider.

Posted by: b | Oct 30, 2007 6:07:17 PM | 19

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