“The assumption that it was done to conceal a crime is just that: an assumption … This ain’t news.” -Attorney General Michael Mukasey
Where have these people been for the past six months? Tap dancing at John McCain rallies? Butchering Tom Jones classics? Or maybe they’ve been reveling in their perceived political irrelevance and slipping in the same old policies under the radar. At this point, it can’t be all that hard: no one seems to be paying any attention. After all, would you rather hear about the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act or the way Barack Obama likes his eggs? Some of us have been tired of George W. Bush for seven years; just about everybody’s tired of him now.
And I think that after a couple of charismatic crazies (John Ashcroft, Alberto Gonzales), Attorney General Michael Mukasey just doesn’t inspire the same kind of outrage. There was lots of drama over waterboarding and warrantless wiretapping, but he’s not the kind of guy to cover up a nude statue or anything. I started at the Commonwealth Club about two months ago and Michael Mukasey’s was the first speech I attended. It was exciting, all the secret service men talking into their wrists like they do in the movies. Mukasey’s prepared remarks were a dry laundry list of corruption cases the DOJ has pursued. But during the Q&A, he ranted, choked up, and made an apparently off-the-cuff remark that earned him an angry letter from the House Judiciary Committee.
In person, Michael Mukasey seemed very tired and incredibly serious, like he’s had a long, hard life full of laws, litigation, examining the Constitution and now, to top it all off, toeing the party line. He’s clearly the product of a childhood and decades behind the bench in New York City. As a public figure, he seems smart, capable, and forgettable; he doesn’t have Ashcroft’s loud pomposity or Gonzalez’s quick Texas accent and wide-eyed maniacal stare. During the speech, I got frustrated when he talked about FISA and the telecom immunities, but his slightly patronizing monotone made it easy to tune him out. So imagine my surprise when he paused and choked up at the mention of September 11th. Even more surprising: the words that prompted the breakdown.
“And we also shouldn’t need a warrant when somebody picks up the phone in Iraq and calls somebody in the United States, because that’s the call that we may really want to know about. And before 9/11, that’s the call that we didn’t know about. We knew that there had been a call from some place that was known to be a safe house in Afghanistan and we knew that it came to the United States. We didn’t know precisely where it went. We’ve got 3,000 people who went to work that day and didn’t come home to show for that.”
Did you hear about this on the news? The mystery call that warned us about 9/11 – one that every single person who testified before the 9/11 Commission failed to mention? As Keith Olbermann rightly points out, the statement was “almost ignored in the [media] coverage of his speech.” And as he also points out, Mukasey’s statement was either a lie or one of the most important news stories on 9/11 in years. Some sources, notably Glenn Greenwald’s columns in Salon, picked up the story, but in the media cesspool that accompanied the lead-up to the Pennsylvania primaries, I had trouble hearing about it over Breeched Passport-gate and Wright-gate and Sniper Fire-gate and Barack Obama is a Terrible Bowler-gate. Congressman Conyers and the other House Judiciary members got a non-response full of evasions from the DOJ, and I guess that was that. I’ve been looking for follow-up from the major news organizations, with little success. Maybe I should stop turning to the major news organizations.
Honestly, I’d prefer to know how Barack Obama likes his eggs. I’m reading his first book right now, though I could be reading a hundred well-researched and thoughtfully-written books on the failures of the current president and his cronies. I was surprised to see Mukasey cry, but his Afghan safe house admission didn’t stick with me as much as the few questions that followed it, when he was asked to talk about his personal experiences of 9/11. I think a lot of us are incredibly tired of hearing about Bush. We’re relieved that we can focus on the election; though emotions are running high, the presidential campaigns aren’t costing lives and trillions of dollars. The members of the cabinet and our current elected officials kill people every single day. My calculations might be off, but George Bush has been president for roughly 2,683 days. To catalog the damage here would be a waste of everyone’s time. We know what the country has lost.
Mukasey’s slip-up “ain’t news.” It was brushed aside as casually as it was put forth. Though approval ratings are at an all-time low and disapproval ratings are extraordinarily high, Bush’s continuing antics are getting pushed to the back of the newscast. I worry that when they leave office, our collective relief will overshadow the anger, the frustration, and the desire for some sort of retribution. If we all hate what they’ve done, let’s follow through. Our anger shouldn’t be limited to the far left’s calls for impeachment and criminal prosecution. 71% of Americans should make sure that even when Bush is powerless, he knows the harm in what he’s done – if that’s even remotely possible.
Looking for the exact number of days that Bush has spent in office, I found this quote, one of the first things he said as president at one of the inaugural balls: “I love being your president. I cannot wait for tomorrow – but tonight, we’ve got some dancing to do.” A few wars started, a little brush cleared; he really hasn’t been doing anything more than dancing for the past seven years.
Listen to a full recording of Michael Mukasey’s speech here.