What happened
Attorney general-designate Michael Mukasey told senators he disapproved of harsh interrogation tactics backed by his predecessor, Alberto Gonzales, during the first day of a confirmation hearing before the Senate Judicial Committee. The reassurances appeared to disarm critics of the Bush administration’s anti-terror policies, and helped set a mood of civility that several senators said suggested Mukasey would be confirmed quickly.

What the commentators said
The questioning started out tough enough, said The Washington Post in an editorial (free registration), but the confirmation hearings “quickly turned into a ceremonial waltz.” All Mukasey had to do was deliver “informed, concise, and responsive answers,” and senators from both parties swooned. Mukasey is “clearly well qualified,” and he’s a breath of fresh air after the “chronic evasions” of his predecessor.

Gonzales was a “failure” because he was “more of a pal to the president than a non-partisan force for justice,” said the Seattle Post-Intelligencer in an editorial. “Mukasey, on the other hand, doesn't seem to be yes-man material.” He said the 2002 memo authorizing harsh interrogation methods was “worse than a sin,” suggesting he can do a lot to return “dignity and order to the Justice Department.”

Mukasey’s hearings are a little “anticlimactic,” said John Bresnahan in The Politico. Nobody is out to block the nomination, so senators only want to “check the boxes”—as one Senate staffer put it—before sending the judge on his way. Each senator just wants Mukasey to answer publicly questions about big issues, so he can be held accountable later.

Based on “sheer competence,” there’s simply no reason to object to Mukasey, said National Review Online in an editorial.