"Every time Congressional Democrats failed this year to stop the Bush administration (i.e., every time they "tried"), the excuse they gave was that they "need 60 votes in the Senate" in order to get anything done. Each time Senate Republicans blocked Democratic legislation, the media helpfully explained not that Republicans were obstructing via filibuster, but rather that, in the Senate, there is a general "60-vote requirement" for everything.
How, then, can this be explained?
The Senate confirmed Michael B. Mukasey as attorney general Thursday night, approving him despite Democratic criticism that he had failed to take an unequivocal stance against the torture of terrorism detainees.
The 53-to-40 vote made Mr. Mukasey, a former federal judge, the third person to head the Justice Department during the tenure of President Bush . . . Thirty-nine Democrats and one independent [Bernie Sanders] opposed him.
Beyond that, four Senate Democrats running for President missed the vote, and all four had announced they oppose Mukasey's confirmation. Thus, at least 44 Senators claimed to oppose Mukasey's confirmation -- more than enough to prevent it via filibuster. So why didn't they filibuster, the way Senate Republicans have on virtually every measure this year which they wanted to defeat?"
And what the hell was going on with this coming to vote with so many of the '08 candidates not there to do, or not do, what they promised? Do Democrats control when things come up to vote, or don't they?
Democrats are just not serious about bringing the administration to account, in general. Opposing is not enough if you aren't willing to use the legitimate means at your disposal to make your opposition real.
There's a number of good comments on the article (it's one of the most civilized and substantive blog comment threads I've ever read, actually), one of the best of which is jayackroyd's, which relevantly brings up the only good argument that I ever saw about confirming Mukasey, namely that we could have ended up with so much worse:
"It is not merely that we could have done no better. It is that we would have had much worse. Failing to confirm Mukasey would have ended the confirmation role of the senate for presidential appointments for the remainder of the term. Bush would simply have left postions open...or filled them with interims who could never be confirmed....The administration modified the Patriot Act after it was passed to permit unconfirmed USA appointments. (Question to Leahy: "Why are most of those appointees still in place?")
The appointment of a purely political commissar to the AG post would do even more damage to the DOJ, and to the rule of law of in general. Looseheadprop over at FDL has been writing recently about the greatly reduced productivity of the depattment, with many fewer prosecutions, and even fewer convictions than under previous administrations. Putting someone in who could rebuild the department is not without merit...."
He goes on to say:
"However...this whole line of argument implciitly assumes that the Congress has no remedy to a president who holds the confirmation process in contempt, and will willfully violate the confirmation provisions of the Consititution. What Bush has said here, again, is that if you want to stop what I am doing, then start impeachment proceedings. Short of that, there is no letter nor spirit of the Constitution that binds me.
It is absolutely breathtaking that impeachment is off the table in the face of this contemptuous disregard for what I thought were inviolate, core American values."
Couldn't have said it better. This is a really good analysis, and one that I hadn't quite gotten to -- I was still stuck at "Mukasey should not be confirmed, but man, we actually could end up with worse." It shows that the fundamental problem is much deeper than what to do about Mukasey: it's what to do about a president who doesn't care about the rule of law. And the bulk of the Democratic party power structure has decided that the answer is to wait it out, rather than fight it out. Let things get worse and worse and worse, don't care about anything that happens to Americans or anything that happens to anyone who runs afoul of the illegal, immoral behavior being allowed to go on. Anything they grandstand about to the contrary is exactly that: grandstanding. Bullshit. Lip service. There is no line in the sand that they won't erase when a Republican trips over it, no line in their souls that they won't blur for the sake of political tactics.
With the confirmation of an AG who isn't willing to call a spade a spade on the matter of torture, I couldn't disagree more with their decision than I do right now. And I couldn't agree more with ondelette about the digustingness of Feinstein.