Mukasey Testimony: You Read it Here First

No doubt you are by now swimming in media "previews" of Attorney General Nominee Michael Mukasey's big day before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Some folks see Mukasey's appearance as merely a coronation of sorts, given that he already seems to have convinced Democrats that he's the best of an otherwise sorry lot of options. Others see the potential for more drama.

I'm somewhere in between. I think the drama of the day will come from the lawmakers, many of whom will take advantage of the television cameras to take their final shots at disgraced former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. The coronation will come after Mukasey justifies why he is perfectly suited for this caretaker job.

Here are the four most important topics the Senate will ask about -- and what Mukasey's responses will and ought to be. For good measure, I've also delved into his brain to discover what he'll actually be thinking as he serves up answers to the committee.

On Morale Problems at the Department

What Mukasey should say: I have been appalled to see Justice's reputation, credibility and independence gutted by partisanship. It is absolutely essential to restore the professionalism and respect for the rule of law for which the department once stood.

What Mukasey will say: These have been difficult times for the Justice Department. To the extent the U.S. attorney investigation has created a problem of morale, I will try to address it. But the main mission at Justice is, and always has been, to enforce the law.

What Mukasey will be thinking when he says it: It's no-lose here. If I raise morale, I'll be a hit on the Hill and something like a savior at Justice. If I can't turn it around, I can say that Gonzales & Co. messed up so royally that it will take more than 15 months to fix.

On the U.S. Attorney Scandal

What Mukasey should say: I pledge to continue and, if necessary, expand the internal investigations stemming from the U.S. attorney scandal, including the investigation into whether my predecessor perjured himself before Congress. Seeing these investigations to their conclusion is one of the most important tasks before me as I take office.

What Mukasey will say: I would take very seriously any investigation of the department or its officials. But, since I am not yet attorney general, I haven't been able to review the record in any way that would allow me to say how these investigations should proceed.

What Mukasey will be thinking when he says it: At least I was in New York when all this crap happened in Washington. It will sure get ugly if we end up having to bring charges against Gonzales.

On Terrorism and the Law

What Mukasey should say: For the past few years, I have lived at the intersection of the law and the fight against terrorism. I am qualified to help the Justice Department find its role in that fight. The department has a responsibility to offer independent legal guidance to the White House that is not designed to serve as legal justification for policy choices already made.

What Mukasey will say: I have been behind the bench when federal prosecutors have come to argue on behalf of the government, and I know that the legal fight against terrorism, and the Justice Department's role in that fight, is extraordinarily complex. We should continue to be aggressive on legal policy, so that we may effectively punish and prevent acts of terrorism. But we should do so within the boundaries of the law.

What Mukasey will be thinking when he says it: Too many federal prosecutors have come into my court offering up silly arguments in the legal war on terror. No more. And I'd like to see the White House try to push one of its torture memos down my throat.

On the Controversy Over Lethal Injections

What Mukasey should say:Given the Supreme Court's ongoing review of Kentucky's lethal injection procedures, the Justice Department should put a moratorium on its support for similar procedures around the country. The department is ready to support injection protocols that are deemed humane.

What Mukasey will say: I am troubled by questions about how states administer lethal injections. But, ultimately, these are state-level issues.

What Mukasey will be thinking when he says it: The Supreme Court had better fix this problem and quick, before it becomes an absolute scandal. And it would be great if the court would come down on this clearly one way or another, so I don't have to.

By Andrew Cohen |  October 17, 2007; 6:00 AM ET
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I certainly hope that he is as opposed to torture as you suggest.

Posted by: Mark in Austin | October 17, 2007 08:22 AM

I agree with Mark on the torture issue.

But I can't figure out why anybody would want to take on DOJ right now--with its short shelf life. About all anyone could do is to "begin" to turn the agency around. It'll take years to restore professionalism and remove partisanship. And the same problem is found at many other federal bureaus.

I think the important question for him: What do you propose to do for the DOJ in the short time you're likely to have before a new AG is nominated? And how will Congress have oversight of your plan and its results?

Equally important, how will you as AG work with Congress on its investigations of Little Al and the scandal over Bush's own appointed SAs? I could be wrong, but I think Little Al could be the guy to open the door on the partisanship of the federal government, in DOJ and elsewhere.

Posted by: pacman | October 17, 2007 12:30 PM

They should ask where he stands on the re-authorization of the illegal wire-tapping and bypass of FISA

Posted by: jss | October 17, 2007 12:42 PM

Is it possible to not be this shallow and make it in the political world? Will this man really give us all lies? No one seems to care much if a person gets the job done as long as they say nice things and look good doing it. We as humans have a nature of hope and if Mukasey says what we want to hear then we will believe him just like we believe everyone else. Will he do anything groundbreaking and helpful to our nation? Probably not. The only reason he will answer the questions is to create false hope for the people.

Posted by: uofa_10 | October 17, 2007 09:40 PM

Andrew Cohen--

I was surfing WaPo's website when I came across this link in Dan Froomkin's October 11th "White House Watch" blog.

To say that the link is fascinating is a gross understatement. My question is this: Has Mukasey given any indication as to what -- if anything -- he will do to prevent this sort of selective prosecution in the future?

Posted by: nbahn | October 18, 2007 05:24 AM

Here is some more info on the politicization of justice:

Posted by: Paul Wellstone | October 18, 2007 06:44 AM

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Posted by: inyqc ugyecph | November 13, 2007 07:24 PM

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Posted by: lsye xowj | November 13, 2007 07:24 PM

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