Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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September 17, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

CLUELESSNESS ALERT....I don't know anything about Michael Mukasey, George Bush's nominee for Attorney General, but his 2004 Wall Street Journal op-ed supporting the Patriot Act gives cause to wonder if he has the three-digit IQ required for the job. Check this out:

I think one would have to concede that the USA Patriot Act has an awkward, even Orwellian, name, which is one of those Washington acronyms derived by calling the law "Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Interrupt and Obstruct Terrorism." You get the impression they started with the acronym first, and then offered a $50 savings bond to whoever could come up with a name to fit.

Does this guy seriously think there's any question about whether the acronym or the title came first? Gimme a break.

Kevin Drum 8:08 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (38)

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More important from that WSJ op-ed is the final paragraph, in my view, given that he's arguing in support of the Patriot Act and this is the strong point he decided to finish his piece with:

"So, as the historian Walter Berns has argued, the built-in message--the hidden message in the structure of the Constitution--is that the government it establishes is entitled, at least in the first instance, to receive from its citizens the benefit of the doubt. If we keep that in mind, then the spirit of liberty will be the spirit which, if it is not too sure that it is right, is at least sure enough to keep itself--and us--alive."

Posted by: Jeremy on September 17, 2007 at 8:22 PM | PERMALINK

Unnecessarily harsh. There are likely more substantive flaws to criticize, don't you think?

Posted by: DeepBlue on September 17, 2007 at 8:24 PM | PERMALINK

Over the last few months, I've become seriously concerned with how humorless the left is becoming.
Kevin, I'm afraid this post is Exhibit A.

Time that we all lightened up.

Posted by: InSanity on September 17, 2007 at 8:34 PM | PERMALINK


He made a joke, okay?
Sometimes its hard for us liberals to remember, but there is such a thing as jokes.

Posted by: Joey Slinger on September 17, 2007 at 8:39 PM | PERMALINK

Anyone Bush nominates should be rejected. Reject Reject Reject this old man

Posted by: dee on September 17, 2007 at 8:41 PM | PERMALINK

Does this guy seriously think there's any question about whether the acronym or the title came first? Gimme a break.

Kevin, that was a JOKE. It was HUMOR. Get it? What a leftard you are (that was a joke too!)

Posted by: Al on September 17, 2007 at 8:42 PM | PERMALINK

I"m a hard core Democrat, but you're coming down kind of hard on the guy, aren't you, Kevin?

Posted by: Joseph A. Miller on September 17, 2007 at 8:42 PM | PERMALINK

It reminded me of a cute little title I held in high school with my great books discussion group--master of the meaningless essay.

Posted by: consider wisely always on September 17, 2007 at 8:49 PM | PERMALINK

Does this guy seriously think there's any question about whether the acronym or the title came first?

—Kevin Drum

Alberto doesn't recall which came first.

Posted by: Econobuzz on September 17, 2007 at 9:02 PM | PERMALINK

If it's not obvious why Mukasey should be Attorney General then he obviously shouldn't be.

Posted by: Ross Best on September 17, 2007 at 9:08 PM | PERMALINK


Posted by: mhr on September 17, 2007 at 9:23 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin knows it's a joke. The funny part is, the structure of the joke is such that we're asked to presume the administration -didn't- choose the acronym first.

Posted by: gussie on September 17, 2007 at 9:27 PM | PERMALINK

Part of Mukasey's record

…While Mukasey ruled that Padilla was entitled to counsel, he "also ruled, very dubiously, that President Bush had the authority to detain American citizens, even those detained on U.S. soil, as 'enemy combatants,' and that they need not be charged with any crimes." Mukasey's opinion…
This guy is just another unitary executive fool who doesn't appreciate the US Constitution and certainly doesn't deserve to be Attorney General. Democrats, of course, will roll over for a tummy rubs instead of refusing to confirm any Bush appointee until he complies with their subpoenas.

Posted by: Mike on September 17, 2007 at 9:34 PM | PERMALINK

It's probably the fact that judge Mukasey presided over the first trade center bombing and gave that poor blind sheik such a hard time sentencing him to jail that has raised liberals' ire. Liberals get very upset when anyone mentions terror and then connects a crime to a member of their latest victim group- Islamists...

You dipshit, mhr. Find one single post where one of the resident lefties here has defended Islamists. You can't, because we don't, you are just a pathetic lying loser.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on September 17, 2007 at 9:34 PM | PERMALINK

I am having trouble finding much about him online.
This from one source:

Mukasey also has boosters among some of Bush's toughest Democratic critics.

Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., previously recommended Mukasey for a Supreme Court vacancy.

In June 2005, the liberal Alliance for Justice put Mukasey's name on a list of four judges who, if chosen for the Supreme Court, would show the president's "commitment" to picking someone who could be supported by both Democratic and Republican senators.

Nan Aron of the alliance said if Bush nominated Mukasey, the Senate would view it as a "conciliatory" act.

Posted by: consider wisely always on September 17, 2007 at 9:35 PM | PERMALINK

the structure of the joke is such that we're asked to presume the administration -didn't- choose the acronym first.

Not sure how you figure that. The joke is the $50 savings bond; that the acronym came first is the given.

The important thing, IMHO, is that he recognizes it as Orwellian and is willing not only to say so publicly, but to mock it as such.

Posted by: Swift Loris on September 17, 2007 at 9:36 PM | PERMALINK

Dude, even if Mukasey only has a two-digit IQ, we'll still be making forward progress from the previous AG.

Posted by: Duncan Idaho on September 17, 2007 at 9:58 PM | PERMALINK

Duncan Idaho made a good one! Don't give this president ANYTHING he wants, especially the AG of his choice.

Posted by: slanted tom on September 17, 2007 at 10:10 PM | PERMALINK

Does Kevin seriously think there's any question about whether the savings bond gag or the question came first?

Posted by: Quaker in a Basement on September 17, 2007 at 10:27 PM | PERMALINK

If that's the best joke Mukasey can come up with, then he shouldn't tell jokes.

Posted by: reino on September 17, 2007 at 10:39 PM | PERMALINK

I think you've got it wrong.
In the Bush Administration, a 3-digit IQ excludes you from a job.

But yeah, I agree with Duncan;
Dems need to block EVERYTHING Bush tries to do. Dems need to build a time machine, and go back to 2001, and take back every spineless wussy "let's go along with the flow" vote they ever made. Win, lose, it doesn't matter, they're the fucking opposition, it's their job.

Posted by: bungholio on September 17, 2007 at 10:59 PM | PERMALINK

Somehow I don't think Judge Mukasey has anything to fear from a comparison of his IQ with Kevin Drum's.

Posted by: Zathras on September 17, 2007 at 11:00 PM | PERMALINK

Listening to NPR most of the day, not much said against him by Dems, prosecuting or defending attorneys. And they all say he's pretty darn sharp and runs a good court. And the right-wing nuts don't like him. And he did work in the Attorney General's office 30 years ago. Apparently he would have been less objectionable than Roberts or Alito, but that's a low bar test.

Tried to find the op-ed through my library data base as it would be interesting to see what he said about the USPATRIOT Act. In this para ne's talking about "newspeak" but perhaps it's not Orwellian to suspend habeas corpus or disappear and torture people like a certain Argentinian junta.

I hope all you people are writing to your reps and sens about habeas corpus, etc.

Posted by: notthere on September 17, 2007 at 11:32 PM | PERMALINK

"I am a liberal who thinks A. Kevin was hard on a harmless man because he made a witless joke. B. All men who make jokes are good people--and harmless even if witless. C. Kevin Drum is a bad man because he was mean to a harmless joking guy by suggesting he was witless." Yeah, sure. I love concern troll fuzzy syllogistic spew. Can't freaking get enough of it. Cause all concern troll fuzzy syllogisms are nutritious and tasty.

Anyway, point taken Kevin--this guy blows hot and cold, and seems a bit daft constitutionally speaking--especially in allowing the president to round up the usual suspects and torture them. Still, if he sits at the big desk drinking coffee, then plays Mine-Sweeper and loses every time time in under 10-seconds, he is already 10-times better at being AG than Gonzo. Just don't let him answer the phone.

Posted by: Sparko on September 18, 2007 at 12:01 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin...the guy was making a joke, lay off.

Posted by: Devin Carpenter on September 18, 2007 at 1:04 AM | PERMALINK

I'm reminded of a biannual contest held at this sleazy film production company I worked at years ago. $50 if we use your title in pre-sales. $50 more if we actually make the movie!

Posted by: Tilli (Mojave Desert) on September 18, 2007 at 3:11 AM | PERMALINK

I can remember about a year ago I was editing a book about White House policy, and came across the term "USA-PATRIOT Act," spelled like that. I flagged it as an error and then looked it up and found out that it actually is an acronym. I had had no idea. The strange thing is, I mean, what was the point? If I didn't know it was an acronym, very few people knew it. What did it get them if nobody knew it?

Posted by: Martin on September 18, 2007 at 5:05 AM | PERMALINK

i had an old high school math teacher who used
to tell the class:

you should never accuse somebody else of having a low iq, since people will suspect that you, at least at a subconscious level, don't have all that much confidence in the height of your own iq.

i think he was right.

Posted by: wschneid25 on September 18, 2007 at 6:37 AM | PERMALINK

i had exactly the same reaction that martin (at 5:05am) had.

Posted by: ezimmer on September 18, 2007 at 6:48 AM | PERMALINK

Three cases is a syndrome. It is clear that, for Bush, an AG with a three digit IQ is not acceptable.

We can't have a chief law enforcement officer who understands the concept of a "law" can we ? Then the terrorists would win.

Posted by: Robert Waldmann on September 18, 2007 at 6:59 AM | PERMALINK

Oh Jeebus, didn't we know it.

But as attorney general, Mukasey is not likely to agree. Instead, he has cited his own experience to argue that the nation needs a new approach to handle individuals charged as terrorists or enemy combatants.

If he is confirmed, he may have an opportunity to break a logjam in Washington between two opposing views: Bush administration lawyers insist that "enemy combatants" have no rights and can be held indefinitely in military prisons, and civil libertarians argue that these accused terrorists and foreign fighters deserve all the rights of the U.S. legal system, including full hearings in federal court.

Mukasey, 66, has proposed something in between. Writing in the Wall Street Journal last month, he tentatively endorsed the idea of "a separate national security court staffed by independent, life-tenured judges." He urged Congress to focus on how to "fix a strained and mismatched legal system."

I don't want "a separate court" for trying all of Bush's labeled subhumans. I want Bush and all his bootlicks GONE.

Sen. Leahy just needs to tell Bush: NO WAY - find a another mainstream lawyer Bush - and try really hard not to be nasty about it okay, little Bushie.

Bush and Cheney are moving closer to impeachment all the time - I see no reason to entertain radical ideas this late in the game. I think I'd rather wait for the Clintons - not that I trust the Clinton's on many issue but as far as matters of law - the Clinton are more conseravtive than Bush - where as Bush liberal does whatever he wants, but Clinton's won't change and trash US laws.

If Bush were not such a retarded moron anyway, and if he had simply listen to his August 6th briefing back into 2001, he would not now be trying to subvert laws.

Posted by: Me_again on September 18, 2007 at 8:20 AM | PERMALINK

OT: While "formidable challenges" remain in Iraq, President Bush said Saturday, the United States will start shifting more troops into support roles -- in addition to the troop withdrawals announced earlier in the week.

The coach of the San Diego Chargers, in the midst of getting pummelled by the New England Patriots this past week, suddenly declared that while "formidable challenges" remain in the game, an improvement in field position during the current drive (moving from second and nine at the 11 yard line to third and eight and a half at the 11 and a half yard line) will allow us to insert a large number of backup players into the game to give the regulars some much needed rest.

Posted by: anonymous on September 18, 2007 at 9:18 AM | PERMALINK


Horrible post.

From the quotation, it's obvious that Mukasey did, indeed, know that the acronym came first. The only thing he "doubted" (in the form of a joke, mind you) is whether the title was invented by a politician or the winner of a $50 sweepstakes.

Even worse, your post totally missed some comments by Mukasey about the Patriot Act in that same article that are rather alarmingly totalitarian. I could care less whether my Attorney General has a dry wit, but I certainly care whether he thinks that the DOJ should make use of its Patriot Act powers.

Posted by: Tom Veil on September 18, 2007 at 10:34 AM | PERMALINK
Dude, even if Mukasey only has a two-digit IQ, we'll still be making forward progress from the previous AG.

That's not true.

Alberto Gonzales was only playing stupid because it was the only way possible to avoid reveal the depths of deliberate wrongdoing he was, and more importantly his boss was, involved in. And, largely, it worked.

Now, if Mukasey has even a shred of decency, respect for the Constitution and laws of the United States, and sense of duty to the people of the United States other than President, that will be a step forward from the previous AG.

Posted by: cmdicely on September 18, 2007 at 11:48 AM | PERMALINK


Posted by: mhr on September 18, 2007 at 12:13 PM | PERMALINK

Actually, the title of the act was a combined acronym. There were two bills - one called the "USA Act" and the other the "PATRIOT Act," and the final product was an amalgam. Which is why it is hyphenated - USA-PATRIOT Act.

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