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CONGRESS DROPS WHITE HOUSE DEMANDS, ALONG WITH ITS PANTS

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The Justice Department publicly declared torture “abhorrent” in a legal opinion in December 2004.

In the dance this administration orchestrated over the still-warm corpse of American values, ‘abhorrent’ has come to mean ‘offensive to the mind, but allowable.’ Most of us were flim-flammed by the wording, victims of adminispeak; in common context, the synonyms are repulsive, detestable, obscene and repugnant.

Which, by no means means we by no means do it. (sigh)
(Washington Post) But soon after Alberto R. Gonzales’s arrival as attorney general in February 2005, the Justice Department issued another opinion, this one in secret. It was a very different document, according to officials briefed on it, an expansive endorsement of the harshest interrogation techniques ever used by the Central Intelligence Agency.

The new opinion, the officials said, for the first time provided explicit authorization to barrage terror suspects with a combination of painful physical and psychological tactics, including head-slapping, simulated drowning and frigid temperatures.
 
Mr. Gonzales approved the legal memorandum on “combined effects” over the objections of James B. Comey, the deputy attorney general, who was leaving his job after bruising clashes with the White House. Disagreeing with what he viewed as the opinion’s overreaching legal reasoning, Mr. Comey told colleagues at the department that they would all be “ashamed” when the world eventually learned of it.

And that’s the best possible reason for Congress to insist upon Jim Comey as the new Attorney General instead of the disingenuous and judicially impaired Michael Mukasey. If the administration approved Comey’s elevation to deputy AG, how could they argue against his candidacy?

Not only did ‘the world eventually learn of it,’ but the United States Congress learned of it as well and their reaction was to ‘bring ‘em on’ with further legalizations. At every turn in the twists and turns of a nation’s conscience swinging in the wind, Congress caved—abetted by Democrats terrified of being called soft on terror—dropping their political pants by consistently supporting an administration they publicly rebuked.

It boggles the mind.
 
The fecklessness of Democrats allowed abu-Ghraib and Guantanamo, as well as patently illegal ‘renditions’ of prisoners to countries where no rules at all prevailed. It’s an academic difference. When one is tortured to the point of death, it matters not a damn where the torture occurred. That was the bottom line; anything short of ‘organ failure or death’ was not torture.

“We do not torture” was perhaps George Bush’s most perfidious and treasonous statement and he continues to repeat it to this very day. The first definition of treason is “a crime that undermines the offender's government” and it becomes immediately apparent that my use of the term in this context is both accurate and appropriate.

So Pat Leahy, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, was going to tighten his belt and insist upon getting a whole string of documents from the administration before he’d let out his breath to hold confirmation hearings on the aforesaid Judge Mukasey.

That was then, this is now.
(New York Times) WASHINGTON, Oct. 3 — Backing away from a fight with the White House, Senate Democrats are suggesting that they will not hold up confirmation of President Bush’s nominee for attorney general, Michael B. Mukasey, despite differences over Senate access to documents involving Justice Department actions.

In a letter to Mr. Mukasey made public Wednesday, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, said he would go forward with the confirmation hearings without the promise of the documents.

One can sense Senator Leahy getting ready to drop his pants. They are not yet dropped, but his belt is loosened. Strike one called, on the inside corner.
The committee had for months been pressing the White House for access to files and e-mail messages about last year’s firing of several federal prosecutors for what Democrats maintain were political reasons, and about legal justifications for the domestic eavesdropping program run by the National Security Agency.

In the letter, dated Tuesday, Mr. Leahy said he had hoped that the White House would “work with us to fulfill longstanding requests for information so that we could all agree about what went so wrong at the Department of Justice and work together to restore it.” Instead, Mr. Leahy wrote to Mr. Mukasey, “they have left you to answer the unanswered questions and left longstanding disputes unresolved.”

Strike two, a sinker ball at the knees. And with that bold and fearless statement, the Senator’s pants hit the floor.
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It stuns me that a razor-thin Republican majority in the Congress produced a six-year juggernaut of political will and yet an equally slender Democratic majority can’t tie its own shoelaces. But then perhaps I am just too easily stunned.

Pat Leahy is a hell of a nice guy, the epitome of everyone’s favorite uncle, fair-minded and moderate of tone as well as elegantly mannered and lucid in his careful explanations. He is just such a sweetheart. If only he had balls.

Guys like Tom DeLay and Newt Gingrich are nobody’s sweethearts, but dammit they get things done. Awful things, coercive and illegal and unrepentant self-serving things, but every time they come to bat they hit homers. After the game, many of them go to jail, but by god, they come to play.

Democrats are institutionally unable to get over their need to be loved, taken seriously and trusted with governing the nation. They are so timid. Have you heard Harry Reid's tentative stammer and watched Nancy Pelosi’s relentless am-I-doing-ok smile? They are like 9th grade runners-up to the King and Queen of the Prom—all subservience, timidity and blushes in the unexpected company of those others, who always knew they belonged. Harry and Nancy don’t yet know it, can’t believe it.
(Mukasey, writing in the Wall Street Journal) “The director of an organization purporting to protect constitutional rights has announced that his goal is to unleash a flood of lawyers on Guantanamo so as to paralyze interrogation of detainees. Perhaps it bears mention that one unintended outcome of a Supreme Court ruling exercising jurisdiction over Guantanamo detainees may be that, in the future, capture of terrorism suspects will be forgone in favor of killing them. Or they may be put in the custody of other countries like Egypt or Pakistan that are famously not squeamish in their approach to interrogation--a practice, known as rendition, followed during the Clinton administration.”
Followed during the Clinton administration? These mind-boggling tortures occurred under Clinton? Where was Bush these past five years, down at the ranch? You going to let that slide by, Senator, for strike three and not  a single swing of the bat?

No matter, Mukasey’s ‘unintended outcome of a Supreme Court ruling’ is that we may just have to say to hell with it and kill our captives. How's that for judicial interpretation?
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The Supreme Court has (since its unfortunate decision to seat him as an unelected president) barred George Bush at every opportunity from further destruction of the Constitution. Pat Leahy, if he can get his pants back up above his knees, might inquire into Mukasey’s feelings about the court.
(Mukasey) What is to be done? The Military Commissions Act of 2006 and the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005 appear to address principally the detainees at Guantanamo . . . the Supreme Court's recently announced determination to review cases involving the Guantanamo detainees may end up making commissions, which the administration delayed in convening, no longer possible.
That was certainly the court’s intent, although Bush’s various (David Addington composed) signing statements pretty much negate congressional laws. If there was such a thing as strike four, signing statements would be it. Presidents are supposed to follow the law, not interpret it, which is the job of courts. Just a small point, but another high crime and misdemeanor.

By the way, Michael, the administration ‘delayed’ convening those commissions because they couldn’t find military lawyers sufficiently corrupt to carry them out. They still can’t.
(Mukasey again) There have been several proposals for a new adjudicatory framework . . . have urged the creation of a separate national security court staffed by independent, life-tenured judges to deal with the full gamut of national security issues, from intelligence gathering to prosecution . . . more limited proposals address principally the need to incapacitate dangerous people, by using legal standards akin to those developed to handle civil commitment of the mentally ill.
Orwellian at its most charitable and benign reading, but we haven’t heard of ‘national security courts handling commitment of the mentally ill’ since 1930’s Germany. Fascist Germany in its courageously democratic beginnings, Nazi Germany up to, through and after the fall.
(Mukasey one last time) These proposals deserve careful scrutiny by the public, and particularly by the U.S. Congress. It is Congress that authorized the use of armed force after Sept. 11--and it is Congress that has the constitutional authority to establish additional inferior courts as the need may be, or even to modify the Supreme Court's appellate jurisdiction.
Hike up your pants, Pat. Steady yourself on Chuck Schumer’s shoulder if need be or call as a witness the guy you should be confirming--James Comey. He’s 6’8” and has balls enough to bring justice back to the Justice Department.

You might want to take a very long and careful look at replacing puppy Gonzales with Rottweiler Mukasey. Establish additional inferior courts indeed. Modify the Supreme Court’s appellate jurisdiction, over the dead body of jurisprudence.
(Washington Post) "Everyone was afraid to talk to one another. Mukasey told us not to," said Randall B. Hamud, a San Diego lawyer who represented Osama Awadallah, a California college student. "He wouldn't let me show him my client's injuries, which he got in detention," Hamud said. "Suspects were shoddily treated. They were in chains and quivering because they were so afraid of the guards, and Mukasey said nothing."

Hamud was the only defense lawyer among many contacted by The Post who had strong complaints about Mukasey's conduct during that time. He urged the Senate Judiciary Committee to review the sealed transcripts. "If my experience was atypical because he was in a bad mood, then that's one thing," Hamud said. "But if not, then you have to ask serious questions about his ability to be attorney general of the United States."

Senator Leahy? Ball’s coming in off the mound. Please, Pat. Please, at least swing at it.
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http://www.jim-freeman.com

Jim Freeman's op-ed pieces and commentaries have appeared in The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, International Herald-Tribune, CNN, The New York Review, The Jon Stewart Daily Show and a number of magazines. His thirteen published books are (more...)
 

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