Tired of talking about terrorism, torture, and related topics? You might not be alone. At a Federalist Society discussion we attended on Tuesday night, entitled Do We Have the Legal Tools to Prevent Terrorist Attacks?, even some of the panelists wondered why these subjects still generate so much discussion, over seven years after the 9/11 attacks. (More about the panel later today.)
Similarly, when former U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey made the war on terror the focus of his recent commencement address at UNC School of Law, some of the graduates (and their families) were less than pleased. From one attendee:
Michael Mukasey just spoke at UNC commencement and used the entire speech to cover his own ass on torture. It was wildly inappropriate for a graduation….
A lot of people were very upset. The speech hardly mentioned the students graduating, if at all, and was instead a 30-minute legal argument defending torture. He focused on Jose Padilla for most of the speech, basically talking about how bad of a person he was and how much information they got from him. People in the audience were walking out, including all ten members of my family who were present.
This is not the first time Mukasey has caused commencement controversy. See here (first paragraph), discussing events at Boston College Law School last year.
Some way harsh reviews of ex-AG Mukasey, after the jump.
The UNC graduate who complained about AG Mukasey’s speech continued:
Some people clapped in the end, others didn’t. A lot of the clapping probably had to do with the fact the speech was also so mind-numbingly boring that most of the non-lawyers in the audience didn’t entirely grasp what he was talking about. Most law students did not clap.
On top of that, the Dean started off commencement with a speech that was not inspiring at all. He spoke as if none of us had jobs and none of us ever would. It was all doom and gloom, and utterly depressing. Like Mukasey’s speech, it came off as self-serving — “Don’t blame me; it’s the economy.”
All of this was made worse by the fact that the undergraduates had Desmond Tutu, and Duke had Oprah (almost worth the extra $100k in tuition).
This was just one graduate’s reaction. But our tipster offered Zagat-style excerpts from fellow alums, taken from Facebook and other sources:
“[A]ppallingly offensive…. [I] wish [Mukasey] had recognized that the day was not about him. It was about the folks that are about to become attorneys and might have liked some words of wisdom rather than a wheelbarrow full of propaganda. There are no other words: appalling.”
“Who the hell made this selection? What is it about UNC Law and commencement speakers? Ours was Jesse Jackson — he recycled a speech that had nothing to do with law or lawyers… But this is so much worse. Ack.”
“____ has a J.D., but he has never been so offended in his life. What a fucking egomaniac.”
“I wasn’t offended by his beliefs, which he is entitled to. It was that he used my commencement as his own personal courtroom.”
“That was miserable.”
“We heard about torture! And the dismal job market! That was a commencement?”
Today Nobel Laureate Bishop Desmond Tutu will speak at the UNC-Chapel Hill commencement, and former U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey will speak at the separate commencement ceremony of UNC’s School of Law. For me, these two addresses will have a special connection because a conversation I once had with Bishop Tutu is part of the reason I will be wearing an orange armband protesting Judge Mukasey’s selection.
I protest his selection as the School of Law’s commencement speaker because of his failure to hold publicly accountable the Department of Justice lawyers who authorized torture under the Bush administration.
But what exactly constitutes “torture”? And is it possible that some graduates’ substantive disagreements with Mukasey colored their views of his remarks? Feel free to discuss in the comments.
(More about the fun topics of terrorism and torture later today, when we discuss a recent Federalist Society panel, “Do We Have the Legal Tools to Prevent Terrorist Attacks?”)
Protesting the government’s misuse of law [News & Observer]