Much has changed since Michael Mukasey made his first vows to the Department of Justice in 1972, beginning his career as an assistant U.S. attorney. But when the 66-year-old former federal judge took the oath as the 81st attorney general this morning, he promised to uphold the same obligations he had made 35 years ago: to apply the law fairly and impartially.
"We do law, but the result is justice," Mukasey said after a swearing-in before Chief Justice John Roberts, in his black robe.
The ceremony was brief, but because of President Bush's attendance, security was tight. That hardly stopped the throngs of visitors to the Great Hall, which overflowed with guests squeezing into the standing-room area and upstairs in the balcony.
Among the many guests were three Republican senators: Arlen Specter, Samuel Brownback, and Lindsey Graham. Two former attorney generals also attended: Bush's first appointee, John Ashcroft; and Dick Thornburgh, a Reagan and Bush 41 official, who recently criticized the department before Congress.
The half-hour ceremony began with the Pledge of Allegiance, led by Mukasey's two young grandchildren. "Boys, that was awesome," acting Deputy Attorney General Craig Morford said afterward to a round of applause.
Bush also gave his blessing, telling the crowd that "Judge Michael Mukasey is the right man to take on these vital challenges."
Bush said that Mukasey "has my complete trust and confidence" and pledged to announce nominations tomorrow to fill some of the numerous vacancies at the top of the department. But he noted that Mukasey "follows in the footsteps of a very fine man and a fine American," referring to former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, Bush's longtime confidant who left amid a series of scandals at the department earlier this year.
For his part, Mukasey had his own pledge for the career staff of the department: to support them in every decision he makes.
"It's great to be back," he said.