03/28/2008 02:45 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

The Gift That Keeps On Giving: Tortured Reasoning

In addressing the press over the lingering concerns of Attorney General nominee Michael Mukasey's stance on waterboarding, White House Press Secretary Dana Perino remixes an old song and dance:

Q What does the White House think of the proposal by Senators McCain, Warner and Graham to have Judge Mukasey, if confirmed, say that no U.S. agency will use waterboarding?

MS. PERINO: What Judge Mukasey said in his letter to the Senate is that he will, if confirmed, thoroughly review all the legal opinions and all of the classified programs that he will then be read into. And I think that's a very reasonable position. And he said that if confirmed he would do that, and I think that's what the senators are saying in that letter, "as Attorney General." And I think that bodes well for his nomination, that they intend for him to be confirmed.

Q Well, what their letter says is, we urge you publicly make clear that waterboarding can never be employed. I think that's a little more --

MS. PERINO: While they were saying is -- which Judge Mukasey has done, is to say, I will not be able to provide a legal opinion about any particular technique. He is not read into the programs. He's right now a private citizen. He is willing to serve his country. The President will say today, he is -- the Attorney General is a critical member of the nation's war on terror team, and that he needs to be confirmed immediately. And once he is confirmed, then the Congress has the capability to ask him to come to Congress and to testify on all sorts of matters, including this one.

So, there is a matter of great concern to the Senators that will have to confirm Mukasey that they'd like to see resolved. Perino, for whom giving the legislative branch short shrift is a part of a balanced breakfast, promises that Mukasey will do so, but only after he's confirmed. Naturally, these are the ingredients for an impasse. Of course, you know whose fault that is:

MS. PERINO: ...But you will hear the President say today that the delay in getting his nomination completed is unacceptable; that it's been 41 days, which is unprecedented for a nominee to sit in committee.

Of course, the matter could be resolved if, say, Mukasey would resolve the matter. The issue of waterboarding is clearly of paramount concern to some of the senators, and, by extension, the people they represent. Of course, Perino has their constituencies on her mind as well:

MS. PERINO: ... And on this one, narrow issue, I think it is very unfair for somebody who is not read into a program --being briefed on a classified program, who doesn't have all the facts at his disposal, to be asked to render a legal opinion. None of us would want that from a judge, if we were in front of a judge in a court of law, we would not want a judge to render a decision without having all of the facts in front of him.

If you'll allow me to presume to speak for only as many people as Perino does, I'd posit that none of us, if we were in front of a judge in a court of law, would like to find out that the judge was in favor of waterboarding after it's too late.