January 25th, 2008
04:00 PM ET
14 years ago

A Dem is in the attorney general's office - but only on wall

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i.l.cnn.net/cnn/2008/images/01/25/art.mukasey.cnn.jpg caption="Mukasey chose an FDR Democrat's portrait for his office. "]WASHINGTON (CNN) - When Michael Mukasey took the reins of the Justice Department, he was informed that as attorney general he could select any painting from inside the building - or one from the Smithsonian art museums - to adorn his private office, even if someone else was already displaying it.

Mukasey without hesitation chose a portrait of former Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson, an FDR Democrat. He had to snatch it away from one of his top lieutenants, Solicitor General Paul Clement, who had displayed it in his front office.

"We loved it - but were only too happy to give it up," chuckled one of Clement's aides.

The large Jackson portrait, which dominates the attorney general's office, replaces a scenic painting that former Attorney General John Ashcroft had chosen from the National Art Gallery. That painting had remained in place during the tenure of Alberto Gonzales as well.

Former Attorney General Janet Reno had selected an artistic rendering of Robert F. Kennedy when she entered the Justice Department, and it remained in her office throughout her tenure.

Mukasey, a conservative, said he has long been an admirer of Jackson's writings and had displayed a painting of him in his judicial chambers in New York.

At Mukasey's confirmation hearing last October, Jackson's "three-part test" from an important Supreme Court ruling was repeatedly thrown about by senators pressing Mukasey on his views of the balance of power between the president and Congress.

During a grilling over the conflict between personal liberty and national security, Mukasey at one point in the hearing praised Jackson, who had been an attorney general for President Franklin D. Roosevelt before he was appointed to the high court in 1941.

"A great attorney general, perhaps the greatest to serve in the modern era, Robert Jackson, said that the issue between authority and liberty is not between a right and a wrong. That never presents a dilemma. The dilemma is because the conflict is between two rights, each in its own way important."

Jackson, who was the chief U.S. prosecutor at the Nuremberg trials, was popularized when Alec Baldwin portrayed him in the 2000 TNT television film "Nuremberg."

- CNN Justice Producer Terry Frieden

Filed under: Uncategorized
soundoff (19 Responses)
  1. Darth Vadik, CA

    I cant wait for the day when Democrats appoint sane people to the different posts, not cronies they went to school with (Mukasey is a little bit of en exception, but not a big one).

    "Why do Republicans say the government doesn't work, and then they get in and prove it?" – Al Franken

    January 25, 2008 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  2. Historical Record

    Jackson is the American attorney who lost control while questioning Hermann Goering at the Nuernburg War Crimes trials, giving the Nazi practically a bully pulpit.

    January 25, 2008 06:18 pm at 6:18 pm |
  3. Tom, Boston MA

    interesting to see how this non-news item is gonna fit in the grand progpaganda scheme of CNN...

    January 25, 2008 09:04 pm at 9:04 pm |
  4. Linda

    This respect held by a man in one party for a good man in the other party is something that is now gone in this country. Too bad that the sole political urge today is divisiveeness and a convenient media put downs for ratings and not tolerant respect for the true debate of ideas

    January 26, 2008 01:01 am at 1:01 am |
  5. Donah LPdGC

    I think I do understand both the AG.... and CNN if and when they'll fit or do not, Tom....... from Donah, in the Canary Islands of Spain....////

    January 26, 2008 02:44 am at 2:44 am |
  6. Gavin

    This guy is a scam...

    January 26, 2008 06:00 am at 6:00 am |
  7. Gideon, Chicago, IL

    Enjoy it for the next year...

    January 26, 2008 08:34 am at 8:34 am |
  8. Ed,Ellenville,New York

    This is important news because his willingness to prosecute the current administration is telegraphed by this act. I hope he follows through.

    January 26, 2008 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  9. Vi

    Well let me tell you. This man has yet to decide, is Water Boarding is torture. He said at his confirmation that he had not reviewed everything. Now we learn that the CIA tapes of the events have been destroyed. For me, Water Boarding is Torture. This is a crime against humanity. I am waiting for his decision. So are many others. Canada has in it Government right now the task of stating that the USA is a Country that Tortures. They are waiting to vote on that. Who will be proscuted for this the CIA or the Administration? Will we again blame the monkey and let the monkey Grinders go as we did Abu Grad (spelling.) I am happy he has inspiration from his painting.

    January 26, 2008 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  10. AE

    We want a Clinton-Obama team for our party. I think it is a great and a winning team. Effective experiences and inspiring ideas for continuous changes in the economy, education etc.

    Black media do'nt be too partial in your politics. You scare the white people. You scare us the working woman who does more for the family than the husband. What a double standard, a woman has to prove that she is twice better than a man always.

    January 26, 2008 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  11. Kristy Sanborn, Buckhorn, Mo.

    Authority and Liberty, "two rights, each in its own way important"
    Those are strong words and should be given much thought America

    January 26, 2008 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  12. Big Brother 2008

    This man is not sure about WATER-BOARDING being torture.Do you trust him?

    January 26, 2008 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  13. Patty D.

    The fact Mukasey will not deem waterboarding is torture is against everything America's principles stand for. Our reputaion in the world has been severly diminished. we have to restore honor in the White House and the DOJ. Funny isn't it? That was the platform George Bush ran on. Look where that got us?

    January 26, 2008 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  14. Mark

    Actually, I do trust him. At a time when he was pressured to make a politically correct response to a volatile question, he refused to cave to the pressure and insisted he would be deliberate in his analysis. He refused to pander to those who threatened to prevent his appointment unless he capitulated precipitously to their view of the "right" answer.

    Anybody who's willing to stand up to the pontificating windbags, even at the risk of losing a job, probably has the kind of moral and ethical backbone we need as attorney general.

    He said he wasn't sure because that was the truth. He needed to make sure he fully understood the practice as well as the law.

    Our laws are not based on who screams the loudest, posts in capital letters, or is most indignant. And we need an attorney general (and judges, for that matter) who understand that.

    January 26, 2008 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  15. GaryO Virginia Beach

    I think it's great to have an attorney general with ideals and the capacity to think reasonably. I never expected to see that during the Bush administration. Attorney general Michael Mukasey actually has a social conscience.

    But now he's rubbing elbows with the rest of the Bush Administration. I hope his outlook is not polluted by all that concentrated nonsense.

    January 26, 2008 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  16. Geoff

    Blah blah blah propaganda. Everything has to be "propaganda" or a conspiracy, eh Tom? Let me guess...you're one of those "Sept. 11th was an inside job" folks.

    January 26, 2008 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  17. Janet

    He also has a picture of George Orwell on his wall, as stated by Keith Olbermann. But I'm wondering how this is political ticker news?? How does this fit into election coverage?

    January 26, 2008 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  18. kevin from alaska

    This guy gets to take any painting from the Smithsonian? What a crock... shouldn't all of that art be for the public not some guy that we didn't even vote for?

    January 26, 2008 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  19. LQ, Rochester MN

    I heard he also had a picture of George Orwell, author of 1984. Interesting...........

    January 26, 2008 06:40 pm at 6:40 pm |