Loretta Lynch Isn't Rosa Parks; She's Michael Mukasey
Illinois Democratic Senator Dick Durbin created quite the uproar when he condemned Senate Republicans for sending Attorney General nominee Loretta Lynch to "the back of the bus." But Durbin didn't need to reach all the way back to Rosa Parks in 1955 to denounce the GOP's grotesque obstructionism. The story of Judge Michael Mukasey in 2007 is the perfect comparison to make that case. After all, despite his refusal to repudiate--or even acknowledge--President Bush's illegal regime of detainee torture, Mukasey was confirmed as AG by the new Democratic-controlled Senate in 53 days.
But at day 134 of the Loretta Lynch waiting game, the second-ranking Senate Republican says he feels "zero" pressure to bring her vote to the floor. But on November 6, 2007, Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) felt differently when a Republican sat in the Oval Office:
Judge Mukasey's nomination has been delayed now for almost seven weeks. It is imperative that the President has his national security team at full strength and the unnecessary delay of Judge Mukasey's nomination has prevented that. He deserves an immediate up-or-down vote by the full Senate.
Long before the GOP used the human trafficking bill as the latest roadblock to Lynch's confirmation, Cornyn declared both that he wouldn't vote for her and why. "Her testimony, expressing support for the president's unconstitutional executive action [on immigration enforcement] and her support for a number of the president's other policies, make it impossible for me to vote for her nomination." But when the nominee belonged to President Bush and the issue was waterboarding, Senator Cornyn demanded an immediate up or down vote.
In September 2007, then Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) took to the op-ed pages of The Hill to pressure Democrats to confirm the successor to the hapless Albert Gonzales:
For the past several months, our Democratic colleagues have asked for a new attorney general. They have spoken at length about the importance of the Justice Department, and the urgent need to install new leadership there as soon as possible. Democrats said they want someone with "integrity" and "experience" who "respects the rule of law," and who can "hit the ground running"...
Now is the chance for our Democratic colleagues to prove they meant what they said. If they were serious when they cried out for new leadership at the Justice Department, they will follow Senate precedent and evaluate Judge Mukasey based on his record of service, not their own political agenda.
The Democrats' agenda, one shared by some Republicans like Lindsey Graham (R-SC), was to end American violation of U.S. and international law over waterboarding and other so-called "enhanced interrogation techniques." But Mukasey refused to say during his confirmation hearings whether waterboarding was torture ("If it amounts to torture, it is not constitutional"), even Graham was disgusted:
If he does not believe that waterboarding is illegal, then that would really put doubts in my own mind because I don't think you have to have a lot of knowledge about the law to understand this technique violates the Geneva Convention and other statutes.
But Graham along with all 44 of the other Republican Senators voted for Mukasey's confirmation on November 8, 2007. Democrats didn't just give Mukasey the up-or-down vote Cornyn demanded two days earlier. Seven of them, including Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Charles Schumer (D-NY) voted for him as well. And as it turned out, Attorney General Mukasey was a hyper-partisan defender of the Bush torture team, both in and out of office.
As for Mitch McConnell, the man who now has stopped progress on the months-old Lynch nomination dead in its tracks, the elevation of Attorney General Mukasey was a complete victory. As McConnell put it on the day of the Senate Judiciary Committee vote on November 6, 2007:
Judge Mukasey has waited almost seven weeks for a vote. This process has gone on long enough. Judge Mukasey deserves to have an up-or-down vote on the Senate floor this week. And I believe he will be confirmed with strong bipartisan support.
Of course, that was then and this is now. And now, Democrat Barack Obama is the President of the United States. The Republican standard for the first African-American woman chosen as Attorney General by the first African-American President to replace the first African-American Attorney General is different. As John Cornyn put it during Lynch's confirmation hearings:
"You're not Eric Holder, are you?" asked Senator John Cornyn of Texas, a Republican who allies of Ms. Lynch believe could be persuaded to vote for her confirmation.
"No, I'm not, sir," she replied.
No, Loretta Lynch is not Eric Holder. And as Attorney General Holder and President Obama suggested this weekend, she's not Rosa Parks, either. But Loretta Lynch is Michael Mukasey, or more accurately, his mirror image.
Which is why Republicans have no grounds for blocking the up-or-down vote and confirmation she is long overdue.