Friday, June 13, 2008

Too Much Chutzpah?

This has been one of those weeks when there have been just too many candidates for the Chutzpah of the Week award. Nevertheless, having just written that one of the greatest virtues of our American government is its foundation on a principle of checks and balances, I suspect that the act of chutzpah that deserves most attention is one that seems directed at thwarting that system. This act has received a fair amount of coverage this morning. Nevertheless, in the interest of the very nature of chutzpah, it seems appropriate for me to cite the Al Jazeera English version of this coverage:

The US attorney-general has vowed to go ahead with military trials against foreigners held at the Guantanamo Bay prison despite a supreme court ruling giving detainees the right to challenge their detention in civilian courts.

Michael Mukasey said in Tokyo on Friday that he was disappointed with the decision because it would lead to "hundreds" of cases being referred to the federal district court.

"I think it bears emphasis that the court's decision does not concern military commission trials, which will continue to proceed," he said.

"Instead it addresses the procedures that the Congress and the president [George Bush] put in place to permit enemy combatants to challenge their detention."

The Bush Administration has run up quite a track record of denying and/or ignoring Supreme Court decisions on the unconstitutional practices applied in the name of the Global War on Terror. Nevertheless, I think Mukasey deserves the award for trying to pull out a fine point of procedure to justify the continuation of business-as-usual. Hopefully, this point will be tested soon enough by a defense attorney at one of those military commission trials trying to appeal the case on the grounds that the original arrest and detention were both unwarranted and illegal. There is also a fair does of chutzpah in his reaction to the Supreme Court decision, which amounts to his saying, "Now we have to do something about those detainees," rather than just letting them rot like the many prisoners that had been "disappeared" by the Chilean junta not so long ago.

When you think about it, Mukasey has done a pretty good job of keeping a low profile (far lower than his predecessor) since assuming the post of Attorney General. Indeed, the closest he got to a Chutzpah of the Week award was when I gave the award to four senators who missed the vote on his nomination because they felt that campaigning for President was more important. At this rate he will never rack up the number of awards his boss has received, but I think he deserves at least one shot in the limelight with a Chutzpah of the Week award he can call his own!

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