Chuck Schumer has egg on his face thanks to the Mukasey debacle. He recruited this guy, offered him as a decent conservative, and then discovered during committee hearings that the guy is pro-torture.* (Wise lawyers always say don't ask a witness a question unless you know the answer you're going to get; the political analogue: don't nominate a guy for AG unless you know he's anti-torture.) Now he's getting roasted for voting for Mukasey, both for being himself pro-torture and for being a toady and sell-out to the White House. The first charge is baseless, but the second has merit.
Schumer's not condoning torture. He arranged for Mukasey to become AG because he feared a worse nominee, who wouldn't have gotten Senate approval and whom Bush would install as a recess appointment. According to Schumer's logic, Bush's choice would arguably be worse than the Yoo-aided Gonzales regime. On all of this, I believe he's right. (Though it doesn't excuse his embarrassing orchestration of events.)
But on the second issue, I think the critics are right. While it's important not to go nuclear against the GOP (some adults have to step forward and govern), there are lines over which no Dem should ever step. Authorizing war with a non-threatening Iraq was one example, and Mukasey is another. In both cases, Dems become complicit in immoral and illegal acts. We are still in Iraq, and Bush is still in the White House, because the compromised Dems have not been able to find a unified position in the aftermath of their votes for the war. If Mukasey becomes AG, which is now almost a sure bet, the Democratic party, with majority in the Senate, will own whatever acts he authorizes. In two years time, the party will be saddled with the shame and responsibility of having signed off on this guy.
Yes, it would be catastrophic if Bush put in an AG on recess who conspired with the White House to commit further illegal acts and consolidate further power in the executive branch. But it would be Bush's crimes, and they would be correctable. Instead, this will usher in another chapter of presidential misdeeds for which there will be no accountability.
*Yesterday on BlueOregon, Reed Poly Sci prof Paul Gronke disputed this characterization. I don't see how it's inaccurate or unfair, however. Bush nominated a guy who will--quite reasonably--not prosecute him for war crimes for, among other things, committing torture. Waterboarding's status isn't unclear: it's torture according to the Geneva conventions. And something more: we're not sure Bush's "coercive interrogations" were limited to waterboarding. So yeah, if you're the AG and you refuse to prevent the President from torturing people, spade a spade, you're pro torture.