- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 18, 2007


President Bush’s nomination of Michael B. Mukasey for attorney general is not the choice his most reliable friends were looking for — that would have been Ted Olson, the former solicitor general. Mr. Olson would have been a superb choice, but the choice is the president’s and Mr. Mukasey brings with him a strong record in the law and national security. He satisfies the needs of this administration and promises to be what the American public needs. He has bipartisan support and credibility outside his immediate circles. The Democrats in Congress would dangerously overreach their prerogatives were they to try to prevent his swift and easy confirmation.

Mr. Mukasey is best known for presiding over the difficult trial of the “blind sheikh,” Omar Abdel Rahman, who orchestrated the failed plot to blow up the United Nations. A Reagan appointee, Mr. Mukasey was federal judge for the Southern District of New York from 1988 until 2006, serving as chief judge from 2000 to 2006. He made the first rulings in the pivotal terrorism case of Jose Padilla, finding that Padilla was entitled to meet with his lawyers but that the president was entitled to order the suspected terrorist held indefinitely. This was reversed on appeal. A friend of Rudy Giuliani, he will be something of a wild card in Washington, largely because he’s never been a Washington insider.

The president chose him to be a restorative figure and a man of consensus, someone who can return the badly damaged Justice Department to good order and credibility at a time when, as always in the last months of a president’s second term, there are prominent vacancies in the administration. The next attorney general must resist partisan attacks from an emboldened Congress, which served Alberto Gonzales’ head on a platter.

We see few signs of Democratic moderation. This no doubt was a crucial factor in the president’s decision to avoid a bruising confirmation battle that was in prospect if Mr. Olson had been the president’s man. No doubt Mr. Olson’s successful representation of Mr. Bush at the U.S. Supreme Court is what drives the Democratic rage against the idea of Mr. Olson as attorney general. So, too, there was the very fact that so many conservatives wanted him in that job. But with the end of his presidency in sight, Mr. Bush concluded that a drawn-out struggle over a confirmation would detract from more important business, and mollifying Democrats was the better part of wisdom.

Mr. Mukasey stands outside the Washington folk wisdom that it takes a friend, not simply a terrific lawyer, to be an attorney general whom a president can trust. With that fair warning in mind, all signs point in the right direction regarding Mr. Mukasey. The Senate should schedule the hearings at once and confirm him quickly.

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