— Arlen Specter comes as close to calling Mukasey a liar for his “not familiar with waterboarding” comment as any GOP Senator has come — callng it a “flimsy excuse” to duck it by saying he wasn’t read into the program and “reluctant to put people at risk.” But because Mukasey thinks signing statements aren’t his fave, Specter voted yes. (And yes, I can hear EmptyWheel screaming Scottish Haggis. Why do you ask?)
— Sen. Kennedy: “Civilian and military leaders have found waterboarding to be an unacceptable means of torture.” See here for some history on just how many times this has been found, repeatedly, to be illegal under American and international law. Kennedy quotes the head of the Seal training saying, “…when done right, it is controlled death,” and that it is horrifying to watch.
— Orrin Hatch? Still a jerk. His whole argument is prefaced on how long the nomination has been discussed — and then gives a rah rah discussion of torture and tries to make anyone who finds it morally repugnant into a political hack — “a politically correct position on waterboarding.” Um…hello?!? What is this, the 12th century? Personally, I find that beyond morally repugnant. For shame.
— Kohl: “It is and has always been illegal, unconstitutional, and morally wrong.”
— Feinstein: Gosh, thank goodness Mukasey isn’t Gonzales…yadda yadda yadda…please don’t hate me.
— Huckleberry Graham: “Tempted to say nice things about Feinstein, but don’t want to hurt you back home.” To which DiFi smiles broadly. Thinks Mukasey is a man of the law, not politics. [CHS notes: I’d like to hope so, but hey, since torture is illegal…I’m skeptical, to put it mildly.] See Hugh for more.
— Feingold: “Never again should [the DOJ] be led by someone who is willing to wield its awesome power for political purposes or to fill its most important positions with individuals chosen for their politics rather than their legal skills.” Calls out the unilateral executive theories as being contrary to Justice Jackson’s Youngstown opinion, stating that Congressional power and written law constrain the executive. Calls the Bush Administration out for lying that there hasn’t been vigorous objection to the CIA interrogation program — says that he feels it is highly legally questionable and puts Americans at risk.
— Brownback: Thinks that the ticking bomb scenarios in 24 are realistic issues that Presidents have to deal with, based on a question he was asked at a GOP debate…lord help us.
— Schumer: The DOJ is floundering and rudderless, and needs a strong leader to right it: thinks Mukasey is the one to do so. If we don’t get someone in the job that isn’t under Cheney and Addington’s thumb, we might as well throw up our hands and surrender everything we hold dear. (CHS notes: If you read the Schumer op-ed today, you know what he’s saying.)
— Durbin: Mukasey is clear on matters of the law in every instance, but one: torture/waterboarding.
— Cardin: Waterboarding is clearly illegal. Hedging on this issue is appalling.
— Whitehouse: Agrees that Mukasey is highly qualified and that he is probably quite independent. But he has a hesitation when he says that, and it is due to his difficulty in answering a direct question regarding waterboarding. Is that a display of reasonable judicial reticence, or a product of Bush White House vetting? That he was told by them that this was a “no fly zone.” The DOJ — clearly there are grave issues at the DOJ, and it is urgent that capable and honest leadership be put there. America is strengthened when it follows its laws and manifests its values. This is vitally important. We cannot look to this Administration to provide any moral clarity to the world in terms of our conduct. When Cheney gets on television and says that we do not torture, not only do people around the world believe that we do torture, but also that we lie. [CHS: bingo.] This is a slow, sickening slide from a city on a hill — we have compromised our values, we have degraded our Constitution, we have lost our standing in the world.
Nomination will now go out to the full Senate. Committee in recess.