Next Stop: Nirvana

By Dana Milbank
Thursday, October 18, 2007

The Senate Judiciary Committee was meeting yesterday to hear from attorney general nominee Michael Mukasey, but Chairman Pat Leahy's thoughts kept drifting to the mountains of Tibet.

"I don't mean to cut you off," Leahy told the long-winded Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), "but we're going to have to have a break because of the Dalai Lama."

Later, Leahy informed the nominee that he was calling a 2 1/2 -hour recess "for the presentation of the Congressional Gold Medal to His Holiness." Pronouncing himself a pal of the exiled spiritual leader, the Vermont Democrat explained that "a number of us who are friends of the Dalai Lama will want to be there."

Leahy reconvened the hearing after the award ceremony and reported that "His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, gave a very, very moving speech."

"Quite a day," agreed Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.).

Indeed it was. The holy man's presence on Capitol Hill lured President Bush to the Rotunda and turned the West Front into a Tibetan folk festival. So great were the Dalai Lama's powers that even the Judiciary Committee, famous for feuding, magically transformed itself into a garden of peace, love and understanding. The serene lawmakers showed only contentment with the man nominated to run the Justice Department.

"This combination of personal excellence, integrity, independence, hard work, commitment to the rule of law and our system of justice," Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) said in introducing Mukasey, will "restore the morale and pride" of the Justice Department.

"You're one of the best," Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) declared.

"I also thank you for taking this position," added Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.).

Mukasey, in turn, seemed determined to erase all the ill will -- pradosha, as the Buddhists call it -- between Congress and the administration.

"I want to assure you that, if confirmed, I will always appreciate and welcome your advice," he assured.

And: "I'm going to assure you that there isn't going to be any stonewalling."

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