What happened
President Bush ratcheted up pressure on Congress to confirm Michael Mukasey as attorney general, saying that lawmakers could leave the Justice Department without leadership for the remainder of his term if they rejected the former judge. Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee have threatened to block the nomination if Mukasey doesn’t state explicitly that waterboarding, a controversial interrogation technique, is illegal.

What the commentators said
“This is remarkable,” said The Wall Street Journal in an editorial. Not too long ago, Democrats applauded Mukasey as the “consensus choice” to lead the rattled Justice Department, and now they’re threatening to “disqualify a man of impeccable judicial temperament and credentials merely because he's willing to give U.S. interrogators the benefit of the legal doubt before he has top-secret clearance.” It looks like Mukasey has become “collateral damage” in the Democrats’ “guerrilla war” against the Bush administration’s efforts to extract information from “America’s enemies.”

Bush only has himself to blame, said The Washington Post in an editorial (free registration). It’s disturbing that Mukasey can’t bring himself to declare waterboarding—dunking a suspect to simulate drowning—illegal, but it’s really Bush’s “own warped policies on torture” that are threatening to torpedo Mukasey’s confirmation. Democrats may soon regret this fight, though, because Mukasey may be “last, best hope to see the rule of law reemerge in this administration.”

“It’s not quite torture,” said Deroy Murdock in HumanEvents.com, “but it sure has been painful” watching Democrats punish Mukasey. Waterboarding has been used to get several al Qaida masterminds—including Khalid Sheik Mohammed—to provide details about impending terror plots. Waterboarding saves lives, and causes no permanent damage. What’s “repugnant” about that?