Attorney general nominee knows his history

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In his 18 years on the federal bench, Judge Michael B. Mukasey issued more than 1,500 decisions concerning matters as cataclysmic as the Holocaust and as mundane as milk, beer and cigarettes....

His decisions almost always start with an exceptionally detailed account of the facts, often coupled with a keen awareness of how hard it is to know anything for sure.

His writing benefited from a stint at United Press International, the news agency. “It was good practice in writing fast and making things comprehensible,” he told The Financial Times.

In a 1989 copyright case brought by Kennett Love, a former New York Times reporter who claimed that too much of an unpublished manuscript of his had been used in the defendant’s book, Judge Mukasey revealed a deep knowledge of history and journalism.

“It was once accepted,” Judge Mukasey wrote, “for journalists not to print information they believed disserved the national interest.” He went on to cite coverage of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s disability, of the overthrow of the Iranian government in 1953, of the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion and of the Cuban missile crisis in 1962.

Judge Mukasey then quoted ruefully from an article by Max Frankel, a former executive editor of The Times, discussing how things changed after President John F. Kennedy’s assassination and as the Vietnam War progressed: “The essential ingredient was trust, and that was lost somewhere between Dallas and Tonkin.”

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