The War Against Dawn Johnsen
I just was on a call sponsored by People For the American Way, Alliance for Justice, National Women's Law Center, and NARAL Pro-Choice America regarding the war being waged by extremist Right Wing groups against Dawn Johnsen, President Obama's nominee to head the Office of Legal Counsel in the Justice Department. As we have learned, the OLC is a very important part of any administration. Ms. Johnsen's views on torture and the right to choose have made her a prime target of the Right Wing machine.
Clinton Administration Solicitor General (and OLC head) Walter Dellinger and conservative legal scholar Doug Kmiec, who served as the head of the OLC during the Reagan Administration, spoke in support of Ms. Johnsen. In addition, Aviva Orenstein, Professor of Law at the Indiana University Mauer School of Law, Bloomington, Indiana, a colleague of Johnsen's, also spoke on her behalf. More . . .
Dellinger stresses the importance of the OLC, as recent events have borne out. Dellinger speaks glowingly of Johnsen, calling her one of President Obama's best nominees. He remarks that she has a track record at OLC, having served in the office in the past. Dellinger says that when Johnsen was in the office with him - the office motto was "Dawn Johnsen is always right." He labels her as one of the leading scholars on Executive power in the country.
Dellinger claims to be "bewildered" by the objections from Senate Republicans. He states Johnsen is "pro-choice" and did something about it. He addresses the "footnote" controversy regarding a brief filed for the League of Women Voters. (I am not familiar with that controversy to be frank.)
The other controversy revolves around Johnsen's views on torture and wiretapping, where Johnsen criticized the Bush Administration for breaking the law. Dellinger expresses bafflement that Johnsen is being criticized for condemning lawbreaking.
Doug Kmiec agreed with Dellinger's assessment. He notes that they come from different points of the policy spectrum. He argues that as a professional and advocate, she has always worked with care, precision and objectivity. Kmiec especially praises Johnsen on this point and pointedly notes that the Bush OLC did not reflect Johnsen's qualities.
Kmiec finds the objections to Johnsen "incredible" and crassly partisan.
Johnsen's colleague Professor Orenstein praises her collegiality, calm and reasonableness. She notes that Johnsen will not be afraid to say NO to the Administration. She finds the portrayal by her opponents as "mystifying."
Brian Beutler asks a great question on state secrets and how Ms. Johnsen would react to the Obama Administration embrace of the Bush state secrets position. Prof. Orenstein predicts that Obama should not be surprised that Johnsen may not agree with the view now espoused by the Obama Administration.
I asked about the notion of filibustering Executive Branch nominees and the Republican view of recent vintage that not only Executive Branch nominees, but judicial nominees, deserved up or down votes. To be clear, I believe judicial nominees should be completely subject to the filibuster option, since these are lifetime appointments in a separate branch of government. But I believe that Executive Branch nominees, subject to being unqualified for the post, should receive an up or down vote. (For example, I opposed the filibuster of John Bolton for UN Ambassador.) Professor Dellinger referred me to this April 20 WSJ piece he authored:
On the eve of George W. Bush's inauguration in 2001, I cautioned fellow Democrats against "delaying or denying confirmation of nominees to cabinet and subcabinet posts." I argued on these pages that blocking executive nominees would weaken the presidency and be counterproductive for the opposition: "If a president cannot promptly place his chosen people in key offices, he can hardly be held fully responsible for the missteps of the administration."
In the past few years, many Republican senators have agreed, saying that it is unacceptable to filibuster a nominee submitted to the Senate for its "advice and consent." Some Republicans have gone further than I would, asserting that filibusters of presidential nominations are unconstitutional.
I was therefore taken aback by recent speculation that Republicans might filibuster two of President Barack Obama's key nominees: Dawn Johnsen, to head the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel; and Harold Koh, to be legal adviser to the State Department.
Professor Dellinger gets to the nub of the issue.
Speaking for me only
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