Why Michael Mukasey?

President Bush’s nominee to replace Alberto Gonzales as attorney general is making waves because of who he is (the first Orthodox Jew to be nominated for the position) as well as for what is not (a known quantity on issues that matter to social conservatives, such as abortion and the relationship between Church and state).  A former federal judge, nominated by Ronald Reagan in 1987, Mukasey has presided over only one abortion-related case, in which he ruled that a Chinese man could not be granted political asylum in the United States because he feared political reprisal for having attempted to prevent the Chinese government from aborting his child under its “one child per family” policy.  That’s thin ground on which to base any judgment of how he would pursue a case concerning a constitutional issue involving abortion, and some are speculating that this lack of a track record may have something to do with President Bush’s decision to nominate Mukasey.  Of course, the fact that pro-abortion Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is Mukasey’s biggest backer is at least strong circumstantial evidence that Mukasey is unlikely to be a strong or consistent advocate for life.

The Jewish Week, however, speculates that the appointment has nothing to do with abortion or other social issues:

“€œHe’s not a social conservative, as far as I can tell, and that’s important to our community,”€ said Marc Stern, legal director for the American Jewish Congress and a longtime leader in church-state jurisprudence. “€œWe have no idea what he thinks about civil rights, no idea about his positions on church-state issues. And we don”€™t know much about what he thinks about abortion.”€ . . .

“€œThat the president was willing to nominate a man whose views on some of these social issues are not known shows how focused the administration is on one issue,”€ Stern said.

I’ll give you one guess what that issue might be.

What’s taking you so long?  Really?  You give up?

“And that issue is terrorism.”

Now, that’s interesting, is it not?  Having failed to accomplish much for the pro-life cause while he had control of both houses of Congress, President Bush could have at least pushed things in the right direction in the final 15 months of his term through an attorney general who chose the right federal cases to pursue.  That, however, doesn’t seem to be a major concern for him.

There’s no doubt that Mukasey is a fine choice, if the President’s primary concern is the prosecution of the “War on Terror” (he presided over the cases of Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman and Jose Padilla) and the further erosion of our remaining constitutional liberties:

“€œHe has not been a rubber stamp for the administration’s policies on terrorism but he is a very deep skeptic about the law’s ability to cope with terrorism,”€ said Stern. “€œHe doesn”€™t take the reflective response of civil libertarians that the only way to fight terrorism is through the ordinary legal system. The only question is whether he goes too far the other way.”€

There are other interesting details about Mukasey’s background—and his current political activities.  Mukasey served as an assistant U.S. attorney under Rudy Giuliani.  He’s worked with Bracewell & Giuliani, the Houston-based firm to which Rudy Giuliani has lent his name, and for which Mukasey’s son, Marc, heads up the white-collar criminal defense division.  He swore in—who else?—Rudy Giuliani as mayor of New York in 1994 and 1998.  And both Michael and Marc Mukasey serve as advisors to Ron Paul’s presidential campaign.

What’s that?  Oh, sorry—my mistake.  They serve as advisors for Rudy Giuliani’s presidential campaign.

It’s become something of a tradition for outgoing presidents to refrain from naming a successor, but they sometimes manage to send certain signals anyway.  Is President Bush sending such a signal with Mukasey’s nomination?  Or is he simply telling the Republican base that, in the words of the estimable James Hitchcock, “the life issues are no longer paramount, if they ever were”?

 



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