If there's a single lesson to be learned from the current Senate confirmation hearings of Michael Mukasey for U.S. Attorney-General, it's that the Democrats are -- what's the phrase I'm looking for? -- oh, right: fucking retards. Quite simply, if there's a group of more intellectually-stunted dimbulbs anywhere on the planet, I would have no idea where to start looking.
As casual observers probably know, Mukasey is driving the Democrats on the committee absolutely bugfuck with his refusal to condemn waterboarding as "torture," so let's dispense with that issue tout de suite. There's a simple reason none of these folks is going to get a straight answer on waterboarding out of Mukasey (or, for that matter, any other AG nominee who would serve under Bush), and that is that, if water-boarding is accepted as torture, then every single member of the Bush administration who officially condoned that practice (from Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Gonzales on down) would instantly be liable to prosecution for war crimes.
Yes, it's that simple, and it's why either 1) Mukasey will never, ever take a position on that, or 2) if he finally did accept it as torture, his nomination would be yanked by the White House faster than Patrick Ross jerking off Werner Patels. But that's not why we're here.
Why we're here is to be hideously depressed by the inability of a single Dem to figure out how to paint Mukasey into a corner rhetorically. First, Mukasey refused to answer the question about waterboarding because he claimed he didn't have a clear understanding of what it involved. Now, no one believed a word of that but, just to be pedantic, a number of Dems sent Mukasey an actual letter explaining the protocols.
Once that tap-dancing bit of evasion was nullified, Mukasey then took the position that, well, this whole "waterboarding" thing was "hypothetical" and, since he'd never actually seen it done, he really couldn't comment on it. And that's where we are now, with Mukasey simply stonewalling and the committee Dems clawing their eyes out in frustration as to where to go from here. So I'm going to make a couple suggestions.
First, in order to dispense with this whole "hypothetical" dodge and weave, if it were me, I might say something along the lines of:
"All right, Mike, so your position is that you can't condemn as torture something which, in your opinion at the moment, is "hypothetical." Let me ask you this, then -- say someone captured on the field of combat was taken prisoner, stripped naked, and had jumper cable clamps attached to their genitals, which were then connected to a car battery in order to get information out of them. Would you consider that torture?"
What are Mukasey's options? Can he possibly still dodge the question? Is there any reasonable person who would deny that that constituted torture? But if Mukasey staunchly held out, well, it's a simple job to just up the ante with something like:
"You're still not sure, Mike? OK, well, what if on top of that, they had knitting needles driven under their fingernails one at a time with a ballpeen hammer? Are we getting any closer to what you'd consider "torture" yet or not? No? Well, then, how about ...
And you can see where I'm going here. The description of abuse can be increased to the point where any sane person would have to finally admit that it's torture, and if Mukasey does, then we've established that, yes, he is capable of passing judgment on pure hypotheticals, at which point his entire defense based on hypotheticality collapses. But if that strategy sounds long and involved, there's actually an easier way.
Once Mukasey was sufficiently educated on the finer points of waterboarding, the question could be rephrased to make it a bit more, well, personal:
"OK, Mike, now that you have an adequate understanding of the process of waterboarding, let me ask you -- if one of our American troops was captured on the field of combat, and he was treated that way by his al-Qaeda captors, would you consider that 'torture'?"
And that's where every single member of the U.S. military should sit up straight and wait for the answer with bated breath, because now they have a vested interest in Mukasey's response, and for a very simple reason: If Mukasey can't unequivocally condemn waterboarding as torture, he has just given the terrorists carte blanche to treat captured American military personnel that way, with no fear of being tried for war crimes in the future. After all, even a moderately competent lawyer would be able to say, "Torture, Your Honor? Oh, I don't think so. After all, I have this videotape from CNN showing America's own Attorney-General admitting that he doesn't classify waterboarding as torture. And if he doesn't think it's torture, well, why should you?"
Yes, Mukasey would really be between the proverbial rock and a hard place. Either he protects the troops, or he protects his GOP masters. Quite simply, he can't do both, and it would be interesting to see who he'd sell out first. So why is not a single Democrat putting it in those terms? Why are they perpetually having circles run around them rhetorically by the Republicans?
If you're even vaguely left-of-centre, one would think that, given a choice, you'd normally be rooting for the Dems down south. At the same time, though, you have to wish that, somehow, somewhere, they could find some members who weren't such appalling cementheads.
But I'm not holding my breath.