Maybe no one ever went broke -- or, in recent days, lost a national election -- by underestimating the intelligence of the American people. But this morning, we're focused on what we'll call the War Room corollary to that one: No one ever went wrong by underestimating the intestinal fortitude of the Democrats in Congress.
That's a long run-up to a short point: For all the brave talk about standing up against torture, will someone get back to us when Senate Democrats have enough votes to reject Michael Mukasey's nomination as attorney general?
There are 49 Republicans in the Senate. Assuming that all of those Republicans vote for Mukasey -- and we haven't heard a single Republican say he or she won't -- the equivocating jurist becomes the next attorney general so long as he can pick up two Democratic votes. That means Mukasey's opponents need the votes not just of the Democratic presidential candidates in the Senate, which they seem to have, but also of the Ben Nelsons, Mary Landrieus, Blanche Lincolns, Ken Salazars and Joe Liebermans of the world. Lose just two "centrist" Democrats -- or one Democrat plus Lieberman -- and the president gets his attorney general confirmed.
The Democrats' best hope at stopping Mukasey, if that's what they want to do, is to prevent his nomination from ever getting to the Senate floor. But assuming that Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee stick together -- which we're betting they will -- that means that the Democrats on the committee will have to united completely against him. Impossible? No. But to get a united Democratic front on the Judiciary Committee, Mukasey's opponents are going to have to rely on the ever-wobbly Dianne Feinstein and on Chuck Schumer, who once encouraged Bush to nominate Mukasey to the Supreme Court and has spoken out strongly before in favor of his confirmation as attorney general.
Schumer says he's reading Mukasey's latest explanations on waterboarding now. Feinstein remains officially undecided.