With the nomination of retired federal judge Michael Mukasey, there's fresh hope that the U.S. Justice Department can be cleansed before the end of the Bush administration.
Veteran lawyers without a leader they respect at Justice say it may be sunny and 80 degrees outside, but it feels like a morgue inside. They feared that the resignation of Alberto Gonzales, defended by Bush to his last ``I don't recall,'' would put the president in his bring-it-on mode. And for a while it did, as Bush floated the names of movement conservatives caught up in party politics.
Yet the president got the message that many in his own party had grown weary of defending the indefensible and wanted a respectable nominee. After a couple of false starts, Bush sent up the name of a widely regarded jurist he'd never met before.
Mukasey is no civil liberties champ, but Senator Charles Schumer of New York is for him. He's not exactly a rock-ribbed conservative, but Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah is in his corner. Is he the right man for a wholesale makeover at Justice? The building is warming up already.
Much of what Mukasey, 66, has to do -- fix the kangaroo courts that are trying lawyer-less enemy combatants, restore the Geneva Conventions that Gonzales thought ``quaint'' -- is slow and complicated. But there's one issue he could address swiftly that would send a clear message that the department will no longer be driven by narrow ideology and the worst sort of politics. I refer to the case of the former Democratic governor of Alabama, Don Siegelman.
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