From his office at the Justice Department, the attorney general is watching the clock. Tenure is short for Michael B. Mukasey, a retired federal judge who has just six more months to restore confidence in a department battered by allegations of improper political meddling before time runs out on the Bush administration, reports the Washington Post. Mukasey is one of several men who accepted the president’s request to rejoin government late in the second term, only to confront increasingly intense political battles and the detritus left by their predecessors.
Yet, unlike Michael Hayden at the CIA and Robert M. Gates at the Defense Department, Mukasey has complicated his task with steadfast refusal to reopen old wounds and purge the ranks of his roiled department. Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) recently appraised Mukasey as “content to serve as a caretaker for the regime of excessive executive power established by the Bush administration.” As Democratic lawmakers and White House officials tangle over how actively investigators should explore the past, the attorney general generally has sided with the administration and declined to open criminal probes on matters that predate him–positions that have infuriated critics.