Mukasey’s mistake

Former federal judge Michael Mukasey will certainly be confirmed as U.S. attorney general, but the Senate Judiciary Committee’s 11-8 approval of this otherwise qualified candidate was closer than it should have been.

Mukasey’s misstep was to appear to denounce torture without exception on the first day of his hearings and then come back the next and appear to waffle on a particular form of brutal interrogation — waterboarding — that the White House finds acceptable but many others consider to clearly be torture.

Rice must testify in Israel spy case

A judge ruled Friday that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and White House National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley can be subpoenaed to testify in a sensitive spying case that has focused attention on pro-Israel lobbying in the United States.

Federal court judge T.S. Ellis ruled to allow the request by lawyers for Steven Rosen and Keith Weissman, former employees of the influential pro-Israel lobby American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), to subpoena Rice, Hadley and 13 other current and former top government officials to testify in the case, according to court documents.

When in doubt, Bash Congress

President Bush’s agenda these days is not subtle: Blast Democratic lawmakers for ineptitude. Then find a way to do it again.

Even with the factors working against him — record-low approval ratings, fading public attention and dwindling time in office — Bush still talks like a leader whose hand has never been stronger. Backed by a veto power that’s hard to override, Bush has taken to blistering Congress in a remarkably relentless fashion.

The ‘Darth Vader’ of GOP politics

President George W. Bush joked Wednesday that Vice President Dick Cheney, sometimes caricatured as Darth Vader, did not need a costume to play the sinister “Star Wars” villain for Halloween.

Bush’s jibe came as some of the candidates vying to succeed him as president put their own spin on Halloween, and a Senate Foreign Relations hearing was spooked by a “double” of chairman Senator Joseph Biden.

The President enjoyed his jibe at Cheney, who is derided by critics as a malevolent behind-the-scenes influence in US politics.

Dick and ‘cousin’ Barack

Vice President Dick Cheney said Friday he hasn’t reached out to “Cousin Barack” Obama since reports that the two share a distant relatives.

In an interview for CNBC’s “Kudlow & Company,” Cheney was asked whether he and Obama, a Democratic presidential candidate, have discussed their ancestral link.

“Cousin Barack?” Cheney said. “No, we haven’t — haven’t had the opportunity to talk about it.”

Lynne Cheney, the vice president’s wife, told MSNBC last week she uncovered the long-ago ties between the two while researching her ancestry for her latest book, “Blue Skies, No Fences.”

More of the same

In a major address at the State Department, President Bush announced that U.S. policy toward Cuba will remain the same, only more so. Thus another opportunity for fresh thinking by the 10th American president to deal with Fidel Castro slides by.

The United States has had sanctions and an embargo on Cuba in place since 1961. Occasionally those restrictions are tweaked. But despite their proven ineffectiveness, they remain in place, more out of political inertia than any hope they might actually work.

Has Dubya learned his lesson?

US President George W. Bush on Wednesday showcased his role in helping California fight devastating wildfires, eager to prove he learned the grim lessons of the botched response to Hurricane Katrina.

Bush, his presidency forever marked by Washington’s sluggish reaction to the killer 2005 storm, freed up more government aid for the victims of the fires and said he hoped they understood he was doing his utmost to help.

Another ‘Katrina’ for Bush?

Hurricane Katrina has many legacies for the Bush White House, none pleasant. One is the guarantee that as soon as disaster strikes in the United States, President Bush’s every move is closely scrutinized to gauge the speed and tone of his response to the suffering.

This became clear yet again on Tuesday, as the enormity of the wildfires sweeping across Southern California became apparent.

War on the installment plan

Betting that congressional Democrats’ opposition to the Iraq war will remain ineffectual, President Bush has asked for another $46 billion to continue fighting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

That brings the total amount he has asked for this fiscal year, which is barely 3 weeks old, to over $196 billion. If this funding goes through, the United States will have spent over $800 billion on the wars since 2001, most of it carried off budget.