Chuck Schumer did it again! He’s voted to confirm Judge Mike Mukasey’s nomination for Attorney General. In testimony before the Senate, Mukasey refused to admit that the barbaric practice of water boarding constituted torture. In an Op Ed in the New York Times, Schumer defended his vote by claiming that Mukasey would reestablish the credibility of the Justice Department and depoliticize the institution.
Schumer decalred he was ready to confirm Mukasey, as the New York judge had “personally made clear” to the Senator that he would oppose President Bush’s bid to place himself above the law. Never mind that in actual testimony, held before Mukasey gave the Senator his rosy personal assurances, Mukasey said that Bush was not necessarily bound to observe the law if the President felt he was defending the country. Schumer wrote that while it would be “appealing” for the Senate to vote against a man who endorses torture, he personally felt that voting to confirm the New York judge was the best chance to reestablish accountability and openness.
Schumer’s double talk on torture caps off the Senator’s growing moves to appease Bush’s priorities both domestically and internationally. Schumer, the third ranking Democratic leader in the Senate, supported the Patriot Act and also voted to extend said legislation. Though he voted against confirmation of Conservative Judges Samuel Alito and John Roberts to the Supreme Court, he did little to support a filibuster of the Alito nomination. Indeed, like some of his Democratic colleagues in the Senate Schumer even mocked such efforts.
Simultaneously Schumer, along with his Republican counterpart John Kyl, proposed legislation designed to enable federal agents to more easily monitor individuals in the U.S. using powerful foreign intelligence surveillance warrants.
The legislation, which ultimately passed the Senate floor in May, 2003, concerned the Center of Constitutional Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights Watch, which worried about Schumer’s bid to give federal investigators wider latitude under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). Under FISA, the Feds were allowed to conduct intrusive surveillance of foreign spies and individuals that could be linked to a “foreign power,” loosely defined as only one other person. Schumer sought to go even farther than FISA so as to define “foreign power” as the sole desired surveillance target.
On international affairs, Schumer voted for the Iraq invasion as well as billions of dollars in ongoing funding for the war. Speaking on Fox News Sunday, Schumer boasted that the Democrats sought to give the troops even more money than Bush had requested. “Nothing-nothing-will stand in our way of supporting the troops in every way,” he said. When confronted by his local constituents on Iraq, he turns nasty and calls them “fools” for suggesting that the U.S. should organize an immediate troop withdrawal. Seeking to deflect criticism, Schumer seeks to build up his liberal stripes by saying that he once protested the war in Vietnam. He has also voted, along with the junior Senator from New York, Hilary Clinton, to designate the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps of Iran a foreign terrorist organization. Some have interpreted the move as an effort to give Bush the authority to eventually make war on the Islamic Republic.
NIKOLAS KOZLOFF lives near Chuck Schumer and also went to high school in Brooklyn. He is the author of Hugo Chavez: Oil, Politics, and the Challenge to the U.S. His new book, Revolution! South America and the Rise of the New Left will be released in April, 2008 with Palgrave-Macmillan.