Precedents

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"Precedents"

The Washington Post hails the Schumer/Feinstein decision to take a principled stand in favor of the proposition that if one Attorney-General breaks the law all his successors should do it too:

The halls of Congress are too often filled with cowardice and groupthink. So it is reassuring when not one but two lawmakers show the moral fortitude to defy party politics to take a stand on principle.

Democratic Sens. Charles E. Schumer (N.Y.) and Dianne Feinstein (Calif.) showed such courage Friday when they announced their support for attorney-general nominee Michael B. Mukasey. Both are members of the Judiciary Committee, which is scheduled to vote Tuesday on Mr. Mukasey’s nomination. It is likely that their support salvaged Mr. Mukasey’s nomination, imperiled because he would not state outright that the interrogation method known as waterboarding, or simulated drowning, is illegal. While we, like Mr. Schumer, Ms. Feinstein and others, would have wished for such an answer, supplying it would have put Mr. Mukasey in conflict with Justice Department memos that likely allow the technique — memos that those who may have carried out or authorized waterboarding relied on for legal protection. Both Mr. Schumer and Ms. Feinstein cited Mr. Mukasey’s intellect, his stellar qualifications and his reputation for being straightforward and independent as reasons to support his nomination.

The good news, I guess, is that this is consistent with the Post‘s steadfast advocacy of retroactive legal immunity for lawbreaking telecommunications firms. Basically, their point of view seems to be that since the Bush administration repealed the rule of law in such a sweeping manner during the years following 9/11 that any effort to restore legality and accountability would necessary involve putting some important people and corporations in legal difficulties, so we all need to just accept that we live in some kind of crazy plebiscitary dictatorship and hope that future elected officials behave themselves. After all, just because Mukasey won’t say he’ll follow laws against torture doesn’t necessarily mean that he won’t. Why not make hope the plan?

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