On Mukasey, a "gotcha" that isn't

The nominee's critics oppose waterboarding now, and they did then, too.

Published October 31, 2007 2:55PM (EDT)

Appearing on CNN this morning, counselor to the president Ed Gillespie sure caught Senate Democrats in a real "gotcha" moment. In insisting that attorney general nominee Michael Mukasey come out unequivocally against waterboarding, Gillespie said, "members of the Senate are asking the judge to do something in this nomination process which the Senate itself hasn't done."

How's that? "Less than a year ago," Gillespie said, "there was a vote on the floor of the Senate as to whether or not to apply the Army Field Manual regulations ... across the government, and it was rejected by the Senate 53-46."

Gillespie is right about that part. On Sept. 28, 2006, the Senate voted 53-46 not to impose the Army Field Manual's interrogation limits -- including a prohibition against waterboarding -- on interrogations conducted by other U.S. government agencies.

The part Gillespie didn't mention: On Sept. 28, 2006, the U.S. Senate was controlled by Republicans, and all but one Democrat -- which is to say, most of the people who have criticized Mukasey for equivocating on waterboarding -- voted in favor of the anti-waterboarding measure. So too, for that matter, did Republican Sen. Arlen Specter.

One other thing Gillespie didn't mention this morning: When he said that "we don't know that [waterboarding is] used by the government" -- and let's pause for a moment here to note that Gillespie was, at the moment, speaking for "the government" -- he didn't acknowledge (and CNN's John Roberts didn't remind him) that Dick Cheney sure seemed to confirm the government's use of waterboarding in a radio interview last year.

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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