This is already dull conventional wisdom, but it seems to me that the rumored new guy at the Justice Department, Michael Mukasey, stands a good chance of rescuing the DOJ from its Gonzalez-era status as a cesspool of depravity and incompetence and bringing us back to the glory days of John Ashcroft when one primarily worried about the Attorney-General’s ludicrously wrongheaded ideology.
On a less banal note, though, a confirmation hearing isn’t just about the nominee, it’s also an opportunity to really force a would-be high official to sit in a chair and give some reasonable answers to questions from the Senate. Once someone has a job, it turns out to be remarkably easy to show up, say a bunch of stuff that’s not really true, and then apologize a couple of days later. Just ask Mike McConnell. Which is just to say that, in general, it doesn’t make sense to prejudge these things. Given what’s gone down over the past few years, any appointee to this job deserves to be asked some tough questions about his views on whether torture is illegal, whether US Attorneys should be sacked for failing to mount partisan prosecutions, etc., etc., etc., and the confirmation issue shouldn’t be prejudged until one sees whether or not satisfactory answers are forthcoming. Guys like Don Rumsfeld had good reputations before they joined this administration.