WASHINGTON,Sept. 18 – Some say yes,some say maybe,and a few local members of Congress are still grappling with how to pronounce the name of the new nominee for the job of attorney general.
Speaking at the White House Monday,President George W. Bush said he tapped Michael Mukasey (Moo-KAY-zee) to head the Department of Justice because he “is clear eyed about the threat our nation faces.”
Despite his 20 years as a federal judge,Mukasey's name did not register with everyone,including Kentucky Republican Sen. Jim Bunning.
“I don't know anything about the man,except what I have read in the local rags,” Bunning said during a conference call with reporters. “Never met him. Never heard of him.”
He said he would withhold judgment until he hears more during the confirmation hearing and until he meets Mukasey. Bunning did share some concern after hearing that Sen. Charles Schumer,D-N.Y., put the judge's name forward.
“Usually,Sen. Schumer doesn't have the best interests of the United States in his suggestions or his amendments or the things that he supports,” Bunning said.
Mukasey,a 66-year-old former federal judge,has experience dealing with national security cases,including presiding over the 1995 trial of a dozen defendants accused of plotting the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. He also ruled in 2004 that the government had the right to detain Jose Padilla,who was convicted of terrorism conspiracy charges last month,without charging him with a crime,though he did have the right to consult a lawyer.
The White House credits Mukasey with having a “fresh perspective and a non-political background,” despite having written op-ed pieces in favor of the USA PATRIOT Act and calling for a new court to handle national security and intelligence cases.
Though only the Senate will vote to confirm former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' replacement, Rep. Steve Chabot,R-Ohio,said he looks forward to “to reading more about Judge Mukasey's background and his qualifications,” according to a press release.
Even some conservative insiders in Washington needed a chance to meet Mukasey last weekend and ask him specific policy questions,a senior administration official speaking on background told reporters on a conference call Monday.
Sen. Mitch McConnell,R-Ky.,on the other hand,has come out strongly in support of the president's nominee,praising Mukasey's “experience,integrity and intellect.”
As the Senate minority leader,McConnell also took to the floor of the Senate on Monday,urging Democrats to promptly confirm the judge as the 81st attorney general.
“Now is the chance for our Democratic colleagues to prove they were serious when they cried out for new leadership at the Justice Department,” he said in response to a report that Democrats would stall the process to obtain more information about Gonzales' firing of nine U.S. attorneys.
He likened such a move to “turning their backs on earlier public assurances that they would not obstruct or impede – again their words – a nominee with Judge Mukasey's qualities.
“We are at war,” McConnell said,adding that besides the Department of Defense,”no department of the executive branch is more important to defending our nation than the Department of Justice.”
Also citing his record in national security cases,Rep. Geoff Davis,R-Ky.,called the nomination a “responsible choice.”
“Judge Mukasey has a credible track record of administering the rule of law to help keep our nation safe,” he said,according to a statement.
A spokesman for Rep. Jean Schmidt,R-Ohio,declined to comment on the nomination,as did Ohio Republican Sen. George Voinovich.
A confirmation hearing has not been scheduled.