Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said today he will vote against confirmation of Michael B. Mukasey to be attorney general.
President Bush's choice to head the Justice Department, Sanders said, holds views on the sweeping powers of the presidency that are at odds with what the framers of our Constitution intended. The nominee also demonstrated at Judiciary Committee confirmation hearings a disregard for civil liberties guaranteed by the Bill of Rights.
"Of course the United States government must do everything that it can to protect the American people from the dangerous threat of terrorism," Sanders stressed, "but we can do that effectively consistent with the Constitution and the civil liberties it guarantees.
"We need an attorney general who does not believe the president has unlimited power. We need an attorney general who understands that torture is not what this country is about, and we need an attorney general who clearly understands the separation of powers inherent in our Constitution," Sanders added. "Unfortunately, it is clear that Mr. Mukasey is not that person"
Mukasey, a former federal judge from New York, testified that Congress may be powerless to bar the president from conducting some surveillance without warrants. He incredibly claimed to be unfamiliar with the technique known as waterboarding, and refused to say whether or not it was torture.
Also troubling was his cramped reading of a Supreme Court ruling in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, the case which struck down military commissions created without congressional approval to try prisoners at Guantánamo Bay. Mukasey doubted the widespread consensus in the legal community that the decision last year extended to those prisoners the protections of a Geneva Convention ban on humiliating and degrading treatment.