Commentary Magazine


Topic: Dawn Johnsen

Al-Qaeda Lawyer to Fill Top Justice Department Post

The Senate blocked the nomination of Dawn Johnsen, who holds extreme views on everything from abortion to detainee policy, to head the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel. OLC is a key office that renders opinions on key constitutional issues for Justice and the entire government. Now word comes that an attorney who formerly represented al-Qaeda terrorists will fill the spot. The New York Times reports:

David J. Barron, the acting head of the Justice Department’s powerful Office of Legal Counsel, will step down next month and be replaced by one of his current deputies, Jonathan G. Cedarbaum, the department said Thursday. …

Much of the work of the Office of Legal Counsel is confidential, but over the past 18 months Mr. Barron has handled a variety of issues including wartime questions like how much involvement with Al Qaeda is necessary to make a terrorism suspect subject to detention without trial and domestic matters like whether stalking and domestic violence laws apply to same-sex couples. . .Mr. Barron’s replacement, Mr. Cedarbaum, came to public attention earlier this year after Fox News named him as one of several Justice Department lawyers who had previously advocated for detainees.

As I’ve previously reported, there are serious concerns regarding conflicts of interest for those who previously represented detainees when they “switch sides”:

The limited information the Justice Department has so far released raises real concerns as to whether former advocates for detainees were properly recused from matters involving Guantánamo detainees and policy decisions that would inevitably involve their former clients. Did they violate obligations to former clients by construing their recusal obligations too narrowly? Did they damage their current client, the United States, by shading their advice for the sake of consistency with their prior representation?

Professor Richard Painter, an ethics expert from the University of Minnesota, wrote to Holder in April raising such issues. He noted, “There are legitimate concerns about client conflicts for lawyers who previously represented detainees and now work for the Department.” The “simplest” approach he advised would be to have them recused from all detainee matters. … Painter explained that there are multiple risks for these attorneys. “One danger is that you give an issue to the detainee who is convicted. Another is that you actually disclose information [you obtained] from a former client. A third is that the lawyer in an effort to avoid one and two bends over backwards by underrepresenting” the United States. Clients (even the government) have a right to be fully represented.

If he is appointed to fill the spot on a permanent basis, the Senate should not confirm Cedarbaum until he reveals which cases he has and will recuse himself from. That he would even be nominated for this position tells us volumes about the Obama-Holder mindset. Their preference for appointing to sensitive positions those attorneys whose sympathies and efforts were devoted to terrorists should concern us all.

The Senate blocked the nomination of Dawn Johnsen, who holds extreme views on everything from abortion to detainee policy, to head the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel. OLC is a key office that renders opinions on key constitutional issues for Justice and the entire government. Now word comes that an attorney who formerly represented al-Qaeda terrorists will fill the spot. The New York Times reports:

David J. Barron, the acting head of the Justice Department’s powerful Office of Legal Counsel, will step down next month and be replaced by one of his current deputies, Jonathan G. Cedarbaum, the department said Thursday. …

Much of the work of the Office of Legal Counsel is confidential, but over the past 18 months Mr. Barron has handled a variety of issues including wartime questions like how much involvement with Al Qaeda is necessary to make a terrorism suspect subject to detention without trial and domestic matters like whether stalking and domestic violence laws apply to same-sex couples. . .Mr. Barron’s replacement, Mr. Cedarbaum, came to public attention earlier this year after Fox News named him as one of several Justice Department lawyers who had previously advocated for detainees.

As I’ve previously reported, there are serious concerns regarding conflicts of interest for those who previously represented detainees when they “switch sides”:

The limited information the Justice Department has so far released raises real concerns as to whether former advocates for detainees were properly recused from matters involving Guantánamo detainees and policy decisions that would inevitably involve their former clients. Did they violate obligations to former clients by construing their recusal obligations too narrowly? Did they damage their current client, the United States, by shading their advice for the sake of consistency with their prior representation?

Professor Richard Painter, an ethics expert from the University of Minnesota, wrote to Holder in April raising such issues. He noted, “There are legitimate concerns about client conflicts for lawyers who previously represented detainees and now work for the Department.” The “simplest” approach he advised would be to have them recused from all detainee matters. … Painter explained that there are multiple risks for these attorneys. “One danger is that you give an issue to the detainee who is convicted. Another is that you actually disclose information [you obtained] from a former client. A third is that the lawyer in an effort to avoid one and two bends over backwards by underrepresenting” the United States. Clients (even the government) have a right to be fully represented.

If he is appointed to fill the spot on a permanent basis, the Senate should not confirm Cedarbaum until he reveals which cases he has and will recuse himself from. That he would even be nominated for this position tells us volumes about the Obama-Holder mindset. Their preference for appointing to sensitive positions those attorneys whose sympathies and efforts were devoted to terrorists should concern us all.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Rep. Bart Stupak’s seat is now a “toss up.” The ObamaCare vote may turn out to be historic after all. Nate Silver proclaims: “Generic Ballot Points Toward Possible 50+ Seat Loss For Democrats.”

Charlie Cook: “As we head toward November’s mid-term elections, the outlook remains dire for Democrats. For the trajectory of this campaign season to change in their favor, two things need to happen — unemployment must drop significantly, and the public’s attitude toward the new health care reform law must become much more positive. Neither seems likely, though. Increasingly, it appears that for Democrats to turn things around, Republicans would have to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, or a ‘black swan’ — an extraordinarily unexpected event that causes a tremendous change — would have to swim to the rescue of the president’s party.”

James Jones‘s underwhelming description of the state of U.S.-Israeli relations: “ongoing and fine and continuous.” Continuous? Well, good to know we’re not ending the relationship — and at least we’re past the point where the Obami can say “rock solid” with a straight face. Meanwhile, the White House denies that there has been any change in its policy toward the Dimona nuclear reactor. It’s hard to know what to believe at this point, which itself is evidence of the shabby state of the U.S.-Israel relationship.

The best thing about the Obami’s Israel policy? The lack of consensus and total disorganization. “Although the public fireworks between top U.S. and Israeli officials may have died down in recent days, a fully fledged debate has erupted inside the Obama administration over how to best bring Middle East peace talks to fruition, let alone a successful conclusion.” Thank goodness.

Sarah Palin declares that “this administration alienates our friends. They treated Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai poorly  and acted surprised when he reacted in kind. And they escalated a minor zoning decision into a major breach with Israel, our closest ally in the Middle East.  Folks, someone needs to remind the President: Jerusalem is not a settlement. Israel is our friend. And the critical nuclear concerns of our time are North Korea, who has nuclear weapons, and Iran, who wants them. So, ‘yes we can’ kowtow to our enemies and publicly criticize our allies.Yes, we can. But someone ought to tell the President and the Left that just because we can doesn’t mean we should.”

How’s that “imposed peace deal” going to work again? “Officials say Gaza’s only power plant has stopped operating because of a lack of fuel caused by the ongoing dispute between Palestinian political rivals. Gaza’s Islamic militant Hamas rulers and their Western-backed West Bank rivals have argued over who should pay for the fuel for the plant.”

Jamie Fly and John Noonan on nuclear nonproliferation: “Our unwillingness to penalize countries such as Iran, North Korea, and Syria for their illicit activities only empowers them. It sends the message to other states potentially seeking nuclear weapons that the path to a weapon can be pursued with few repercussions. If President Obama were truly concerned about the future of the international nonproliferation regime, he would follow his recent disarmament ‘accomplishments’ with some serious action to ensure that rogue regimes realize that there is a price to be paid by those who choose to pursue nuclear weapons.”

John Yoo‘s prediction on Obama’s Supreme Court pick: “The president’s low approval ratings and the resurgence of Republican electoral victories in New Jersey, Virginia, and, most importantly, Massachusetts, means that Obama will not pick an ideological warrior who will spark a fight in the Senate. No Dawn Johnsen’s or Larry Tribe’s here. Appointing someone on the extreme left of the Democratic party would be a political gift to the Republicans — it would only continue the drive to the left that is promising big gains for the Republicans in the November election and would frustrate Obama’s other priorities.”

Meanwhile, Obama withdraws the nomination of Dawn Johnsen, who had been tapped to head the Office of Legal Counsel. Could it be that the Democrats don’t want any knock-down-drag-out-fights over left-wing  ideologues?

Could a Republican win the special House election in Hawaii? “This is a three-way race featuring two Democrats, former Rep. Ed Case and Hawaii State Senate President Colleen Hanabusa, squaring off against Republican Charles Djou. It is a winner-take-all contest between the three candidates, competing to replace Neil Abercrombie, who left Congress to run for governor. . .Right now, the race is close: according to a Democratic source, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has conducted an internal poll showing Case at 32%, Djou at 32%, Hanabusa at 27%, and 9% undecided.” Well, like they say, as goes Massachusetts so goes Hawaii. Not really, but this year it might be true.

Rep. Bart Stupak’s seat is now a “toss up.” The ObamaCare vote may turn out to be historic after all. Nate Silver proclaims: “Generic Ballot Points Toward Possible 50+ Seat Loss For Democrats.”

Charlie Cook: “As we head toward November’s mid-term elections, the outlook remains dire for Democrats. For the trajectory of this campaign season to change in their favor, two things need to happen — unemployment must drop significantly, and the public’s attitude toward the new health care reform law must become much more positive. Neither seems likely, though. Increasingly, it appears that for Democrats to turn things around, Republicans would have to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, or a ‘black swan’ — an extraordinarily unexpected event that causes a tremendous change — would have to swim to the rescue of the president’s party.”

James Jones‘s underwhelming description of the state of U.S.-Israeli relations: “ongoing and fine and continuous.” Continuous? Well, good to know we’re not ending the relationship — and at least we’re past the point where the Obami can say “rock solid” with a straight face. Meanwhile, the White House denies that there has been any change in its policy toward the Dimona nuclear reactor. It’s hard to know what to believe at this point, which itself is evidence of the shabby state of the U.S.-Israel relationship.

The best thing about the Obami’s Israel policy? The lack of consensus and total disorganization. “Although the public fireworks between top U.S. and Israeli officials may have died down in recent days, a fully fledged debate has erupted inside the Obama administration over how to best bring Middle East peace talks to fruition, let alone a successful conclusion.” Thank goodness.

Sarah Palin declares that “this administration alienates our friends. They treated Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai poorly  and acted surprised when he reacted in kind. And they escalated a minor zoning decision into a major breach with Israel, our closest ally in the Middle East.  Folks, someone needs to remind the President: Jerusalem is not a settlement. Israel is our friend. And the critical nuclear concerns of our time are North Korea, who has nuclear weapons, and Iran, who wants them. So, ‘yes we can’ kowtow to our enemies and publicly criticize our allies.Yes, we can. But someone ought to tell the President and the Left that just because we can doesn’t mean we should.”

How’s that “imposed peace deal” going to work again? “Officials say Gaza’s only power plant has stopped operating because of a lack of fuel caused by the ongoing dispute between Palestinian political rivals. Gaza’s Islamic militant Hamas rulers and their Western-backed West Bank rivals have argued over who should pay for the fuel for the plant.”

Jamie Fly and John Noonan on nuclear nonproliferation: “Our unwillingness to penalize countries such as Iran, North Korea, and Syria for their illicit activities only empowers them. It sends the message to other states potentially seeking nuclear weapons that the path to a weapon can be pursued with few repercussions. If President Obama were truly concerned about the future of the international nonproliferation regime, he would follow his recent disarmament ‘accomplishments’ with some serious action to ensure that rogue regimes realize that there is a price to be paid by those who choose to pursue nuclear weapons.”

John Yoo‘s prediction on Obama’s Supreme Court pick: “The president’s low approval ratings and the resurgence of Republican electoral victories in New Jersey, Virginia, and, most importantly, Massachusetts, means that Obama will not pick an ideological warrior who will spark a fight in the Senate. No Dawn Johnsen’s or Larry Tribe’s here. Appointing someone on the extreme left of the Democratic party would be a political gift to the Republicans — it would only continue the drive to the left that is promising big gains for the Republicans in the November election and would frustrate Obama’s other priorities.”

Meanwhile, Obama withdraws the nomination of Dawn Johnsen, who had been tapped to head the Office of Legal Counsel. Could it be that the Democrats don’t want any knock-down-drag-out-fights over left-wing  ideologues?

Could a Republican win the special House election in Hawaii? “This is a three-way race featuring two Democrats, former Rep. Ed Case and Hawaii State Senate President Colleen Hanabusa, squaring off against Republican Charles Djou. It is a winner-take-all contest between the three candidates, competing to replace Neil Abercrombie, who left Congress to run for governor. . .Right now, the race is close: according to a Democratic source, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has conducted an internal poll showing Case at 32%, Djou at 32%, Hanabusa at 27%, and 9% undecided.” Well, like they say, as goes Massachusetts so goes Hawaii. Not really, but this year it might be true.

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Obama’s Thugocracy

The White House chests are puffed, and they are marveling at their political muscle. Health care can be rammed through, and Israel can be bullied — so what else to do? Ah, run roughshod over the Senate. The Hill reports:

President Barack Obama on Saturday wielded his recess appointment powers for the first time, clearing 15 nominees to assume posts that have remained vacant for months due to insurmountable congressional roadblocks.

Among the 15 named just days before the Senate departs for Easter recess are Craig Becker and Mark Pearce, the White House’s two, hotly contested nominees for the National Labor Relations Board.

Big Labor bosses will coo approvingly over the NLRB appointments. After all, the SEIU and AFL-CIO’s lawyer is now going to make labor law. Meanwhile, any pretense of bipartisanship or moderation has evaporated:

Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) condemned the administration’s move on Saturday, adding that Becker’s appointment “is yet another episode of [the president] choosing a partisan path despite bipartisan opposition.”

“The president previously held that appointing an individual in this manner meant that the nominee would have ‘less credibility,’ and that assessment certainly fits this nomination,” the GOP leader said. “This is a purely partisan move that will make a traditionally bipartisan labor board an unbalanced agenda-driven panel.”

The only surprise: the radical lawyer Dawn Johnsen was not named to the Office of Legal Counsel. Perhaps the Obami have had enough of the accusations that the Justice Department, far from depoliticizing, has become a hotbed of ideologues.

This is the reality of Obama — unbending, ideologically extreme, and contemptuous of the other branches. He has revealed himself to be precisely what liberals used to rail against — until they got the levers of power. The Chicago pols are certainly plying their trade.

The White House chests are puffed, and they are marveling at their political muscle. Health care can be rammed through, and Israel can be bullied — so what else to do? Ah, run roughshod over the Senate. The Hill reports:

President Barack Obama on Saturday wielded his recess appointment powers for the first time, clearing 15 nominees to assume posts that have remained vacant for months due to insurmountable congressional roadblocks.

Among the 15 named just days before the Senate departs for Easter recess are Craig Becker and Mark Pearce, the White House’s two, hotly contested nominees for the National Labor Relations Board.

Big Labor bosses will coo approvingly over the NLRB appointments. After all, the SEIU and AFL-CIO’s lawyer is now going to make labor law. Meanwhile, any pretense of bipartisanship or moderation has evaporated:

Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) condemned the administration’s move on Saturday, adding that Becker’s appointment “is yet another episode of [the president] choosing a partisan path despite bipartisan opposition.”

“The president previously held that appointing an individual in this manner meant that the nominee would have ‘less credibility,’ and that assessment certainly fits this nomination,” the GOP leader said. “This is a purely partisan move that will make a traditionally bipartisan labor board an unbalanced agenda-driven panel.”

The only surprise: the radical lawyer Dawn Johnsen was not named to the Office of Legal Counsel. Perhaps the Obami have had enough of the accusations that the Justice Department, far from depoliticizing, has become a hotbed of ideologues.

This is the reality of Obama — unbending, ideologically extreme, and contemptuous of the other branches. He has revealed himself to be precisely what liberals used to rail against — until they got the levers of power. The Chicago pols are certainly plying their trade.

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A Good Deal If. . .

Last night the Senate Republicans agreed to release holds on a number of Obama nominees: “The 27 confirmations mean no recess appointments will be needed during this break, top administration officials said. Recess appointments, which a president can make when Congress is not in session, are temporary and generally last to the end of the year.” Those confirmed are reportedly to be all noncontroversial, and do not include Dawn Johnsen (the radical lawyer proposed for the key role as the head of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel) or Harold Craig Becker (the National Labor Relations Board nominee who failed to survive a filibuster).

If this means that Obama will not exercise his recess appointment power to install Johnsen, Becker, and others, then this is a very good deal for conservatives. Moreover, it highlights just how unwise was Sen. Richard Shelby’s massive and indiscriminate hold on dozens and dozens of nominees. The proper role of the minority is not to obstruct willy-nilly but rather to exercise individual judgment in determining the qualifications, ethics, and potential biases of nominees. (Indeed, this is the obligation of the entire Senate, if those in the president’s party would refrain from elevating partisan loyalty above their constitutional obligation to provide advice and consent on presidential nominees.)

The arrival of Sen. Scott Brown has certainly had its impact. ObamaCare is grinding to a halt. If the president’s more extreme nominees can be shunted aside while permitting other, generally deserving nominees to assume their duties, then Republicans can rightly claim some credit. And more important, the country will be the better for it.

Last night the Senate Republicans agreed to release holds on a number of Obama nominees: “The 27 confirmations mean no recess appointments will be needed during this break, top administration officials said. Recess appointments, which a president can make when Congress is not in session, are temporary and generally last to the end of the year.” Those confirmed are reportedly to be all noncontroversial, and do not include Dawn Johnsen (the radical lawyer proposed for the key role as the head of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel) or Harold Craig Becker (the National Labor Relations Board nominee who failed to survive a filibuster).

If this means that Obama will not exercise his recess appointment power to install Johnsen, Becker, and others, then this is a very good deal for conservatives. Moreover, it highlights just how unwise was Sen. Richard Shelby’s massive and indiscriminate hold on dozens and dozens of nominees. The proper role of the minority is not to obstruct willy-nilly but rather to exercise individual judgment in determining the qualifications, ethics, and potential biases of nominees. (Indeed, this is the obligation of the entire Senate, if those in the president’s party would refrain from elevating partisan loyalty above their constitutional obligation to provide advice and consent on presidential nominees.)

The arrival of Sen. Scott Brown has certainly had its impact. ObamaCare is grinding to a halt. If the president’s more extreme nominees can be shunted aside while permitting other, generally deserving nominees to assume their duties, then Republicans can rightly claim some credit. And more important, the country will be the better for it.

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Bayh Gets Caught

Dan Coats in an interview on Fred Thompson’s radio show explained his argument to the voters as to why Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh should not be re-elected:

“He talked a good game back at home, but when push came to shove, he was there with the liberals, there with Obama every time,” Coats said. On health care, Bayh was “catering to the liberals that he needed to cater to and he wasn’t listening to people in Indiana.”

Coats has a good deal of material to work with. Bayh voted for the stimulus, the Obama budget, and ObamaCare. He’s voted to confirm every nominee, from Sonia Sotomayor to the legal extremist Dawn Johnsen (for head of the Office of Legal Counsel) to Craig Becker for the National Labor Relations Board. He was a previous sponsor of card-check legislation, although he managed to stay noncommittal last year. In sum, Bayh was unwilling to oppose the liberal troika of Reid-Pelosi-Obama on a single meaningful domestic-policy item.

It is an argument that is likely to be repeated in states like Arkansas, Nevada, and Colorado, where challengers will make the case that the Democratic incumbent has facilitated the policies that voters back home oppose by large numbers. (In Colorado, for example, Michael Bennet is getting slammed by his opponent for his vote to confirm Becker: “Former Lt. Gov. Jane Norton, the Republican front-runner, said that while other Democrats were willing to buck President Obama’s choice, Bennet’s vote demonstrates he would provide ‘a rubber stamp’ for legislation commonly referred to as ‘card check.'”)

Recall that in Virginia, Bob McDonnell, running against a Democrat who had never cast a single vote in Congress in favor of an Obama agenda item, was able to win by a huge margin by making the case that Washington had strayed too far to the Left and that cap-and-trade, ObamaCare, card check, and takes hikes would be disastrous for his state’s economy. Scott Brown was able to make a similar argument against an opponent who similarly was not burdened by a congressional voting record in favor of the Obama agenda.

How much more effective will that argument be against Democratic incumbents like Bayh who are burdened not only by the “D” next to their name but also a voting record that fits the Republicans’ narrative? Incumbents like Bayh have a choice: start voting against the liberal agenda or hope voters lose their antipathy to the Reid-Pelosi-Obama agenda. The latter sounds like wishful thinking; the former will require a quick about-face. You can see why the Bayh seat and those of many other Democrats are now in play.

Dan Coats in an interview on Fred Thompson’s radio show explained his argument to the voters as to why Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh should not be re-elected:

“He talked a good game back at home, but when push came to shove, he was there with the liberals, there with Obama every time,” Coats said. On health care, Bayh was “catering to the liberals that he needed to cater to and he wasn’t listening to people in Indiana.”

Coats has a good deal of material to work with. Bayh voted for the stimulus, the Obama budget, and ObamaCare. He’s voted to confirm every nominee, from Sonia Sotomayor to the legal extremist Dawn Johnsen (for head of the Office of Legal Counsel) to Craig Becker for the National Labor Relations Board. He was a previous sponsor of card-check legislation, although he managed to stay noncommittal last year. In sum, Bayh was unwilling to oppose the liberal troika of Reid-Pelosi-Obama on a single meaningful domestic-policy item.

It is an argument that is likely to be repeated in states like Arkansas, Nevada, and Colorado, where challengers will make the case that the Democratic incumbent has facilitated the policies that voters back home oppose by large numbers. (In Colorado, for example, Michael Bennet is getting slammed by his opponent for his vote to confirm Becker: “Former Lt. Gov. Jane Norton, the Republican front-runner, said that while other Democrats were willing to buck President Obama’s choice, Bennet’s vote demonstrates he would provide ‘a rubber stamp’ for legislation commonly referred to as ‘card check.'”)

Recall that in Virginia, Bob McDonnell, running against a Democrat who had never cast a single vote in Congress in favor of an Obama agenda item, was able to win by a huge margin by making the case that Washington had strayed too far to the Left and that cap-and-trade, ObamaCare, card check, and takes hikes would be disastrous for his state’s economy. Scott Brown was able to make a similar argument against an opponent who similarly was not burdened by a congressional voting record in favor of the Obama agenda.

How much more effective will that argument be against Democratic incumbents like Bayh who are burdened not only by the “D” next to their name but also a voting record that fits the Republicans’ narrative? Incumbents like Bayh have a choice: start voting against the liberal agenda or hope voters lose their antipathy to the Reid-Pelosi-Obama agenda. The latter sounds like wishful thinking; the former will require a quick about-face. You can see why the Bayh seat and those of many other Democrats are now in play.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Sen. Richard Shelby’s hold on all Obama nominees to get his pork is getting slammed from all sides. For starters, it takes the focus off the truly egregious nominees (e.g., Dawn Johnsen, Harold Craig Becker).

And he’s done a bang-up job of giving the White House a rare moment on the high ground. “The White House on Friday shot back at Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) who recently took the unusual step of placing a blanket hold on all of the administration’s nominees. White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer accused Shelby of seeking political gain in preventing the government from doing its job.”

But it remains gloom and doom for Democrats at the DNC meeting: “In regional meetings and in the hallways of the downtown hotel where they were meeting, DNC members voiced frustration about their fortunes and, with a measure of urgency, plotted about how best to navigate through what is shaping up to be one of their most difficult election cycles in recent history. Some party officials sought to ward off complacency with pointed reminders about just how perilous this year could be.”

David Broder notes that there was no follow-up by the White House after the televised question-and-answer time with House Republicans, which suggests to Broder that “the president and his people may not realize the degree to which Republican frustration with Pelosi’s management of the House has created opportunities for Obama — if he is willing to engage as directly as he did in his Illinois Senate days.” Or maybe the whole question-and-answer routine was just more spin, and Obama has no intention of altering his far-Left agenda.

John Yoo takes Obama to task: “Obama believes the president should lead a revolution in society, the economy, and the political system, but defer on national security and foreign policy to the other branches of government. This upends the Framers’ vision of the presidency. They thought the chief executive’s powers would expand broadly to meet external challenges while playing a modest role at home.”

Back in September, the Los Angeles Times called on Eric Holder to come clean on the New Black Panther Party case. Now the Providence Journal turns up the heat: “Instead of letting questions fester about a potentially troublesome matter, the Obama administration should come clean about its decision to dismiss a case involving what looked like racist voter intimidation in 2008. Then, hopefully, everyone can move on. …The Justice Department may enforce our laws, but it is not above them. Instead of stonewalling, it should share with the public who made this decision to drop the case, and why.”

The State of the Union bounce seems to have faded: “The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Saturday shows that 26% of the nation’s voters Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as President. Forty-one percent (41%) Strongly Disapprove which Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of -15. That matches the President’s ratings just before the State-of-the-Union Address.”

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand might be asked why the repeal of the Bush tax cuts is good for her state: “Federal income-tax rates in the top brackets will be restored to their pre-2001 levels next year, the Bush-era cuts in capital gains and dividend taxes will be partially reversed, and itemized deductions for high-income filers (including deductions for state and local taxes) will be curtailed. If all of this comes to pass, it will spell trouble for the New York state budget for a simple reason: New York’s finances are balanced on a narrow pinnacle of high-income households, and higher federal taxes drive top-earning New Yorkers to lower their overall tax burdens by sheltering incomes, earning less, or moving to lower-tax states.”

Jonathan Chait calls Jamie Gorelick a “corrupt hack” for lobbying for lenders who don’t want the federal government to drive them out of the student loan business. Conservatives may not agree with the reason, but the conclusion — “cross Gorelick off the list of Democrats suitable to hold office” — is one that will get bipartisan support.

Sen. Richard Shelby’s hold on all Obama nominees to get his pork is getting slammed from all sides. For starters, it takes the focus off the truly egregious nominees (e.g., Dawn Johnsen, Harold Craig Becker).

And he’s done a bang-up job of giving the White House a rare moment on the high ground. “The White House on Friday shot back at Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) who recently took the unusual step of placing a blanket hold on all of the administration’s nominees. White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer accused Shelby of seeking political gain in preventing the government from doing its job.”

But it remains gloom and doom for Democrats at the DNC meeting: “In regional meetings and in the hallways of the downtown hotel where they were meeting, DNC members voiced frustration about their fortunes and, with a measure of urgency, plotted about how best to navigate through what is shaping up to be one of their most difficult election cycles in recent history. Some party officials sought to ward off complacency with pointed reminders about just how perilous this year could be.”

David Broder notes that there was no follow-up by the White House after the televised question-and-answer time with House Republicans, which suggests to Broder that “the president and his people may not realize the degree to which Republican frustration with Pelosi’s management of the House has created opportunities for Obama — if he is willing to engage as directly as he did in his Illinois Senate days.” Or maybe the whole question-and-answer routine was just more spin, and Obama has no intention of altering his far-Left agenda.

John Yoo takes Obama to task: “Obama believes the president should lead a revolution in society, the economy, and the political system, but defer on national security and foreign policy to the other branches of government. This upends the Framers’ vision of the presidency. They thought the chief executive’s powers would expand broadly to meet external challenges while playing a modest role at home.”

Back in September, the Los Angeles Times called on Eric Holder to come clean on the New Black Panther Party case. Now the Providence Journal turns up the heat: “Instead of letting questions fester about a potentially troublesome matter, the Obama administration should come clean about its decision to dismiss a case involving what looked like racist voter intimidation in 2008. Then, hopefully, everyone can move on. …The Justice Department may enforce our laws, but it is not above them. Instead of stonewalling, it should share with the public who made this decision to drop the case, and why.”

The State of the Union bounce seems to have faded: “The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Saturday shows that 26% of the nation’s voters Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as President. Forty-one percent (41%) Strongly Disapprove which Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of -15. That matches the President’s ratings just before the State-of-the-Union Address.”

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand might be asked why the repeal of the Bush tax cuts is good for her state: “Federal income-tax rates in the top brackets will be restored to their pre-2001 levels next year, the Bush-era cuts in capital gains and dividend taxes will be partially reversed, and itemized deductions for high-income filers (including deductions for state and local taxes) will be curtailed. If all of this comes to pass, it will spell trouble for the New York state budget for a simple reason: New York’s finances are balanced on a narrow pinnacle of high-income households, and higher federal taxes drive top-earning New Yorkers to lower their overall tax burdens by sheltering incomes, earning less, or moving to lower-tax states.”

Jonathan Chait calls Jamie Gorelick a “corrupt hack” for lobbying for lenders who don’t want the federal government to drive them out of the student loan business. Conservatives may not agree with the reason, but the conclusion — “cross Gorelick off the list of Democrats suitable to hold office” — is one that will get bipartisan support.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Good for the Senate. The nomination of lefty extremist Dawn Johnsen for the Office of Legal Counsel and two other nominations were returned to the White House. One of those is Mary Smith, nominated to head the tax division. She is not a tax lawyer, has never practiced tax law, and has never even taken continuing legal education in the subject area. But she is a Native American who worked on multiple Democratic campaigns. Perhaps we can finally begin to de-politicize the Justice Department.

Nebraska Gov. David Heineman blasts Sen. Ben Nelson. “The reason he’s in hot water right now is that he’s not listening to Nebraskans – it’s very unusual for him. . . I am shocked.” Sounds like the stump speech for Nelson’s 2012 opponent. But Michael Gerson suggests that Nelson is a sweet man who doesn’t understand what he agreed to on abortion subsidies. Maybe once he finds out, his mind can be changed.

Smart advice on the John Kerry trip to Tehran: “The Kerry mission would also look like a panicky effort to persuade the Ayatollah Ali Khamanei to accept the increasingly plaintive U.S. offers of engagement. Mr. Obama has set the end of this month as his latest deadline for progress on nuclear talks before he says he’ll seek tougher sanctions against Iran at the U.N. . .  The regime would probably exploit the visit for its own domestic purposes, perhaps adding to its P.R. coup by releasing to Mr. Kerry the three hapless American hikers it has promised to put on trial for having ‘suspicious aims’ as they wandered across the border with Iraq.”

Give the military option a chance, suggests Alan Kuperman from the pages of the New York Times: “Incentives and sanctions will not work, but air strikes could degrade and deter Iran’s bomb program at relatively little cost or risk, and therefore are worth a try. They should be precision attacks, aimed only at nuclear facilities, to remind Iran of the many other valuable sites that could be bombed if it were foolish enough to retaliate. . . Postponing military action merely provides Iran a window to expand, disperse and harden its nuclear facilities against attack. The sooner the United States takes action, the better.”

The U.S. launches a successful strike in Yemen, but Major Nadal Hassan’s favorite iman survives. So why is it that we are releasing Guantanamo detainees to a country so stocked with terrorists?

And although the Obami seem not to want to recognize it, we are in a war: “A Nigerian man, claiming to be linked to al-Qaeda, allegedly tried to set off an incendiary device aboard a transatlantic airplane Friday as it descended toward Detroit’s airport in what the White House called an attempted act of terrorism.” This would be the second domestic terrorist attack (Hassan, the first) this year. Oh, and the suspect claims he was given assistance in Yemen.

J Street Board member Hannah Rosenthal, now the Obami’s “anti-semitism czar(ina)” takes a shot at Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren for criticizing her J Street pals.

Jewish organizations respond with surprising vehemence. (Could the days of gritting their teeth over outrageous administration statements may be finally at an end?) The administration responds with a statement: “The Department of State values its close relationship with Ambassador Michael Oren and his staff at the Embassy of Israel in Washington. The United States and Israel enjoy extraordinarily close ties based on shared values, interests, and history, as well as the deep bonds between the Israeli people and the American people.” And so forth. So what about Rosenthal — if she is out of step with those she ostensibly serves (the Obama administration, not the J Street gang) what is she doing there?

Sen. Mark Warner insists he wants to be a radical centrist. But he keeps voting for Obama’s leftwing agenda including the government takeover of healthcare so he’s not doing much to differentiate himself from the run-of-mill liberal Democrats. Virginia voters have figured it out: “An automated poll conducted by SurveyUSA shows that Warner’s approval rating has fallen among independents and Republicans since January.”

Good for the Senate. The nomination of lefty extremist Dawn Johnsen for the Office of Legal Counsel and two other nominations were returned to the White House. One of those is Mary Smith, nominated to head the tax division. She is not a tax lawyer, has never practiced tax law, and has never even taken continuing legal education in the subject area. But she is a Native American who worked on multiple Democratic campaigns. Perhaps we can finally begin to de-politicize the Justice Department.

Nebraska Gov. David Heineman blasts Sen. Ben Nelson. “The reason he’s in hot water right now is that he’s not listening to Nebraskans – it’s very unusual for him. . . I am shocked.” Sounds like the stump speech for Nelson’s 2012 opponent. But Michael Gerson suggests that Nelson is a sweet man who doesn’t understand what he agreed to on abortion subsidies. Maybe once he finds out, his mind can be changed.

Smart advice on the John Kerry trip to Tehran: “The Kerry mission would also look like a panicky effort to persuade the Ayatollah Ali Khamanei to accept the increasingly plaintive U.S. offers of engagement. Mr. Obama has set the end of this month as his latest deadline for progress on nuclear talks before he says he’ll seek tougher sanctions against Iran at the U.N. . .  The regime would probably exploit the visit for its own domestic purposes, perhaps adding to its P.R. coup by releasing to Mr. Kerry the three hapless American hikers it has promised to put on trial for having ‘suspicious aims’ as they wandered across the border with Iraq.”

Give the military option a chance, suggests Alan Kuperman from the pages of the New York Times: “Incentives and sanctions will not work, but air strikes could degrade and deter Iran’s bomb program at relatively little cost or risk, and therefore are worth a try. They should be precision attacks, aimed only at nuclear facilities, to remind Iran of the many other valuable sites that could be bombed if it were foolish enough to retaliate. . . Postponing military action merely provides Iran a window to expand, disperse and harden its nuclear facilities against attack. The sooner the United States takes action, the better.”

The U.S. launches a successful strike in Yemen, but Major Nadal Hassan’s favorite iman survives. So why is it that we are releasing Guantanamo detainees to a country so stocked with terrorists?

And although the Obami seem not to want to recognize it, we are in a war: “A Nigerian man, claiming to be linked to al-Qaeda, allegedly tried to set off an incendiary device aboard a transatlantic airplane Friday as it descended toward Detroit’s airport in what the White House called an attempted act of terrorism.” This would be the second domestic terrorist attack (Hassan, the first) this year. Oh, and the suspect claims he was given assistance in Yemen.

J Street Board member Hannah Rosenthal, now the Obami’s “anti-semitism czar(ina)” takes a shot at Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren for criticizing her J Street pals.

Jewish organizations respond with surprising vehemence. (Could the days of gritting their teeth over outrageous administration statements may be finally at an end?) The administration responds with a statement: “The Department of State values its close relationship with Ambassador Michael Oren and his staff at the Embassy of Israel in Washington. The United States and Israel enjoy extraordinarily close ties based on shared values, interests, and history, as well as the deep bonds between the Israeli people and the American people.” And so forth. So what about Rosenthal — if she is out of step with those she ostensibly serves (the Obama administration, not the J Street gang) what is she doing there?

Sen. Mark Warner insists he wants to be a radical centrist. But he keeps voting for Obama’s leftwing agenda including the government takeover of healthcare so he’s not doing much to differentiate himself from the run-of-mill liberal Democrats. Virginia voters have figured it out: “An automated poll conducted by SurveyUSA shows that Warner’s approval rating has fallen among independents and Republicans since January.”

Read Less




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