Indeed, my question was too long — much too long. I shortened it by half to write it onto an index card, which i brought with me to hand over. Then i had to shorten it drastically again to re-write it onto the special Official Commonwealth Club Question-Asking Card that they provided. (Yes, i misspelled Miers' name.)
Mukasey spent his entire speaking time lecturing us on government corruption. The hypocrisy was really quite breathtaking: he went on at some length about being a nation of laws and not of men, about the importance of providing a check and balance on every part of government, about ensuring that public officials are accountable and corruption be vigourously pursued and fairly prosecuted wherever it is found, regardless of political party. It was all i could do to keep myself from interjecting, "Yes — so stop protecting the President and hold him to the rule of law like everyone else!"
At the end of the session, the moderator did finally ask my question, or something on the topic, anyway. But she didn't read what i wrote; she filtered and edited every question down for politeness. The closest she got to anything resembling criticism was to say there were some questions from the audience about his consistency with respect to corruption. All she asked him was to offer his comments on the subpoenas on Bolten and Miers. So he simply repeated his old explanation: that the President's advisors should be able to talk privately to the President without being held to account. It was never pointed out that the law gives them no such permission, that neither he nor the President is allowed to tweak laws to suit their taste, or that he is protecting the Justice Department itself by ordering the Justice Department not to do its job.
He sounded so sincere and passionate in his main talk that i began to wonder if he simply has a blind spot when it comes to this executive. Perhaps he really has no idea that his actions are direct contributors to a dangerous consolidation of corruptible power in the White House. He continued to defend immunity for the telecom companies, the executive privilege to evade subpoenas, and his refusal to act against waterboarding without even the slightest awareness that there was anything wrong with letting the President freely order people to break the law.
All in all, it was probably not worth the money i paid for the ticket. But it was nice to see tongodeon again. An audio recording of the event should eventually appear online.
P. S. The Secret Service was there in force — at least a dozen men in dark suits with the trademark coil of clear plastic cord running from the left ear to the shirt collar. I always thought it was a Hollywood thing, but no, they really do get that far-off look and touch their ears with their hands when someone is talking to them on the radio.
P. P. S. (Added.) Thanks to tongodeon for providing this link to the prepared text of Mukasey's speech. Choice quotations include:
- "We are, as we proclaim repeatedly, a nation of laws, not men."
- "The survival and prosperity of a government of laws depends in great measure on the integrity of the men and women who pass, enforce, and administer the laws by which we are governed."
- "When a public servant at any level of government exploits his or her office for improper purposes, the damage is measured not just in dollars and cents but also in erosion of the public trust – upon which depends the survival of our system of government."
- "The investigation and prosecution of public corruption is therefore among the highest obligations of law enforcement."