A sensible nomination

President Bush’s recent nomination of Michael B. Mukasey for Attorney General is like health food; it may not taste good, but it’s probably better for you.

There is no denying Mukasey’s conservative ideology, or his strict approach to the detention and prosecution of prisoners, but he may have the right ingredients to stifle the threats of terrorism and renew legitimacy within the Justice Department.
Mukasey, if confirmed, will succeed the disaster that was Alberto Gonzales, whose resignation earlier this month ended his shamefully biased term as an incompetent presidential puppet. Already Mukasey has shown his intentions to swipe the Department clean of its deeply partisan past.

Last Wednesday, the New York Times reported that Mukasey said he would “depoliticize the department,” and initiate rules to prevent political interference. He also holds the trust of both Republicans and Democrats in Congress, surprising for one of Bush’s nominees. Mukasey’s position as a Washington outsider (which thankfully doesn’t mean Texas) indeed furthers this sense of trust. And unlike Alberto Gonzales, Mukasey has no former ties with his would-be boss, the Commander-in-Chief.
Mukasey has already worked on the most important issues facing the Justice Department today, and has a track record which yields a worthy expectation of results. He played a pivotal roll in prosecuting the terrorists Omar Abdel Rahman, a.k.a. the “blind sheik,” and Jose Padilla. As the presiding judge, he proved himself capable of handling the complexities of counterterrorism.

Drawing from this experience, Mukasey has shown discontent towards the current system. In an editorial he wrote for the Wall Street Journal last August, he outlined certain problems he thinks need fixing.

He considers the creation of a national security court, with independent judges that would deal with issues ranging from intelligence gathering and surveillance to detainee rights and prosecution. This idea could become reality with Mukasey as Attorney General. As long as proper oversight ensures both the legal and moral legitimacy of its rulings, it could successfully expedite the issues hanging between civil and federal courtrooms today.

These issues illuminate the essential debate that Mukasey’s nomination kindles. In his role as Attorney General, Judge Mukasey could ensure a more secure homeland, where anyone that even thinks about Islamic fundamentalism would find themselves in court.

But the advantages of immediate safety have serious drawbacks. As the self-proclaimed democratic torch-bearers of the world, dropping humanitarian standards in over-zealous attempts to be safe is hypocritical and unwise. It undermines the original intentions of peace, by promoting anti-Americanism in regions where pictures of Guantanamo prisoners are tools for recruitment.

Without speculating too much, it seems Michael Mukasey can do his department and country some good. Let him take the job, but let him lose it as soon as his decisions corrode the tenets of justice.