By Senator Arlen Specter’s calculus, the inextricably intertwined issues of the Bush administration’s embrace of torture and whether Michael Mukasey should be confirmed as the successor to the attorney general who issued secret legal opinions endorsing its use comes down to this:
If Mukasey says that waterboarding is torture and if torture is illegal then some CIA agents could get sued.
Now Specter is about as infuriating as any senator on Capitol Hill, legendarily infamous for his chameleon-like behavior, including threats to do the right thing followed by back-room deal making that is the wrong thing. But in this instance the Republican from Pennsylvania is dead on.
So this is what it comes down to, America:
The nominee to replace Alberto Gonzales will stand not on principle (and for all we know he may be impaired in that respect) because it is more important to save a few CIA asses (although not Valerie Plame’s).
By all rights the Mukasey nomination should be as dead as a beaten and bloody Abu Ghraib detainee. But my prediction is that he’ll be approved because principle always is in short supply inside the Beltway and is notably hard to find these days.