Missouri's 7th District, U.S. House of Representatives




Bringing LIBERTY to Capitol Hill -- 2008
Saturday Morning, November 3, 2007, 10:30am

A Discussion of The President's Saturday Morning Radio Address

Click here to listen to a replay of the November 3, 2007 Ozarks Virtual Town Hall

Notes and Summary of the President's Address -- "Judge Michael Mukasey's nomination to be our next Attorney General"

In his weekly radio address President Bush said, "On Tuesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee is expected to vote on Judge Michael Mukasey's nomination to be our next Attorney General. I thank the committee for scheduling this vote. I urge them to approve this fine man's nomination, and send it to the full Senate as quickly as possible."

How the President Differs from the American vision of "Liberty Under God":

  1. The President's Attorney General nomination should be viewed in a big screen, not through a microscope. The issues involved are not just legal technicalities and constitution conundrums, but speak to who we are as Americans, and what kind of nation we want to be.
  2. The President approves of torture.
  3. The President approves of wiretapping your phone calls.
  4. The President repeatedly says we are at "war," though the Congress has never declared a state of war.
  5. Congress should want to know what the President's nominee thinks about these issues, not just in terms of the Constitution, but in terms of the values enshrined in the Declaration of Independence -- the philosophy of "Liberty Under God."
  6. If America's Founding Fathers could see America today, what kind of Attorney General would they say America needed?

President's Radio Address Liberty Under God

THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. On Tuesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee is expected to vote on Judge Michael Mukasey's nomination to be our next Attorney General. I thank the committee for scheduling this vote. I urge them to approve this fine man's nomination, and send it to the full Senate as quickly as possible.

The key issues in this confirmation struggle are torture and wiretapping, which branch of government has the power to decide these issues, and whether the president authorized to break any laws passed by Congress. The Senate Democrats want to know if this Attorney General would uphold the law or simply the whims of the Bush Administration.

In a time of war, it is vital for the President to have a full national security team in place -- and the Attorney General is a key member of that team. The Attorney General is America's top law enforcement officer, with critical responsibilities for preventing terrorist attacks and protecting our Nation.

Sen. Charles Schumer of New York has said:

This afternoon, I met with Judge Michael Mukasey one more time. I requested the meeting to address, in person, some of my concerns. The Judge made clear to me that, were Congress to pass a law banning certain interrogation techniques, we would clearly be acting within our constitutional authority. And he flatly told me that the President would have absolutely no legal authority to ignore such a law, not even under some theory of inherent authority under Article II of the Constitution. He also pledged to enforce such a law and repeated his willingness to leave office rather than participate in a violation of law.

Judge Mukasey is uniquely qualified to fill this vital role. He served nearly two decades on the Federal bench, and some of his most important legal experience is in the area of national security. He presided over the trial of the terrorist known as "the Blind Sheikh" and his co-defendants in the conspiracy to destroy prominent New York City landmarks, including the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. And when the World Trade Center was attacked again on September the 11th, 2001, Judge Mukasey quickly reopened his court, even though it was just blocks from Ground Zero. He and other judges in his district worked day and night to ensure that applications for warrants were processed, investigations could proceed, and the rule of law was upheld.

Senator Edward M. Kennedy, a Massachusetts Democrat who is on the committee, said that he would vote against the nominee, and only in part because of Mr. Mukasey’s refusal to answer directly whether he thinks waterboarding is torture. “I found little comfort in other areas as well,” the senator said, going on to say that he is dismayed by the nominee’s opinions about the extent of a president’s powers to order an American citizen detained without charges, and other areas of executive power.

“I therefore intend to oppose this nomination,” Mr. Kennedy said on the Senate floor. “Judge Mukasey appears to be a careful, conscientious and intelligent lawyer, and he has served our country honorably for many years. But those qualities are not enough for this critical position at this critical time.”

This is the kind of leader America needs to head the Department of Justice at this important moment in our history. Judge Mukasey is a man of achievement. He is a man of character. And he has been praised by Republicans and Democrats alike for his honesty, intellect, fairness, and independence. If America's Founding Fathers could see America today, what kind of Attorney General would they say America needed?
Since I sent his nomination to the Senate, Judge Mukasey has provided nearly six hours of testimony. He patiently answered more than 200 questions during his hearings, and he responded promptly to nearly 500 written questions. Yet some senators are working against his nomination because they want him to take a position on the legality of specific techniques allegedly used to question captured terrorists. Although the president is commander in chief of the armed forces, Congress has several explicitly enumerated powers related to national defense. In addition to the power of the purse, these include the power "to declare war," to "make rules concerning captures on land and water," "to make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces," and to suspend the habeas corpus privilege "in cases of rebellion or invasion." [Jacob Sullum]
As Judge Mukasey explained in a letter to Judiciary Committee members, he cannot give such a legal opinion for several reasons. First, he does not know whether certain methods of questioning are in fact used, because the program is classified, he's not been given access to that information, and therefore he is in no position to provide an informed opinion. Second, he does not want our professional interrogators in the field to take an uninformed opinion he has given in the course of a confirmation hearing as meaning that any conduct of theirs has put them in legal jeopardy. We've lost perspective when we waffle on torture. Imagine that instead of being a global bully, and spending a trillion dollars to destroy Iraq, we had an international reputation as a kind and caring Christian nation, and had spent a trillion dollars capitalizing Iraq, and spreading the ideas of "Liberty Under God" throughout the middle east. If a terrorist group was bent on attacking us, there would be more people inclined to share intelligence with the U.S. because we are not a hated and despised tyranny. A good nation does not have to resort to torture.

A military expert on waterboarding and torture says

Unless you have been strapped down to the board, have endured the agonizing feeling of the water overpowering your gag reflex, and then feel your throat open and allow pint after pint of water to involuntarily fill your lungs, you will not know the meaning of the word.

Congress banned this form of torture in 2006; why is there any question as to its "legality?"

Finally, he does not want an uninformed legal opinion to give terrorists a window into which techniques we may use, and which we may not. That could help them train their operatives to resist questioning, and withhold vital information we need to stop attacks and save lives. Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, who is not a Judiciary Committee member, said he is "not comfortable confirming anyone who cannot see that this method of interrogation is antithetical to American values and traditions."
Congressional leaders should not make Judge Mukasey's confirmation dependent on his willingness to make a public judgment about a classified program he has not been briefed on. If the Senate Judiciary Committee were to block Judge Mukasey on these grounds, it would set a new standard for confirmation that could not be met by any responsible nominee for Attorney General. And that would guarantee that America would have no confirmed Attorney General during this time of war. The President often signs Congressionally-approved laws using "Signing Statements" which boldly declare the Administration's intention to ignore the law.

According to an article in The New York Times, Mukasey suggested that President Bush's widely criticized eavesdropping program may be acceptable under constitutional authority, even if not allowed by laws enacted by Congress. Being the commander in chief, according to Mukasey, allows the president to supersede the laws written by Congress.

Instead of being considered for the appointment of attorney general, Mr. Mukasey should take a course on "Constitution 101." Defined in the "supreme law of the land" is the wonderfully short Article II that defines the powers of the president. Nowhere in Article II of the Constitution is the president granted the authority to supersede the laws written by Congress, nor the Constitution itself.

Senate leaders should move Judge Mukasey's nomination out of Committee and bring it to the Senate floor for an up or down vote. In this time of war, America needs the best people leading our efforts to protect the American people. With Judge Mukasey serving as Attorney General, our national security team will be stronger -- and the Senate should confirm this good man as quickly as possible. Even as the administration continues to insist that the NSA's warrantless surveillance was legal, it is pressing Congress to give the telecommunications companies that cooperated with the program retroactive legal immunity. Immunity for what? For assisting the government with its perfectly lawful surveillance? [Sullum]
Thank you for listening.  

Additional Resources:

The Democrat Party Radio Address:

Senator Patty Murray from Washington State delivers this week's Democratic Radio Address. The subject is Veterans.

Libertarian Response to Democrats:

  • The Democrats' bill is loaded with pork and unconstitutional spending.
  • Murray says the "veterans" bill "funds other crucial American priorities, like education and Alzheimer’s’ research."
  • Education is not a federal responsibility.
  • Neither is "Alzheimer’s’ research." There are different corporations which are engaged in Alzheimer’s’ research; why should Washington bureaucrats take money out of your paycheck and give it to its own favored pharmaceutical corporations instead of allowing you to donate to the causes you prefer?

Click here for a replay of this edition of the Ozarks Virtual Town Hall