The AG Bush Needs

By Dan Froomkin
Special to
Tuesday, September 18, 2007; 12:52 PM

President Bush is prioritizing.

It used to be he could install pretty much anyone he wanted pretty much anywhere in the federal government.

When it came to top jobs, that typically meant loyal, compliant members of his inner circle. They not only shared his views on issues across the board -- but they weren't going to exhibit any of that pesky independence thing.

In today's political climate, however, Bush has come to realize that he can't always get what he wants. But if he plots cleverly enough, he can get what he needs.

In a new attorney general, what Bush needs is someone who will support the radical and unprecedented expansion of executive power that has become the hallmark of his administration.

Michael B. Mukasey fits the bill.

Putting someone who has his own opinions in such a key position inevitably comes at a risk for the president. But what might once have been considered liabilities by this White House -- Mukasey's lack of partisan credentials, his unfamiliarity with the department he is to run or the Bush way of doing things -- are now seen as assets. They mean he can't be dismissed as a hack and is in no danger of spilling any secrets in a confirmation hearing.

That's not to say that Mukasey's swift confirmation is a done deal. Before anointing a successor to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, Democrats want to pry from the White House information that would help them more fully understand the Gonzales legacy. And Mukasey owes the country some straight talk about what, if any, parts of that legacy he intends to undo.

Not Like the Others

Michael Abramowitz and Dan Eggen write in The Washington Post: "President Bush opted to try to avoid a confirmation fight by nominating Michael B. Mukasey to be attorney general, concluding that the retired federal judge shares his approach to national security issues, but without the appearance of partisanship, administration officials and others close to the White House said yesterday. . . .

"Bush gave serious consideration to former solicitor general Theodore B. Olson, but the president's top advisers thought Olson would face too many obstacles in the Senate, according to those familiar with Mukasey's selection. . . .

"One top presidential adviser said the focus of the last 16 months of the administration will be ensuring that Bush and his successor have the necessary tools to fight terrorists."

James Oliphant writes in the Chicago Tribune that "Mukasey arrives with a reputation of being bullish on national security but relatively independent of politics, with almost no ties to the Bush administration.

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