Would You Believe an OLC That Can Say 'Maybe'?


As Jesse Walker noted this morning, Indiana University law professor Dawn Johnsen, President Obama's choice to head the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel (OLC), withdrew her nomination on Friday, citing Republican opposition that has blocked a confirmation vote for more than a year. Johnsen, whose nomination was approved by a party-line vote of the Senate Judiciary Committee in March 2009, angered Republicans with her strong criticism of the Bush administration's lawless anti-terrorism policies. But as I argued in a January 2009 column, her condemnation of presidential overreach and of the OLC lawyers who eagerly approved it made her nomination "perhaps the most encouraging sign" that Obama would "take a more modest view of executive power" than his predecessor did. So much for that. It's too bad we will not get the chance to see whether Johnsen's commitment to honestly interpret the law, rather than bending it to the president's needs, would have survived her service in the current administration, especially since Obama's anti-terrorism policies have turned out to be quite similar to Bush's. He could use an OLC that, as in Johnsen's vision, is "prepared to say no to the President."

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  1. Dawn Johnson was way too principled for this Administration. At least, I’d like to believe that that is the case. It’s too bad, I guess, that Republicans weren’t Machiavellian enough to approve Johnson, thus forcing the Obama Administration to confront its screaming bad faith on human rights and executive privilege/arrogance. Somewhere– Berkeley, probably–John Yoo is chuckling.

    1. I’m gonna be cynical and ask if Dawn Johnson would have the same problems with the Bush policies now that the “right” people are in charge …

    2. Or perhaps the Obama administration was sufficiently Machiavellian. This way they get to have republicans look bad while concurrently deflecting attention away from the fact that they’d prefer to have someone a bit more… amenable to executie power.

      1. No beauty she–or maybe she just doesn’t photograph well.

        Still, “executie” is pretty apt.

  2. Since Sullum refused to sign this post, I’m going to assume it was actually written by Maxwell Smart.

    1. I love the “lawless terror policy” line. I wonder if Reason gives out depends for when its writers create pants wetting rhetoric like that.

      1. Well, you’d know about pants-wetting over terror, wouldn’t you, John.

        1. Being concerned that there are large numbers of suicidal lunatics in the world bent on doing the country harm is clearly pants wetting rhetoric.

          Laying awake at night worrying that the NSA is listening to your phone calls or the KSM might not get a fair trial in contrast is completely fair and rational.

          1. Let’s see, John; you yourself have gleefully pointed to Obama’s failures to protect civil liberties as he promised. So are you saying he is?

            I’m confused as to your criteria of what’s scary. It seems that crazy foreigners scare you, and Democratic administrations scare you, but not Republican ones. That about right?

            1. I have never criticized Obama’s anti terror policies. He basically has continued Bush’s policies that I supported. Yesterday, I defended Obama’s targeting of a US citizen in Yemen on Reason. I am nothing if not consistent on that. So, go accuse someone else of red team blue team hypocrisy.

              I do, however, enjoy poking fun at the liberals who thought the country was falling into tyranny under Bush and are strangely silent when the same policies are continued under Obama.

              I think many Libertarians live in a fantasy world when it comes to terrorism. And that opinion doesn’t change just because a different team takes over the whitehouse.

          2. Being concerned that there are large numbers of suicidal lunatics in the world bent on doing the country harm is clearly pants wetting rhetoric.

            There have always been, and always will be, suicidal lunatics who want to do the US harm, at least as long as we’re the most powerful country on earth. The question is, are they *capable* enough of doing us harm that we need to throw all skepticism of executive power out the window to fight them? In most cases, I don’t think so.

            Even on the day when al-Qaeda got every lucky break to go their way, they only managed an (objectively speaking) insignificant pin-prick attack on our country. It was the gross overreaction of the non-suicidal probably-not-a-lunatic then residing in the White House that (albeit unintentionally) wreaked the real damage on our country.

      2. I love the “lawless terror policy” line. I wonder if Reason gives out depends for when its writers create pants wetting rhetoric like that.

        I guess it depends on how you define “lawless”. If we take the Nixonian definition of ‘within the law’, then nothing Bush did was wrong.

  3. I suspect that the Obama administration decided it wasn’t willing to go to the wall for someone who was on record opposing the way they were fighting the WOT. Ergo . . .

  4. Didn’t she play Starbuck on Battlestar Galactica?

    1. I’m pretty she that she played George’s long-suffering fiancee on Seinfeld.

      1. I’m surprised Obama didn’t give her a box of cheap envelopes to send out her confirmation party invitations with.

  5. I bet she gives great hand.

  6. I thought they opposed her because of abortion.

  7. The OLC will damned well bend to My Will.

    Bitches better recognize.

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