Behind the scenes, President Bush is fuming even more than he has let on publicly at the Senate's delay in voting on his choice of Michael Mukasey as the new attorney general.
Bush feels that Mukasey's nomination has been held unconscionably long in the Judiciary Committee as Democrats tried to figure out a way to derail him, White House insiders say. Bush was already resentful that his old friend Alberto Gonzales was forced out of the AG's job even though he committed no wrongdoing, and the president tells aides he gave Democratic critics what they said they were looking for in a new one—someone who is independent-minded, has integrity, and is an excellent lawyer.
"He deserves a vote," says a senior Bush adviser. Senate Democratic leaders say a vote, at least in committee, will come next week. But Mukasey has riled some Democrats because he has not condemned waterboarding (an interrogation technique that simulates drowning) as illegal and a form of torture, throwing his confirmation into some doubt. Bush is said to be fuming at the delays and the fact that Mukasey was directed by the committee to answer 495 questions in writing after his hearing.
The president considered this overly burdensome and just a delaying tactic as critics fished for something damaging, which they couldn't find, the insiders say. Some of Bush's frustration came out in an Oval Office talk with reporters this morning when Bush said it was unfair to ask Mukasey about interrogation techniques on which he has not been briefed. Beyond that, Bush said, "it doesn't make any sense to tell the enemy whether we use those techniques or not."
—Kenneth T. Walsh