As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Thursday, April 23, 2009

They're Smearing Dawn Johnsen

Sen. Specter is whacking off on the Senate floor about some bills of his on limiting executive power. And yet he refuses to move forward on confirming a Justice Department nominee who would be the leading critic inside the executive branch on executive power, and with the power to limit it besides.

President Barack Obama's nomination of an Indiana University law professor to head the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel is meeting stiff resistance in the Senate, stalled for a month by Republicans who say she's a polarizing figure because she aggressively criticized the Bush administration's legal rationale on torturing terrorism suspects and radical in her views on abortion rights.

Dawn Johnsen's nomination made it through the Senate Judiciary Committee on a party-line vote, but the Senate's Democratic leadership has yet to schedule a final floor vote on her confirmation.

"I think she's in real trouble," said Sen. George Voinovich, R-Ohio. "From what I'm picking up from consensus, she's got a problem." [...]

Senior Senate aides say there is no single senator holding up Johnsen's nomination. But they acknowledge that efforts to bring her up for a vote now would likely be blocked procedurally.

Johnsen and her supporters are trying to change that. She's met with Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, the Senate Judiciary Committee's ranking Republican. Specter passed on voting for or against moving her nomination out of committee. He said Wednesday that he hasn't decided yet how he would vote if her nomination goes to the floor.

Sheldon Whitehouse, Dawn Johnsen's greatest defender, says he'll be ready if conservatives try to move on a filibuster. But it's people like Specter, claiming to be concerned about executive power while opposing the woman who would be his biggest ally in that fight, that kills me.

Christy Hardin Smith sums up the conservative smear job on Johnsen:

What's Cornyn's real beef -- and that of the GOP establishment? That Dawn supports the rule of law. That she takes the job and her responsibilities in it seriously, meaning that she isn't the sort of person who puts shortcuts and shading to further personal ambitions ahead of doing the right thing and following the written precedents.

In other words, unlike some people, Dawn isn't the kind of gal who can be bought off or shut up. And Cornyn no likey that. This is all about GOP CYA and the kabuki to cover it.

Why is OLC important? I'll let ACS' Peter Shane explain:

Perhaps the most important reason we have government lawyers is to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed” even when laws are ambiguous and especially when no one is looking. If the rule of law is to have any meaning, government lawyers playing an advisory function must take a relatively objective stance....It is critical that government lawyers remember that their “client” is the American people, and not the ephemeral roster of incumbent federal officer holders.

There it is in a nutshell: putting the public interest ahead of political kabuki. Hence the fear and stall tactics from Cornyn and company:

The pressure to kill the Johnsen nomination may become even stronger now that President Obama has released more OLC memos detailing the CIA’s abusive interrogation tactics last week.

Let's not let them get away with it. The stakes are too high.

I don't know that this is even about Johnsen. The GOP just wants a victory.

Christy has a list of Senators you can call about this. Please do so.

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