A Hearing for Mr. Mukasey
IT'S BEEN more than two weeks since President Bush nominated retired federal judge Michael B. Mukasey for the attorney general's post, and Senate Democrats have yet to schedule a confirmation hearing. They should do so before recessing at the end of this week.
Mr. Mukasey's hearing has been held hostage by Democrats hoping to squeeze the administration for information about its warrantless wiretapping program and its policies on the treatment of detainees in the war on terrorism. When Mr. Mukasey's nomination was announced last month, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) said this information would help senators to better assess the differences between Mr. Mukasey and former attorney general Alberto R. Gonzales.
Nonsense. Senators have more than enough material to scrutinize Mr. Mukasey's qualifications and views without these documents. Mr. Mukasey wrote roughly 1,500 opinions on a wide range of subjects during his 19 years on the federal bench. He handled cases, including that of alleged "dirty bomb" plotter Jose
Padilla, that dealt directly with the administration's policies in the war on terrorism. He has written opinion pieces that laid out his thinking on such matters as the USA Patriot Act and the dangers of using the civilian justice system for prosecuting terrorism suspects. He also has a lengthy track record as a lawyer in private practice.
Mr. Leahy, in a Tuesday letter to Mr. Mukasey, seemed to concede that he's lost the battle with the White House, but he suggested that Mr. Mukasey may have to pay the political price. "Regrettably, the White House has chosen not to clear the decks of past concerns and not to produce the information and material it should have and could have about the ongoing scandals," the senator wrote. "Those matters now encumber your nomination and, if confirmed, your tenure."
Mr. Mukasey should be grilled extensively about his views. And as we have said before, the administration should be less stingy with information and reach an accommodation with Congress that would allow the release of more documents about its anti-terrorism
policies while preserving legitimate claims
of executive privilege. But Mr. Leahy's effort to link the two was irresponsible and has
served only to delay the installation of a desperately needed leader at the rudderless Justice Department.