Commentary Magazine


Topic: lawyer

The Dumbest Campaign Strategy Ever?

Last week, we witnessed Joe Sestak’s lawyer fail to get Comcast to pull ECI’s ad. In doing so, Sestak only succeeded in calling attention to the problematic aspects of his stance toward Israel, most particularly his CAIR speech in 2007. (J Street has not replied to my queries as to whether the group had read the speech before endorsing Sestak, whether it agreed with Sestak’s praise of CAIR, and whether J Street believes CAIR has ties to Hamas and Hezbollah.) But this is not an isolated gambit. Trying to shut up his critics appears to be his entire media strategy so far. The local Pennsylvania press reports:

Two Pittsburgh-area television stations have put ads attacking Senate candidate Rep. Joe Sestak back on the air after yanking them earlier this week.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce had bought the ad time on 21 stations across Pennsylvania, but the Sestak campaign protested as inaccurate the portions of the spot in which the organization accuses Mr. Sestak of voting with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., 100 percent of the time.

WPGH and WPMY, sister stations owned by Sinclair Broadcasting, pulled the ads from the air for a day, but reversed course today, said Bill Miller, the Chamber’s senior vice president of political affairs.

Once the business group contacted the stations to explain the claims, the ad was reinstated, Mr. Miller said. Arguing that the ad was false, the Sestak campaign cited a recent vote against an amendment on the DISCLOSE Act — a bill to restrict campaign financing — as evidence that Mr. Sestak is not always in line with the Ms. Pelosi, and thus claiming the ad is false.

Now get this: Sestak’s argument for pulling the ad was that he hasn’t voted 100 percent of the time with Pelosi – only 97.8 percent. OK, this just isn’t very bright. He’s now done a bang-up job of reinforcing the argument that it’s a bad thing to be a rubber stamp for Pelosi. And he’s heightened the awareness that he’s one of the chief rubber-stampers. Pat Toomey’s campaign was clearly delighted:

“There’s a good reason why all of the television stations aren’t buying Joe Sestak’s laughable complaint,” Toomey spokeswoman Nachama Soloveichik said. “It’s because it simply isn’t true. Over his 3 1/2 years in Congress, Joe Sestak has marched in lockstep with liberal Nancy Pelosi, voting for all the major elements of her leftwing agenda, from serial bailouts, to government-run health care, to a cap-and-trade energy tax, to ballooning deficits, to billions of dollars in new tax increases. No wonder Congressman Sestak doesn’t want Pennsylvanians to see the ad.”

That’s just a layup for the Toomey camp. So what is Sestak thinking? Got me. You can’t simply stifle the opposition when they remind voters of inconvenient facts, whether it is on domestic or foreign policy. But it is interesting to know that association with Nancy Pelosi strikes fear in the hearts of even the most liberal Democrats.

Last week, we witnessed Joe Sestak’s lawyer fail to get Comcast to pull ECI’s ad. In doing so, Sestak only succeeded in calling attention to the problematic aspects of his stance toward Israel, most particularly his CAIR speech in 2007. (J Street has not replied to my queries as to whether the group had read the speech before endorsing Sestak, whether it agreed with Sestak’s praise of CAIR, and whether J Street believes CAIR has ties to Hamas and Hezbollah.) But this is not an isolated gambit. Trying to shut up his critics appears to be his entire media strategy so far. The local Pennsylvania press reports:

Two Pittsburgh-area television stations have put ads attacking Senate candidate Rep. Joe Sestak back on the air after yanking them earlier this week.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce had bought the ad time on 21 stations across Pennsylvania, but the Sestak campaign protested as inaccurate the portions of the spot in which the organization accuses Mr. Sestak of voting with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., 100 percent of the time.

WPGH and WPMY, sister stations owned by Sinclair Broadcasting, pulled the ads from the air for a day, but reversed course today, said Bill Miller, the Chamber’s senior vice president of political affairs.

Once the business group contacted the stations to explain the claims, the ad was reinstated, Mr. Miller said. Arguing that the ad was false, the Sestak campaign cited a recent vote against an amendment on the DISCLOSE Act — a bill to restrict campaign financing — as evidence that Mr. Sestak is not always in line with the Ms. Pelosi, and thus claiming the ad is false.

Now get this: Sestak’s argument for pulling the ad was that he hasn’t voted 100 percent of the time with Pelosi – only 97.8 percent. OK, this just isn’t very bright. He’s now done a bang-up job of reinforcing the argument that it’s a bad thing to be a rubber stamp for Pelosi. And he’s heightened the awareness that he’s one of the chief rubber-stampers. Pat Toomey’s campaign was clearly delighted:

“There’s a good reason why all of the television stations aren’t buying Joe Sestak’s laughable complaint,” Toomey spokeswoman Nachama Soloveichik said. “It’s because it simply isn’t true. Over his 3 1/2 years in Congress, Joe Sestak has marched in lockstep with liberal Nancy Pelosi, voting for all the major elements of her leftwing agenda, from serial bailouts, to government-run health care, to a cap-and-trade energy tax, to ballooning deficits, to billions of dollars in new tax increases. No wonder Congressman Sestak doesn’t want Pennsylvanians to see the ad.”

That’s just a layup for the Toomey camp. So what is Sestak thinking? Got me. You can’t simply stifle the opposition when they remind voters of inconvenient facts, whether it is on domestic or foreign policy. But it is interesting to know that association with Nancy Pelosi strikes fear in the hearts of even the most liberal Democrats.

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Sestak Can’t Shut Up Critics, Can’t Hide

The Jewish Exponent is not exactly a conservative publication, so its coverage of ECI’s ad and of Joe Sestak’s Israel problem must be of particular concern to the Sestak camp. The report explains:

A new effort to attack U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak’s record on Israel has gone viral. A debate that has long been playing out in the pages of the Jewish Exponent has now made its way to MSNBCs “Morning Joe,” and Web sites such as Politico, The Atlantic, Commentary, the Huffington Post and YouTube. … At the centerpiece of the new campaign against Sestak is a television ad sponsored by a prominent group of Jews and Evangelical Christians calling itself the Emergency Committee for Israel.

The ad, airing in Pennsylvania this week — including during a Phillies game — highlights an appearance he made before a controversial Muslim group in 2007 and criticizes him for signing one congressional letter urging Israel to ease its blockade of Gaza and for not signing another one affirming Israel-U.S. ties. The spot is likely the first strike in what organizers have vowed will be a sustained effort to challenge Democrats and President Barack Obama on policy toward Israel.

The Exponent is not buying Sestak’s defense of his speech to CAIR in 2007: “According to the Anti-Defamation League, CAIR has ‘refused for many years to unequivocally condemn by name Hezbollah and Palestinian terror organizations.’” Nor does it appear that Sestak will be able to duck the controversy:

“Michael Bronstein, a Philadelphia political consultant and pro-Israel activist who is supporting Sestak, said that the new commercial “is completely different from anything that we have seen before. I suspect it will be effective without an adequate response.” …

For his part, Toomey, through his spokeswoman, told the Exponent: “It’s really unfortunate that Joe Sestak has repeatedly chosen to align himself with the most anti-Israel faction in Congress.”

It is not simply that Sestak gave the speech to a group that often spouts anti-Israel venom. It is that, as the Exponent points out, “Despite repeated calls for Sestak to have canceled before the CAIR speech, and calls for him to admit the appearance was a mistake, he has never backed down.” Even now that CAIR continues to carry water (and censor books) on behalf of radical Islamists and even now that CAIR’s track record is well known (see here and here and here), Sestak has never issued an apology or denounced the group.

You can understand why his lawyer tried to take down the ad. In doing so, however, he’s only called more attention to Sestak’s shabby record.

The Jewish Exponent is not exactly a conservative publication, so its coverage of ECI’s ad and of Joe Sestak’s Israel problem must be of particular concern to the Sestak camp. The report explains:

A new effort to attack U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak’s record on Israel has gone viral. A debate that has long been playing out in the pages of the Jewish Exponent has now made its way to MSNBCs “Morning Joe,” and Web sites such as Politico, The Atlantic, Commentary, the Huffington Post and YouTube. … At the centerpiece of the new campaign against Sestak is a television ad sponsored by a prominent group of Jews and Evangelical Christians calling itself the Emergency Committee for Israel.

The ad, airing in Pennsylvania this week — including during a Phillies game — highlights an appearance he made before a controversial Muslim group in 2007 and criticizes him for signing one congressional letter urging Israel to ease its blockade of Gaza and for not signing another one affirming Israel-U.S. ties. The spot is likely the first strike in what organizers have vowed will be a sustained effort to challenge Democrats and President Barack Obama on policy toward Israel.

The Exponent is not buying Sestak’s defense of his speech to CAIR in 2007: “According to the Anti-Defamation League, CAIR has ‘refused for many years to unequivocally condemn by name Hezbollah and Palestinian terror organizations.’” Nor does it appear that Sestak will be able to duck the controversy:

“Michael Bronstein, a Philadelphia political consultant and pro-Israel activist who is supporting Sestak, said that the new commercial “is completely different from anything that we have seen before. I suspect it will be effective without an adequate response.” …

For his part, Toomey, through his spokeswoman, told the Exponent: “It’s really unfortunate that Joe Sestak has repeatedly chosen to align himself with the most anti-Israel faction in Congress.”

It is not simply that Sestak gave the speech to a group that often spouts anti-Israel venom. It is that, as the Exponent points out, “Despite repeated calls for Sestak to have canceled before the CAIR speech, and calls for him to admit the appearance was a mistake, he has never backed down.” Even now that CAIR continues to carry water (and censor books) on behalf of radical Islamists and even now that CAIR’s track record is well known (see here and here and here), Sestak has never issued an apology or denounced the group.

You can understand why his lawyer tried to take down the ad. In doing so, however, he’s only called more attention to Sestak’s shabby record.

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Shut Up, Joe Sestak Responded

Yes, it’s a trend, apparently. Run an add that hits home and the target wants to make sure viewers can’t see it so they can make up their own minds. The ECI launched its opening salvo against Joe Sestak and Sestak’s lawyer rushes in to respond, as Ben Smith reports:

A lawyer for Rep. Joe Sestak, attesting to the Senate candidate’s pro-Israel bona fides, wrote that Sestak had “put his life on the line to defend Israel” during his years in the Navy. The letter, an unsuccessful attempt to persuade Comcast not to air an attack ad from the Emergency Committee for Israel, aggressively makes Sestak’s case on several fronts, but the suggestion that his naval service* in was performed “to defend Israel” is rarely heard outside conspiracy circles.

“Congressman Joe Sestak is the only candidate in the U.S. Senate race who (as an officer of the Navy) was willing to put his life on the line to defend Israel,” Sestak lawyer Jared Solomon wrote Comcast. “It is offensive and outrageous to suggest that he does not stand with Israel.”

Solomon’s letter, obtained by POLITICO,  challenges several other portions of the attack ad, including a claim that he’d helped fundraise for the Council on American Islamic Relations (his appearance was at “a portion of the event explicitly free of fundraising”) and that the group had been called a Hamas “front group” (“the characterization came a year after the CAIR event”).

This is a bizarre and telling move by Sestak on a number of grounds. First, is Sestak saying that he was in mortal peril as commander of a  naval battle group? Sensing that this is a gross exaggeration, his spokesman piped up with a “clarification”:

Sestak spokesman Jonathan Dworkin says the reference was not to any specific conflict, but to a series of operations with the Israeli Military, including a deployment in 2003 to help protect Israel from Iraqi missiles. “There is no suggestion that he served in the Navy for the purpose of defending Israel, only that he was involved in situations with the Israeli military and while serving the United States, he was willing to lay his life on the line in defense of our ally, Israel,” he writes.

Any military service, in my book, should be commended, but we’ve had enough of puffery lately about military credentials and it sure wasn’t the case that he was crawling on his belly through Gaza to protect the Jewish state. But, frankly, it’s hard to tell precisely what he did, because Sestak has refused to release his military records. If they show that he in fact risked life and limb for Israel and put to rest the controversy as to whether he was relieved of command — or told to resign (for creating a “poor command climate”) — why isn’t he putting out his Navy records?

Nor is the lawyer’s argument compelling, let along intelligible, that Sestak wasn’t really accusing Israel of “resorting to collective punishment” when he signed a letter promoted by J Street along with 53 other Israel-bashers. That letter called on Israel to figure out an approach to Gaza “without resulting in the de facto collective punishment of the Palestinian residents of the Gaza strip.” Huh? I don’t see how Sestak can escape from the text he signed off on.

But that’s not the weirdest part of the letter. He’s essentially saying: “I didn’t actually raise money for CAIR (although there was an admission fee), I just spoke at an event.” And he’s arguing it wasn’t the whole FBI who called CAIR a Hamas front group — just one agent did. Sheesh. I don’t see how that is going to fly. After all, CAIR officials have been the subject of many a legal investigation and have some rather radical views.

In the campaign Sestak’s going to have some explaining to do. Really, is he going to say it was only after the fundraising event that CAIR got the moniker of “Hamas front group”? They had been under investigation, after all, for years. More to the point, does he now understand that CAIR is in fact a front group?

Also, take a look at the letter and exhibits that the ECI submitted in response to the “shut them up” plea from Sestak’s lawyer. I’m not sure how fair-minded people can look at all that and conclude that Sestak has a pro-Israel track record, unless we are willing to concede that “pro-Israel” has no meaning.

Arlen Specter tried to raise many of these same points during the primary, so this isn’t anything new. What is surprising is that Sestak thinks he can muscle his way through the campaign without revealing his Navy records, without expressing any remorse for speaking at a CAIR event (with a Muslim activist who compared Zionists to Nazis) and without explaining what exactly makes him so attractive to J Street. We’ll see if he can pull it off.

Yes, it’s a trend, apparently. Run an add that hits home and the target wants to make sure viewers can’t see it so they can make up their own minds. The ECI launched its opening salvo against Joe Sestak and Sestak’s lawyer rushes in to respond, as Ben Smith reports:

A lawyer for Rep. Joe Sestak, attesting to the Senate candidate’s pro-Israel bona fides, wrote that Sestak had “put his life on the line to defend Israel” during his years in the Navy. The letter, an unsuccessful attempt to persuade Comcast not to air an attack ad from the Emergency Committee for Israel, aggressively makes Sestak’s case on several fronts, but the suggestion that his naval service* in was performed “to defend Israel” is rarely heard outside conspiracy circles.

“Congressman Joe Sestak is the only candidate in the U.S. Senate race who (as an officer of the Navy) was willing to put his life on the line to defend Israel,” Sestak lawyer Jared Solomon wrote Comcast. “It is offensive and outrageous to suggest that he does not stand with Israel.”

Solomon’s letter, obtained by POLITICO,  challenges several other portions of the attack ad, including a claim that he’d helped fundraise for the Council on American Islamic Relations (his appearance was at “a portion of the event explicitly free of fundraising”) and that the group had been called a Hamas “front group” (“the characterization came a year after the CAIR event”).

This is a bizarre and telling move by Sestak on a number of grounds. First, is Sestak saying that he was in mortal peril as commander of a  naval battle group? Sensing that this is a gross exaggeration, his spokesman piped up with a “clarification”:

Sestak spokesman Jonathan Dworkin says the reference was not to any specific conflict, but to a series of operations with the Israeli Military, including a deployment in 2003 to help protect Israel from Iraqi missiles. “There is no suggestion that he served in the Navy for the purpose of defending Israel, only that he was involved in situations with the Israeli military and while serving the United States, he was willing to lay his life on the line in defense of our ally, Israel,” he writes.

Any military service, in my book, should be commended, but we’ve had enough of puffery lately about military credentials and it sure wasn’t the case that he was crawling on his belly through Gaza to protect the Jewish state. But, frankly, it’s hard to tell precisely what he did, because Sestak has refused to release his military records. If they show that he in fact risked life and limb for Israel and put to rest the controversy as to whether he was relieved of command — or told to resign (for creating a “poor command climate”) — why isn’t he putting out his Navy records?

Nor is the lawyer’s argument compelling, let along intelligible, that Sestak wasn’t really accusing Israel of “resorting to collective punishment” when he signed a letter promoted by J Street along with 53 other Israel-bashers. That letter called on Israel to figure out an approach to Gaza “without resulting in the de facto collective punishment of the Palestinian residents of the Gaza strip.” Huh? I don’t see how Sestak can escape from the text he signed off on.

But that’s not the weirdest part of the letter. He’s essentially saying: “I didn’t actually raise money for CAIR (although there was an admission fee), I just spoke at an event.” And he’s arguing it wasn’t the whole FBI who called CAIR a Hamas front group — just one agent did. Sheesh. I don’t see how that is going to fly. After all, CAIR officials have been the subject of many a legal investigation and have some rather radical views.

In the campaign Sestak’s going to have some explaining to do. Really, is he going to say it was only after the fundraising event that CAIR got the moniker of “Hamas front group”? They had been under investigation, after all, for years. More to the point, does he now understand that CAIR is in fact a front group?

Also, take a look at the letter and exhibits that the ECI submitted in response to the “shut them up” plea from Sestak’s lawyer. I’m not sure how fair-minded people can look at all that and conclude that Sestak has a pro-Israel track record, unless we are willing to concede that “pro-Israel” has no meaning.

Arlen Specter tried to raise many of these same points during the primary, so this isn’t anything new. What is surprising is that Sestak thinks he can muscle his way through the campaign without revealing his Navy records, without expressing any remorse for speaking at a CAIR event (with a Muslim activist who compared Zionists to Nazis) and without explaining what exactly makes him so attractive to J Street. We’ll see if he can pull it off.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

If you give the liberal newspapers 11 months, they will eventually catch up with conservative media.

If you give Jonathan Chait a lifetime, he never will. Refusal to pursue voter-intimidation cases against nonwhite people, he says, is a “tiny matter.” (Does he know that it’s not just Fox that’s covering the scandal but the Washington Post too?)

If they gave grades for charm, Nancy Pelosi would be failing: “While trying to mend ties between her caucus and the White House, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi turned her ire toward her Senate colleagues on Thursday, blaming Senate delays in passing the Democratic agenda for the disappointing jobs picture heading into the midterm elections.”

If you keep hoping for Peter Beinart to write something that is factually supported and more than an ad hominem attack on conservatives, you’ll be disappointed. He says Republicans think you have to be Christian to be American. Or something. No, don’t read the whole thing. Or any of it.

If you think liberals aren’t angst-ridden, think again. Greg Sargent complains about Robert Gibbs’s comment on losing the House: “[I]t’s pretty clear now that Dems have good reason to be furious about Gibbs’s misstep. It has forced a days-long media process story about whether they’re going to lose the House and about tensions between them and the White House. This is happening just when Dems are trying to turn the spotlight away from themselves and onto Republicans in order to persuade voters that this fall’s elections represent a choice between competing governing philosophies.”

If you also thought it was bizarre that Obama was invoking race to explain why al-Qaeda kills Africans, you are in good company. Charles Krauthammer: “I found a more interesting element in the interview when he said al-Qaeda doesn’t respect African life. I mean, it doesn’t respect Indonesian life, Pakistani life, Iraqi life, American life. Of course it doesn’t respect African life, but it’s not because of race. It doesn’t respect anyone or any organization, any people who won’t accept the extreme interpretation of Islam and the bringing on of one rule under sharia.”

If Republicans are doing this well in fundraising, you have to think they’re going to do very well in November. (That sure was the pattern for Democrats in 2008.) “Republicans are outraising Democrats in nearly a dozen open Senate races, increasing their hopes of significantly narrowing the Democrats’ majority in November.”

If you like a good news story: “A judge had resentenced a 70-year-old civil rights lawyer to 10 years in prison for letting a jailed Egyptian sheik communicate with his radical followers. Federal Judge John Koeltl sentenced Lynne Stewart in Manhattan after she pleaded with him to reimpose the two-year, four-month sentence he had originally given her in 2006.” You might want to avert your eyes from the photo, however.

 

If you give the liberal newspapers 11 months, they will eventually catch up with conservative media.

If you give Jonathan Chait a lifetime, he never will. Refusal to pursue voter-intimidation cases against nonwhite people, he says, is a “tiny matter.” (Does he know that it’s not just Fox that’s covering the scandal but the Washington Post too?)

If they gave grades for charm, Nancy Pelosi would be failing: “While trying to mend ties between her caucus and the White House, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi turned her ire toward her Senate colleagues on Thursday, blaming Senate delays in passing the Democratic agenda for the disappointing jobs picture heading into the midterm elections.”

If you keep hoping for Peter Beinart to write something that is factually supported and more than an ad hominem attack on conservatives, you’ll be disappointed. He says Republicans think you have to be Christian to be American. Or something. No, don’t read the whole thing. Or any of it.

If you think liberals aren’t angst-ridden, think again. Greg Sargent complains about Robert Gibbs’s comment on losing the House: “[I]t’s pretty clear now that Dems have good reason to be furious about Gibbs’s misstep. It has forced a days-long media process story about whether they’re going to lose the House and about tensions between them and the White House. This is happening just when Dems are trying to turn the spotlight away from themselves and onto Republicans in order to persuade voters that this fall’s elections represent a choice between competing governing philosophies.”

If you also thought it was bizarre that Obama was invoking race to explain why al-Qaeda kills Africans, you are in good company. Charles Krauthammer: “I found a more interesting element in the interview when he said al-Qaeda doesn’t respect African life. I mean, it doesn’t respect Indonesian life, Pakistani life, Iraqi life, American life. Of course it doesn’t respect African life, but it’s not because of race. It doesn’t respect anyone or any organization, any people who won’t accept the extreme interpretation of Islam and the bringing on of one rule under sharia.”

If Republicans are doing this well in fundraising, you have to think they’re going to do very well in November. (That sure was the pattern for Democrats in 2008.) “Republicans are outraising Democrats in nearly a dozen open Senate races, increasing their hopes of significantly narrowing the Democrats’ majority in November.”

If you like a good news story: “A judge had resentenced a 70-year-old civil rights lawyer to 10 years in prison for letting a jailed Egyptian sheik communicate with his radical followers. Federal Judge John Koeltl sentenced Lynne Stewart in Manhattan after she pleaded with him to reimpose the two-year, four-month sentence he had originally given her in 2006.” You might want to avert your eyes from the photo, however.

 

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Flotsam and Jetsam

No joke: Mother Jones has an excellent expose on the al-Qaeda lawyers’ antics in showing terrorists photos of CIA officials.

No news network except Fox has picked up on the New Black Panther Party scandal.

No meltdown (yet): “The U.S. Senate race in Kentucky is little changed from earlier this month, with Republican Rand Paul continuing to hold a modest lead over Democrat Jack Conway. The latest Rasmussen Reports statewide telephone survey of Likely Voters shows Paul picking up 49% support to Conway’s 42%.”

No good news for the Democrats. Stuart Rothenberg: “The news on joblessness and the U.S. economy, combined with growing concerns over the federal deficit, Europe’s financial health (particularly growing debt), the lack of progress of the war in Afghanistan and the damage resulting from the BP oil gusher in the Gulf of Mexico, are burying the president and his party in an avalanche of public dissatisfaction.”

No answers (from Elena Kagan): “Republicans and Democrats alike expressed frustration that she wasn’t willing to answer more questions despite having once written a book review saying Supreme Court nominees needed to do just that.”

No “shift” or “rift” between Israel and the U.S., says Yoram Ettinger. It’s worse: “Obama is an ideologue, determined to change the US and the world, irrespective of his declining fortunes internally and externally.” The result is an “unbridgeable gap” between the two countries.

No better distillation of Obama’s flawed Middle East policy than this from Elliott Abrams: “The Obama Administration appears to have three basic premises about the Middle East. The first is that the key issue in the entire Middle East is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The second is that it is a territorial conflict that can be resolved in essence by Israeli concessions. The third is that the central function of the United States is to serve as the PLO’s lawyer to broker those concessions so that an agreement can be signed.”

No cloture vote. With senators’ newfound concern for fiscal responsibility (it’s an election year), Harry Reid can’t round up enough votes to pass unemployment benefits. “Reid intends to call a vote Thursday evening on the smaller benefits bill — now paired with a homebuyer’s credit provision that may help garner more support. But the majority leader conceded he might not be able to clear the bill before the July recess. A more comprehensive tax extenders and unemployment benefits bill failed to pass the procedural block on three consecutive tries.”

No timeline on immigration reform: “President Barack Obama will talk about the urgency of the need for immigration reform in a major speech on Thursday, but will not give a timeline for action.” (It would be nice if he felt the same about a troop pullout from Afghanistan.) Makes you almost think he’s not serious about doing something, only making a campaign issue out of it.

No joke: Mother Jones has an excellent expose on the al-Qaeda lawyers’ antics in showing terrorists photos of CIA officials.

No news network except Fox has picked up on the New Black Panther Party scandal.

No meltdown (yet): “The U.S. Senate race in Kentucky is little changed from earlier this month, with Republican Rand Paul continuing to hold a modest lead over Democrat Jack Conway. The latest Rasmussen Reports statewide telephone survey of Likely Voters shows Paul picking up 49% support to Conway’s 42%.”

No good news for the Democrats. Stuart Rothenberg: “The news on joblessness and the U.S. economy, combined with growing concerns over the federal deficit, Europe’s financial health (particularly growing debt), the lack of progress of the war in Afghanistan and the damage resulting from the BP oil gusher in the Gulf of Mexico, are burying the president and his party in an avalanche of public dissatisfaction.”

No answers (from Elena Kagan): “Republicans and Democrats alike expressed frustration that she wasn’t willing to answer more questions despite having once written a book review saying Supreme Court nominees needed to do just that.”

No “shift” or “rift” between Israel and the U.S., says Yoram Ettinger. It’s worse: “Obama is an ideologue, determined to change the US and the world, irrespective of his declining fortunes internally and externally.” The result is an “unbridgeable gap” between the two countries.

No better distillation of Obama’s flawed Middle East policy than this from Elliott Abrams: “The Obama Administration appears to have three basic premises about the Middle East. The first is that the key issue in the entire Middle East is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The second is that it is a territorial conflict that can be resolved in essence by Israeli concessions. The third is that the central function of the United States is to serve as the PLO’s lawyer to broker those concessions so that an agreement can be signed.”

No cloture vote. With senators’ newfound concern for fiscal responsibility (it’s an election year), Harry Reid can’t round up enough votes to pass unemployment benefits. “Reid intends to call a vote Thursday evening on the smaller benefits bill — now paired with a homebuyer’s credit provision that may help garner more support. But the majority leader conceded he might not be able to clear the bill before the July recess. A more comprehensive tax extenders and unemployment benefits bill failed to pass the procedural block on three consecutive tries.”

No timeline on immigration reform: “President Barack Obama will talk about the urgency of the need for immigration reform in a major speech on Thursday, but will not give a timeline for action.” (It would be nice if he felt the same about a troop pullout from Afghanistan.) Makes you almost think he’s not serious about doing something, only making a campaign issue out of it.

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Kagan Hearing: Just Say No

That’s what Sen. Arlen Specter – unbound and without any re-election prospects — suggested the Senate do when confronted with a nominee like Elena Kagan who gives no real substantive answers. It took a defeat in a primary, but Specter has articulated a principled and highly defensible position.

As for the partial-birth-abortion controversy, Kagan fenced over whether the memo was even in her handwriting. (Is this supposed to increase our confidence in her credibility and forthrightness?) And then she gave an answer that is simply not believable: namely, that she was simply reflecting or summarizing the work of the medical experts. Shannen Coffin, who brought forth the issue, explains:

[A]ny suggestion that her work was merely the synthesis of the task force’s deliberations doesn’t account for that time line — she had no interaction with the task force itself, only the executive board of ACOG.

Second and more significant, the White House had already met with ACOG’s former president and current chief lobbyist (to whom Kagan’s revisions were addressed) in June 1996, before the special task force was even formed. At that meeting (which apparently Kagan did not attend but recounted in a memo to her bosses, dated June 22, 1996), Kagan wrote that the White House staffers were basically told that ACOG couldn’t identify any particular circumstances where the procedure was medically necessary.

Coffin is right to focus on Kagan’s own words. She admits that the factual basis for objecting to a partial-birth-abortion ban is bogus:

First, there are an exceedingly small number of partial birth abortions that could meet the standard the President has articulated. In the vast majority of cases, selection of the partial birth procedure is not necessary to avert serious adverse consequences to a woman’s health; another option — whether another abortion procedure or, in the post-viability context, birth through a caesarean section, induced labor, or carrying the pregnancy to term — is equally safe. … I will spare you all the medical details here. Suffice it to say that we went through every circumstance imaginable — post- and pre-viability, assuming malformed fetuses, assuming other medical conditions, etc., etc. — and there just aren’t many where use of the partial-birth abortion is the least risky, let alone the “necessary,” approach. … Second and relatedly, of the five women who came to the White House, only two can truly say (though they all apparently believe) that the partial birth procedure was the least risky of their alternatives.

Then she says that, nevertheless, facts shouldn’t stand in the way:

Those present at the meeting all agreed, on the basis of the thoroughness and care of the ACOG presentation, that these two points are probably just true, rather than a matter of medical opinion. (Betsy Myers and Jeremy Ben-Ami, neither of whom attended the meeting, have expressed the view that some other doctor might say something different.) At the same time, none of us think that this information should cause us to change the standard the President has articulated or the rhetoric he has used.

So a report was crafted that did NOT reflect the ACOG’s views but instead supported the president’s political agenda. That Kagan participated in this is bad enough. That she allowed her work to be presented to a court as that of neutral experts was essentially a fraud. The ABA Model rules don’t specifically address this type of issue, but several — 3.3, 3.4, and 4.1 (an attorney shall not “fail to disclose a material fact to a third person when disclosure is necessary to avoid assisting a criminal or fraudulent act by a client”) – make clear that a lawyer’s obligation is to prevent false information and specious arguments from corrupting the administration of justice. This Kagan did not do.

I don’t see how senators can conclude that this was ethical behavior or that she is entitled to sit on the highest court in the land.

That’s what Sen. Arlen Specter – unbound and without any re-election prospects — suggested the Senate do when confronted with a nominee like Elena Kagan who gives no real substantive answers. It took a defeat in a primary, but Specter has articulated a principled and highly defensible position.

As for the partial-birth-abortion controversy, Kagan fenced over whether the memo was even in her handwriting. (Is this supposed to increase our confidence in her credibility and forthrightness?) And then she gave an answer that is simply not believable: namely, that she was simply reflecting or summarizing the work of the medical experts. Shannen Coffin, who brought forth the issue, explains:

[A]ny suggestion that her work was merely the synthesis of the task force’s deliberations doesn’t account for that time line — she had no interaction with the task force itself, only the executive board of ACOG.

Second and more significant, the White House had already met with ACOG’s former president and current chief lobbyist (to whom Kagan’s revisions were addressed) in June 1996, before the special task force was even formed. At that meeting (which apparently Kagan did not attend but recounted in a memo to her bosses, dated June 22, 1996), Kagan wrote that the White House staffers were basically told that ACOG couldn’t identify any particular circumstances where the procedure was medically necessary.

Coffin is right to focus on Kagan’s own words. She admits that the factual basis for objecting to a partial-birth-abortion ban is bogus:

First, there are an exceedingly small number of partial birth abortions that could meet the standard the President has articulated. In the vast majority of cases, selection of the partial birth procedure is not necessary to avert serious adverse consequences to a woman’s health; another option — whether another abortion procedure or, in the post-viability context, birth through a caesarean section, induced labor, or carrying the pregnancy to term — is equally safe. … I will spare you all the medical details here. Suffice it to say that we went through every circumstance imaginable — post- and pre-viability, assuming malformed fetuses, assuming other medical conditions, etc., etc. — and there just aren’t many where use of the partial-birth abortion is the least risky, let alone the “necessary,” approach. … Second and relatedly, of the five women who came to the White House, only two can truly say (though they all apparently believe) that the partial birth procedure was the least risky of their alternatives.

Then she says that, nevertheless, facts shouldn’t stand in the way:

Those present at the meeting all agreed, on the basis of the thoroughness and care of the ACOG presentation, that these two points are probably just true, rather than a matter of medical opinion. (Betsy Myers and Jeremy Ben-Ami, neither of whom attended the meeting, have expressed the view that some other doctor might say something different.) At the same time, none of us think that this information should cause us to change the standard the President has articulated or the rhetoric he has used.

So a report was crafted that did NOT reflect the ACOG’s views but instead supported the president’s political agenda. That Kagan participated in this is bad enough. That she allowed her work to be presented to a court as that of neutral experts was essentially a fraud. The ABA Model rules don’t specifically address this type of issue, but several — 3.3, 3.4, and 4.1 (an attorney shall not “fail to disclose a material fact to a third person when disclosure is necessary to avoid assisting a criminal or fraudulent act by a client”) – make clear that a lawyer’s obligation is to prevent false information and specious arguments from corrupting the administration of justice. This Kagan did not do.

I don’t see how senators can conclude that this was ethical behavior or that she is entitled to sit on the highest court in the land.

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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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The Reviews Are in

On the op-ed page of a certain famous mass-circulation newspaper, the editors declare:

The country is frustrated and apprehensive and still waiting for Mr. Obama to put his vision into action.The president cannot plug the leak or magically clean up the fouled Gulf of Mexico. But he and his administration need to do a lot more to show they are on top of this mess, and not perpetually behind the curve. …

Americans need to know that Mr. Obama, whose coolness can seem like detachment, is engaged. This is not a mere question of presentation or stagecraft, although the White House could do better at both. (We cringed when he told the “Today” show that he had spent important time figuring out “whose ass to kick” about the spill. Everyone knew that answer on Day 2.)

One of the paper’s top columnist’s writes:

The former constitutional lawyer now in the White House understands that the press has a role in the democracy. But he is an elitist, too, as well as thin-skinned and controlling. So he ends up regarding scribes as intrusive, conveying a distaste for what he sees as the fundamental unseriousness of a press driven by blog-around-the-clock deadlines. … It hurts Obama to be a crybaby about it, and to blame the press and the “old Washington game” for his own communication failures. . . Now that Obama has been hit with negative press, he’s even more contemptuous. “He’s never needed to woo the press,” says the NBC White House reporter Chuck Todd. “He’s never really needed us.” So, as The Washington Post’s Howard Kurtz writes, the more press-friendly, emotionally accessible, if gaffe-prone Biden has become “the administration’s top on-air spokesman.”

The Wall Street Journal and William McGurn? The Washington Examiner and Michael Barone? No, the New York Times and Maureen Dowd. It’s one more sign that the bottom is dropping out of Obama’s support, and the unraveling of his presidency is picking up steam. Unless he gets a grip and finds some grown-ups from whom he is willing to take advice, this is not going to improve.

On the op-ed page of a certain famous mass-circulation newspaper, the editors declare:

The country is frustrated and apprehensive and still waiting for Mr. Obama to put his vision into action.The president cannot plug the leak or magically clean up the fouled Gulf of Mexico. But he and his administration need to do a lot more to show they are on top of this mess, and not perpetually behind the curve. …

Americans need to know that Mr. Obama, whose coolness can seem like detachment, is engaged. This is not a mere question of presentation or stagecraft, although the White House could do better at both. (We cringed when he told the “Today” show that he had spent important time figuring out “whose ass to kick” about the spill. Everyone knew that answer on Day 2.)

One of the paper’s top columnist’s writes:

The former constitutional lawyer now in the White House understands that the press has a role in the democracy. But he is an elitist, too, as well as thin-skinned and controlling. So he ends up regarding scribes as intrusive, conveying a distaste for what he sees as the fundamental unseriousness of a press driven by blog-around-the-clock deadlines. … It hurts Obama to be a crybaby about it, and to blame the press and the “old Washington game” for his own communication failures. . . Now that Obama has been hit with negative press, he’s even more contemptuous. “He’s never needed to woo the press,” says the NBC White House reporter Chuck Todd. “He’s never really needed us.” So, as The Washington Post’s Howard Kurtz writes, the more press-friendly, emotionally accessible, if gaffe-prone Biden has become “the administration’s top on-air spokesman.”

The Wall Street Journal and William McGurn? The Washington Examiner and Michael Barone? No, the New York Times and Maureen Dowd. It’s one more sign that the bottom is dropping out of Obama’s support, and the unraveling of his presidency is picking up steam. Unless he gets a grip and finds some grown-ups from whom he is willing to take advice, this is not going to improve.

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Will the Media Let Obama off the Hook on Sestak?

The White House lawyer hasn’t even convinced mainstream news reporters that nothing untoward occurred regarding the Joe Sestak job offer. On Fox News Sunday, Ceci Connolly of the Washington Post remarked:

I think there are also some still real unanswered questions here. And the biggest one, of course, is what exactly did President Obama know and when did he know it. I mean, his response in the news conference just saying, “Well, nothing improper occurred,” well, gosh, that almost raises more questions in my mind. So far, from what we’ve seen, we know this was not unprecedented. Governor Rendell actually made sort of a remarkable acknowledgment in your interview, Chris, saying, “Oh, yes, I did a similar thing a few years back.” So it’s certainly politics as usual. But as your clip illustrates, that becomes a political problem for the White House.

There are two more factors that, as Connolly said, add to the “general sense of business as usual.” First, there may be a second job-to-get-out-of-the-race deal. Last September, the Denver Post reported:

Not long after news leaked last month that Andrew Romanoff was determined to make a Democratic primary run against Sen. Michael Bennet, Romanoff received an unexpected communication from one of the most powerful men in Washington. Jim Messina, President Barack Obama’s deputy chief of staff and a storied fixer in the White House political shop, suggested a place for Romanoff might be found in the administration and offered specific suggestions, according to several sources who described the communication to The Denver Post.

The White House denied any job was offered to Romanoff, but “several top Colorado Democrats described Messina’s outreach to Romanoff to The Post, including the discussion of specific jobs in the administration.”

Second, in his statement on Friday, Robert Bauer admitted:

Efforts were made in June and July of 2009 to determine whether Congressman Sestak would be interested in service on a Presidential or other Senior Executive Branch Advisory Board, which would avoid a divisive Senate primary, allow him to retain his seat in the House, and provide him with an opportunity for additional service to the public in a high-level advisory capacity for which he was highly qualified.

When everyone returns from the Memorial Day weekend, we’ll see how aggressively the White House media corps pursues this with Robert Gibbs and other administration figures. What went on in those conversations, which Bauer said were also conducted through a cutout, namely Bill Clinton? When Obama gives his next interview or news conference, will he be grilled? The media is no longer so infatuated with the president, so we may actually see some dogged questioning. But don’t get your hopes up. Expect the questions to be brushed off with, “We already answered questions about all of this.” It’s the sort of thing the media, if it wants to get back its collective manhood and reputation from deep storage, shouldn’t let Obama get away with.

The White House lawyer hasn’t even convinced mainstream news reporters that nothing untoward occurred regarding the Joe Sestak job offer. On Fox News Sunday, Ceci Connolly of the Washington Post remarked:

I think there are also some still real unanswered questions here. And the biggest one, of course, is what exactly did President Obama know and when did he know it. I mean, his response in the news conference just saying, “Well, nothing improper occurred,” well, gosh, that almost raises more questions in my mind. So far, from what we’ve seen, we know this was not unprecedented. Governor Rendell actually made sort of a remarkable acknowledgment in your interview, Chris, saying, “Oh, yes, I did a similar thing a few years back.” So it’s certainly politics as usual. But as your clip illustrates, that becomes a political problem for the White House.

There are two more factors that, as Connolly said, add to the “general sense of business as usual.” First, there may be a second job-to-get-out-of-the-race deal. Last September, the Denver Post reported:

Not long after news leaked last month that Andrew Romanoff was determined to make a Democratic primary run against Sen. Michael Bennet, Romanoff received an unexpected communication from one of the most powerful men in Washington. Jim Messina, President Barack Obama’s deputy chief of staff and a storied fixer in the White House political shop, suggested a place for Romanoff might be found in the administration and offered specific suggestions, according to several sources who described the communication to The Denver Post.

The White House denied any job was offered to Romanoff, but “several top Colorado Democrats described Messina’s outreach to Romanoff to The Post, including the discussion of specific jobs in the administration.”

Second, in his statement on Friday, Robert Bauer admitted:

Efforts were made in June and July of 2009 to determine whether Congressman Sestak would be interested in service on a Presidential or other Senior Executive Branch Advisory Board, which would avoid a divisive Senate primary, allow him to retain his seat in the House, and provide him with an opportunity for additional service to the public in a high-level advisory capacity for which he was highly qualified.

When everyone returns from the Memorial Day weekend, we’ll see how aggressively the White House media corps pursues this with Robert Gibbs and other administration figures. What went on in those conversations, which Bauer said were also conducted through a cutout, namely Bill Clinton? When Obama gives his next interview or news conference, will he be grilled? The media is no longer so infatuated with the president, so we may actually see some dogged questioning. But don’t get your hopes up. Expect the questions to be brushed off with, “We already answered questions about all of this.” It’s the sort of thing the media, if it wants to get back its collective manhood and reputation from deep storage, shouldn’t let Obama get away with.

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You Can Take the Pol Out of Chicago. . .

As he often does, Obama tried to distance himself from his own administration’s mess. He ducked a personal response and had his lawyer issue a memo on the Joe Sestak job-offer scandal on the Friday before Memorial Day. He thereby succeeded in revealing that Sestak is a fabulist, his own White House is little more than a Blago-like operation, an ex-president has been reduced to the the role of a “cut out,” and the whole lot of them practice the same sleazy-politics-as usual that Obama ran against (which, ironically, was symbolized in the primary by Hillary Clinton).

The White House counsel says it really wasn’t the secretary of the Navy post that was offered. It was an unpaid advisory-board position. A few problems there. You send a former president to offer that to avoid a primary fight? And more important, it doesn’t get over the legal hurdle. As Hans von Spakovsky explains:

[White House Counsel Robert] Bauer admits that Rahm Emanuel asked Bill Clinton to offer Sestak an appointment to a “Presidential or other Senior Executive Branch Advisory Board,” and that the appointment would be attractive, i.e., a benefit. The statute does not absolve you of liability if you are offering someone an uncompensated appointment. It also specifies that you are guilty of a violation if you make such an offer “directly or indirectly.” Moreover, since the executive branch may not spend money that is not appropriated by Congress, any such board would be authorized by or at least paid for by an “Act of Congress.”

And boy, did they pick the wrong election cycle to pull this. The underlying gambit is bad enough, but the roll out of the explanation is potentially worse and will be thrown in Sestak’s face in the election. The stall. The lawyer swooping in with the cover story. The process of getting everyone on the same page. It is precisely what the voters are screaming about: backroom deals, evasive pols, lack of transparency, and dishonesty. Obama has made perfect hash out of the race, first by pulling the weather vane Arlen Specter into the Democratic Party, then trying to unsuccessfully push the opponent out of the way, and finally by sullying everyone involved.

Obama has been compared to Jimmy Carter (in his misguided notions about the world), to Richard Nixon (in his sleazy backroom dealing and lack of transparency) and to LBJ (in his infatuation with government). Unfortunately, it appears that he embodies the worst of three unsuccessful presidents. And like all three, he may manage to drag his party down with him.

As he often does, Obama tried to distance himself from his own administration’s mess. He ducked a personal response and had his lawyer issue a memo on the Joe Sestak job-offer scandal on the Friday before Memorial Day. He thereby succeeded in revealing that Sestak is a fabulist, his own White House is little more than a Blago-like operation, an ex-president has been reduced to the the role of a “cut out,” and the whole lot of them practice the same sleazy-politics-as usual that Obama ran against (which, ironically, was symbolized in the primary by Hillary Clinton).

The White House counsel says it really wasn’t the secretary of the Navy post that was offered. It was an unpaid advisory-board position. A few problems there. You send a former president to offer that to avoid a primary fight? And more important, it doesn’t get over the legal hurdle. As Hans von Spakovsky explains:

[White House Counsel Robert] Bauer admits that Rahm Emanuel asked Bill Clinton to offer Sestak an appointment to a “Presidential or other Senior Executive Branch Advisory Board,” and that the appointment would be attractive, i.e., a benefit. The statute does not absolve you of liability if you are offering someone an uncompensated appointment. It also specifies that you are guilty of a violation if you make such an offer “directly or indirectly.” Moreover, since the executive branch may not spend money that is not appropriated by Congress, any such board would be authorized by or at least paid for by an “Act of Congress.”

And boy, did they pick the wrong election cycle to pull this. The underlying gambit is bad enough, but the roll out of the explanation is potentially worse and will be thrown in Sestak’s face in the election. The stall. The lawyer swooping in with the cover story. The process of getting everyone on the same page. It is precisely what the voters are screaming about: backroom deals, evasive pols, lack of transparency, and dishonesty. Obama has made perfect hash out of the race, first by pulling the weather vane Arlen Specter into the Democratic Party, then trying to unsuccessfully push the opponent out of the way, and finally by sullying everyone involved.

Obama has been compared to Jimmy Carter (in his misguided notions about the world), to Richard Nixon (in his sleazy backroom dealing and lack of transparency) and to LBJ (in his infatuation with government). Unfortunately, it appears that he embodies the worst of three unsuccessful presidents. And like all three, he may manage to drag his party down with him.

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The Limits of Anti-Israel Activists’ Compassion

For those who wish to end the continued existence of a sovereign Jewish state on the shores of the Mediterranean, there is only one cause worth caring about: breaking the limited blockade that both Israel and Egypt have placed on Hamas-ruled Gaza. No one in Gaza is starving. All are fed by a United Nations Agency — UNRWA — specifically set up to ensure the continued existence of a Palestinian refugee problem. Gaza is poor, but the region, which Israel evacuated in 2005, is now an independent entity ruled by the Hamas terrorist group. For years, it served as a launching pad for missile attacks on Israeli civilians in southern Israel. But after Israel’s counteroffensive in December 2008, the Islamists who run Gaza have mostly held their fire. This is done partly out of fear of more Israeli counterterror operations and partly because the blockade imposed on the area — a blockade that allows in food, medicine, and other humanitarian supplies but not construction materials that could aid Hamas’s homegrown weapons industry — has made it difficult for them to replenish their arsenal.

Thus, efforts to break this blockade and the international isolation imposed on this Hamasistan, created to force Gaza’s rulers to renounce their allegiance to a program pledged to the violent destruction of Israel, have little to do with sympathy for Gazans and everything to do with fueling anti-Israel propaganda. Though European sympathy for the “plight” of besieged Gaza is commonplace, support for breaking the blockade means freedom for Hamas, not the people who must live under the rule of Islamist tyrants.

But that hasn’t stopped anti-Israel activists from attempting to stage propaganda incidents highlighting their opposition to the blockade against Hamas. The latest is a so-called Freedom Flotilla of eight ships that left Istanbul, Turkey, this week. Al Jazeera, whose peppered a “news” report about the launch editorialized about how the “issue of Gaza moves Turks more than any other single issue,” noted that the convoy “is from the UK, Ireland, Algeria, Kuwait, Greece and Turkey, and is comprised of 800 people from 50 nationalities.” Though the rhetoric from the organizers centered on the supposed lack of food and medicine in Gaza, the report also noted that the ships are carrying 500 tons of construction equipment. Omitted from the Al Jazeera article was the fact that high-ranking members of the Hamas leadership also attended the festive launch of the ships. It is no surprise that Israel has said its Navy will prevent the ships from landing at Gaza and delivering their cargo. If they persist in trying to land, they will be diverted to Israel, where the passengers will be sent home, and any actual humanitarian supplies (as opposed to construction material) will be sent on to Gaza.

But though they claim they are trying to help people in need, there are limits to even the boundless compassion for humanity exhibited by those taking part in the Freedom Flotilla.

A lawyer representing the family of Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier kidnapped by Hamas in 2006, approached the organizers of the Free Gaza flotilla. The Shalit family asked the pro-Palestinian group to bring letters and food packages to the kidnapped soldier, who has been denied Red Cross visits by his Hamas captors. In exchange, the family, which has the sympathy of all Israel and the ear of the Israeli government, offered to lobby to give the flotilla docking rights in Gaza. The response from these humanitarians: no!

Had they agreed to pass on the letters and packages from Shalit’s family, the pro-Palestinian group could have bolstered their shaky credibility as humanitarians. But by refusing, they have revealed themselves as nothing more than people bent on aiding and abetting an international terrorist group.

For those who wish to end the continued existence of a sovereign Jewish state on the shores of the Mediterranean, there is only one cause worth caring about: breaking the limited blockade that both Israel and Egypt have placed on Hamas-ruled Gaza. No one in Gaza is starving. All are fed by a United Nations Agency — UNRWA — specifically set up to ensure the continued existence of a Palestinian refugee problem. Gaza is poor, but the region, which Israel evacuated in 2005, is now an independent entity ruled by the Hamas terrorist group. For years, it served as a launching pad for missile attacks on Israeli civilians in southern Israel. But after Israel’s counteroffensive in December 2008, the Islamists who run Gaza have mostly held their fire. This is done partly out of fear of more Israeli counterterror operations and partly because the blockade imposed on the area — a blockade that allows in food, medicine, and other humanitarian supplies but not construction materials that could aid Hamas’s homegrown weapons industry — has made it difficult for them to replenish their arsenal.

Thus, efforts to break this blockade and the international isolation imposed on this Hamasistan, created to force Gaza’s rulers to renounce their allegiance to a program pledged to the violent destruction of Israel, have little to do with sympathy for Gazans and everything to do with fueling anti-Israel propaganda. Though European sympathy for the “plight” of besieged Gaza is commonplace, support for breaking the blockade means freedom for Hamas, not the people who must live under the rule of Islamist tyrants.

But that hasn’t stopped anti-Israel activists from attempting to stage propaganda incidents highlighting their opposition to the blockade against Hamas. The latest is a so-called Freedom Flotilla of eight ships that left Istanbul, Turkey, this week. Al Jazeera, whose peppered a “news” report about the launch editorialized about how the “issue of Gaza moves Turks more than any other single issue,” noted that the convoy “is from the UK, Ireland, Algeria, Kuwait, Greece and Turkey, and is comprised of 800 people from 50 nationalities.” Though the rhetoric from the organizers centered on the supposed lack of food and medicine in Gaza, the report also noted that the ships are carrying 500 tons of construction equipment. Omitted from the Al Jazeera article was the fact that high-ranking members of the Hamas leadership also attended the festive launch of the ships. It is no surprise that Israel has said its Navy will prevent the ships from landing at Gaza and delivering their cargo. If they persist in trying to land, they will be diverted to Israel, where the passengers will be sent home, and any actual humanitarian supplies (as opposed to construction material) will be sent on to Gaza.

But though they claim they are trying to help people in need, there are limits to even the boundless compassion for humanity exhibited by those taking part in the Freedom Flotilla.

A lawyer representing the family of Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier kidnapped by Hamas in 2006, approached the organizers of the Free Gaza flotilla. The Shalit family asked the pro-Palestinian group to bring letters and food packages to the kidnapped soldier, who has been denied Red Cross visits by his Hamas captors. In exchange, the family, which has the sympathy of all Israel and the ear of the Israeli government, offered to lobby to give the flotilla docking rights in Gaza. The response from these humanitarians: no!

Had they agreed to pass on the letters and packages from Shalit’s family, the pro-Palestinian group could have bolstered their shaky credibility as humanitarians. But by refusing, they have revealed themselves as nothing more than people bent on aiding and abetting an international terrorist group.

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Another Hand-Wringing Jew

It’s getting to be a trend: Jews publicly expressing their antipathy or outright disdain for Israel. The latest comes from Emily Schaeffer, a 31-year-old lawyer who has come to despise the Jewish state. Perhaps it was her abominable Jewish education, a not uncommon malady:

Schaeffer attended public school, but always felt at home when she took part in activities of the Reform movement. “My parents sent me there when I was five. I went once a week after school, and later twice a week. In the movement we had lessons about Judaism and about Israel, in a very lighthearted way. Once we made a map of Israel out of ice cream and marked the cities with colorful M&M candies. It was Zionism-lite. At that time I also went to synagogue.”

Very lite, it seems. And one suspects she heard from the bima much more about minimum wage and global warming than about Zionism. From there it was on to Reform-movement activities, where she had a grand time and that “altered the course of her life.” She eventually went to live in Israel and, as the lefty Haaretz puts it, became “an Israeli devoid of nationalistic sentiment and full of human compassion.”

Thereafter she fled Israel with a bad case of cognitive dissonance during the second intifada:

“The intifada caused me a profound crisis. I was very disappointed with both sides. I lived on Mahaneh Yehuda street then. Within a day, all the Arab workers, Palestinians from the territories, some of whom I was really friendly with, disappeared. They just disappeared. It was the first time I experienced a war situation. I knew there had been terror attacks in the market and I was tense all the time. I was afraid to be outside too long, I wanted to listen to the news all the time. I was going crazy.”

This caused her not to rethink her chumminess with those killing Jews but rather to return to the U.S. (an option not available to most Israelis), where again she sought out the Israel-haters: “She joined the dialogue group and the Jews Against the Occupation organization in New York. And she once again immersed herself in the bloody conflict that she had abandoned.”

Of course, her “human compassion” does not extend to the Jews attempting to survive in a hostile neighborhood but rather to the killers of Jews:

In Jerusalem she discovered the hidden world, for her at least, of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In those days, before the second intifada, she found a common language with Meretz activists on the Mount Scopus campus. “I met my first Palestinian friend then, Sari Abu-Ziad, the oldest son of Ziad Abu-Ziad, who was a minister in the Palestinian government then. He told me about his childhood, what a checkpoint was, what it meant to feel like you’re living in a prison, what it’s like to be an Arabic-speaker in Israel, how frightened he was. He studied at the Hebrew University. This was before the 1999 election. We gave out stickers that said ‘With Barak There’s Hope.’ We believed that things could change. That year I plunged deep into the conflict, and it broke my heart.”

She really wanted to love Israel, but it wasn’t easy for her. “I grew up with the belief that Jews are moral people, that our job is to help the weak. It might sound naive now, but the contradiction between the essence of the Jewish state and what I saw really upset me. It was hard for my mother to accept the questions and doubts I felt. She said: ‘We were refugees, we suffered, we finally got a state, and Israel has to be a good country.’ I told her it was hard for me to see that my people were capable of doing such terrible things, that the country I dreamed about was occupying another people. That’s still something that’s very hard for me to deal with.”

She now has a spiffy career suing Israel on behalf of the Palestinians, trying to halt construction and alter the course of the “wall,” which has saved countless lives from butchers and pizza bombers. And now she’s suing Canada because two Canadian construction companies operate in what she refers to as the “occupied territories.”

In her counter-reality, Israel was the aggressor and the war criminal in Gaza:

“People think of themselves as moral, and what happened there, the number of children that were killed, the strikes on population centers, raised tough questions. It was hard for Israelis to accept the unnecessary death there. On the other hand, most of the country shifted in the other direction and wholeheartedly supported violence against civilians, and even more have become convinced that there will never be peace, and that the Palestinians, even if they are children, are the enemy.”

Any mention of the Herculean efforts to avoid civilian casualties or of Hamas terrorists who hide behind old women and infants? Oh, no. She’s got “compassion,” you see. And then there was the thrill of meeting with the Elders group — a fine bunch of Israel-haters that includes Desmond Tutu, Jimmy Carter, and Mary Robinson. Her great joy was receiving a picture of herself with Carter.

Other than signing her up for a lifetime membership in J Street, what is to be done? American Jewry might begin by providing an Israel-strong rather than an Israel-lite education. The Palestinians have done a fine job snaring ill-educated, largely secularized Jews who are steeped in leftism and predisposed to accept the Third World liberation claptrap of the Palestinians. Unless American Jewry does an equally good job restating the case for Israel, explaining Israel’s democratic system (which affords Emily a courtroom to vilify and hamstring the Jewish state), and publicizing the efforts of Israel to grant Palestinians their own state even as the Palestinians continue to reject it and return again and again to violence, there will be many more Emilys. And it wouldn’t hurt if the editors of Haaretz didn’t lionize a woman whose career is based on endangering their lives.

It’s getting to be a trend: Jews publicly expressing their antipathy or outright disdain for Israel. The latest comes from Emily Schaeffer, a 31-year-old lawyer who has come to despise the Jewish state. Perhaps it was her abominable Jewish education, a not uncommon malady:

Schaeffer attended public school, but always felt at home when she took part in activities of the Reform movement. “My parents sent me there when I was five. I went once a week after school, and later twice a week. In the movement we had lessons about Judaism and about Israel, in a very lighthearted way. Once we made a map of Israel out of ice cream and marked the cities with colorful M&M candies. It was Zionism-lite. At that time I also went to synagogue.”

Very lite, it seems. And one suspects she heard from the bima much more about minimum wage and global warming than about Zionism. From there it was on to Reform-movement activities, where she had a grand time and that “altered the course of her life.” She eventually went to live in Israel and, as the lefty Haaretz puts it, became “an Israeli devoid of nationalistic sentiment and full of human compassion.”

Thereafter she fled Israel with a bad case of cognitive dissonance during the second intifada:

“The intifada caused me a profound crisis. I was very disappointed with both sides. I lived on Mahaneh Yehuda street then. Within a day, all the Arab workers, Palestinians from the territories, some of whom I was really friendly with, disappeared. They just disappeared. It was the first time I experienced a war situation. I knew there had been terror attacks in the market and I was tense all the time. I was afraid to be outside too long, I wanted to listen to the news all the time. I was going crazy.”

This caused her not to rethink her chumminess with those killing Jews but rather to return to the U.S. (an option not available to most Israelis), where again she sought out the Israel-haters: “She joined the dialogue group and the Jews Against the Occupation organization in New York. And she once again immersed herself in the bloody conflict that she had abandoned.”

Of course, her “human compassion” does not extend to the Jews attempting to survive in a hostile neighborhood but rather to the killers of Jews:

In Jerusalem she discovered the hidden world, for her at least, of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In those days, before the second intifada, she found a common language with Meretz activists on the Mount Scopus campus. “I met my first Palestinian friend then, Sari Abu-Ziad, the oldest son of Ziad Abu-Ziad, who was a minister in the Palestinian government then. He told me about his childhood, what a checkpoint was, what it meant to feel like you’re living in a prison, what it’s like to be an Arabic-speaker in Israel, how frightened he was. He studied at the Hebrew University. This was before the 1999 election. We gave out stickers that said ‘With Barak There’s Hope.’ We believed that things could change. That year I plunged deep into the conflict, and it broke my heart.”

She really wanted to love Israel, but it wasn’t easy for her. “I grew up with the belief that Jews are moral people, that our job is to help the weak. It might sound naive now, but the contradiction between the essence of the Jewish state and what I saw really upset me. It was hard for my mother to accept the questions and doubts I felt. She said: ‘We were refugees, we suffered, we finally got a state, and Israel has to be a good country.’ I told her it was hard for me to see that my people were capable of doing such terrible things, that the country I dreamed about was occupying another people. That’s still something that’s very hard for me to deal with.”

She now has a spiffy career suing Israel on behalf of the Palestinians, trying to halt construction and alter the course of the “wall,” which has saved countless lives from butchers and pizza bombers. And now she’s suing Canada because two Canadian construction companies operate in what she refers to as the “occupied territories.”

In her counter-reality, Israel was the aggressor and the war criminal in Gaza:

“People think of themselves as moral, and what happened there, the number of children that were killed, the strikes on population centers, raised tough questions. It was hard for Israelis to accept the unnecessary death there. On the other hand, most of the country shifted in the other direction and wholeheartedly supported violence against civilians, and even more have become convinced that there will never be peace, and that the Palestinians, even if they are children, are the enemy.”

Any mention of the Herculean efforts to avoid civilian casualties or of Hamas terrorists who hide behind old women and infants? Oh, no. She’s got “compassion,” you see. And then there was the thrill of meeting with the Elders group — a fine bunch of Israel-haters that includes Desmond Tutu, Jimmy Carter, and Mary Robinson. Her great joy was receiving a picture of herself with Carter.

Other than signing her up for a lifetime membership in J Street, what is to be done? American Jewry might begin by providing an Israel-strong rather than an Israel-lite education. The Palestinians have done a fine job snaring ill-educated, largely secularized Jews who are steeped in leftism and predisposed to accept the Third World liberation claptrap of the Palestinians. Unless American Jewry does an equally good job restating the case for Israel, explaining Israel’s democratic system (which affords Emily a courtroom to vilify and hamstring the Jewish state), and publicizing the efforts of Israel to grant Palestinians their own state even as the Palestinians continue to reject it and return again and again to violence, there will be many more Emilys. And it wouldn’t hurt if the editors of Haaretz didn’t lionize a woman whose career is based on endangering their lives.

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The Underwelming Kagan

Joshua Green examines why liberals are nervous about Elena Kagan. He explains:

The same thing that makes her confirmation so likely — the lack of a paper trail for opponents to parse and attack — has also become a prime source of concern for her own side. There’s little hard evidence to reassure liberals that she’ll adjudicate in the way they would prefer. Kagan’s lack of a judicial record and scant legal writing during a career spent mostly in politics and the deanship of Harvard Law School leave open the possibility she’ll turn out to be more conservative than advertised. … The liberal complaint against Kagan is threefold: that she wasn’t sufficiently aggressive in hiring women and minorities to the Harvard faculty; that she took worrisome positions on executive power, the war on terrorism, and corporate campaign spending; and that she isn’t the counterpart to Antonin Scalia that the left has long desired.

Green makes a comparison to David Souter, the quintessential stealth candidate who turned out to be not at all what the president who nominated him expected.

Most interesting is that the left — despite the silly Obama spin — recognizes that “she isn’t the counterpart to Antonin Scalia that the left has long desired.” Perhaps they are worried her intellect is not all that dazzling? Well, we can say she’s not demonstrated the sort of brilliance and scholarship or fine writing that the left understands is a prerequisite to do battle on the Court.

She has had a total of six Supreme Court arguments in her short tenure as solicitor general. It took a full six months before she gave her first argument in Citizens United, bypassing key cases, including Ricci (the New Haven firefighter case) and a high-profile challenge to the Voting Rights Act. Sources within the Justice Department report that Kagan was preparing to argue the Voting Rights Act case but ultimately gave way to her deputy.

Does this sound like a proficient, accomplished “lawyer’s lawyer”? Not even Kagan is high on her own advocacy abilities. Her outing in Citizens United was rocky at best, getting the worst of questioning from both Justices Scalia and Kennedy (whom she is tasked by the left with persuading once she is confirmed). At an awards ceremony at Georgetown Law School honoring Kennedy earlier this month, Kagan spoke, and her comments are revealing — and should be bracing to the left:

At one point, Kagan raised audience eyebrows when she said she would remember an exchange she had with Kennedy “for the rest of my career as an advocate.” …

That memorable exchange with Kennedy that Kagan was recalling, by the way, offered a glimpse into how Kagan handled her first oral argument before the high court — or any court — last September in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. That’s the landmark campaign finance case that Kagan lost 5-4, with Kennedy writing the majority.

In spite of her earlier praise for Kennedy, Kagan told the Georgetown audience that the justice had “a bit of a bad habit,” namely that he asks advocates about cases that are not mentioned anywhere in the briefs for the case. Kennedy did just that in Citizens United when he asked Kagan whether something she had just said was “inconsistent with the whole line of cases that began with Thornhill v. Alabama and Coates v. Cincinnati.” … Perhaps many advocates know those cases, Kagan said, but “I at any rate did not.” She added, “There was a look of panic on my face.”

Without knowing for sure, Kagan said she believes that Kennedy “saw in the flash of an instant that … I really had no clue” about the cases he was asking her about. Instead of waiting for her painful reply, Kennedy quickly went on to explain the Thornhill line of cases — which relate to facial challenges to statutes under the First Amendment — with enough detail that Kagan was able to recover and answer the question.

The left has good reason to worry. Kagan will need to elicit respect, not pity, from Kennedy once she is confirmed if she is to fulfill the left’s fondest hopes. Maybe she will grow into the job, but if it took six months to get prepared for her first argument before the Court, how long will it take before she is an influential force on the Court? Will she ever be?

Joshua Green examines why liberals are nervous about Elena Kagan. He explains:

The same thing that makes her confirmation so likely — the lack of a paper trail for opponents to parse and attack — has also become a prime source of concern for her own side. There’s little hard evidence to reassure liberals that she’ll adjudicate in the way they would prefer. Kagan’s lack of a judicial record and scant legal writing during a career spent mostly in politics and the deanship of Harvard Law School leave open the possibility she’ll turn out to be more conservative than advertised. … The liberal complaint against Kagan is threefold: that she wasn’t sufficiently aggressive in hiring women and minorities to the Harvard faculty; that she took worrisome positions on executive power, the war on terrorism, and corporate campaign spending; and that she isn’t the counterpart to Antonin Scalia that the left has long desired.

Green makes a comparison to David Souter, the quintessential stealth candidate who turned out to be not at all what the president who nominated him expected.

Most interesting is that the left — despite the silly Obama spin — recognizes that “she isn’t the counterpart to Antonin Scalia that the left has long desired.” Perhaps they are worried her intellect is not all that dazzling? Well, we can say she’s not demonstrated the sort of brilliance and scholarship or fine writing that the left understands is a prerequisite to do battle on the Court.

She has had a total of six Supreme Court arguments in her short tenure as solicitor general. It took a full six months before she gave her first argument in Citizens United, bypassing key cases, including Ricci (the New Haven firefighter case) and a high-profile challenge to the Voting Rights Act. Sources within the Justice Department report that Kagan was preparing to argue the Voting Rights Act case but ultimately gave way to her deputy.

Does this sound like a proficient, accomplished “lawyer’s lawyer”? Not even Kagan is high on her own advocacy abilities. Her outing in Citizens United was rocky at best, getting the worst of questioning from both Justices Scalia and Kennedy (whom she is tasked by the left with persuading once she is confirmed). At an awards ceremony at Georgetown Law School honoring Kennedy earlier this month, Kagan spoke, and her comments are revealing — and should be bracing to the left:

At one point, Kagan raised audience eyebrows when she said she would remember an exchange she had with Kennedy “for the rest of my career as an advocate.” …

That memorable exchange with Kennedy that Kagan was recalling, by the way, offered a glimpse into how Kagan handled her first oral argument before the high court — or any court — last September in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. That’s the landmark campaign finance case that Kagan lost 5-4, with Kennedy writing the majority.

In spite of her earlier praise for Kennedy, Kagan told the Georgetown audience that the justice had “a bit of a bad habit,” namely that he asks advocates about cases that are not mentioned anywhere in the briefs for the case. Kennedy did just that in Citizens United when he asked Kagan whether something she had just said was “inconsistent with the whole line of cases that began with Thornhill v. Alabama and Coates v. Cincinnati.” … Perhaps many advocates know those cases, Kagan said, but “I at any rate did not.” She added, “There was a look of panic on my face.”

Without knowing for sure, Kagan said she believes that Kennedy “saw in the flash of an instant that … I really had no clue” about the cases he was asking her about. Instead of waiting for her painful reply, Kennedy quickly went on to explain the Thornhill line of cases — which relate to facial challenges to statutes under the First Amendment — with enough detail that Kagan was able to recover and answer the question.

The left has good reason to worry. Kagan will need to elicit respect, not pity, from Kennedy once she is confirmed if she is to fulfill the left’s fondest hopes. Maybe she will grow into the job, but if it took six months to get prepared for her first argument before the Court, how long will it take before she is an influential force on the Court? Will she ever be?

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The Supreme Court Isn’t the Harvard Law School Faculty

This report repeats the idea that Elena Kagan was nominated primarily to sway Justice Kennedy to the liberal side of those tricky 5-4 decisions. But if so, does this make any sense? That notion assumes that the Court operates like the Harvard Law School faculty, where nice words, dinner parties, back-slapping, and not revealing her own views served Kagan well. But that’s not how the Court operates:

Tom Goldstein, a Supreme Court lawyer at Akin Gump and author of the widely read SCOTUS Blog, says she has exhibited an “extraordinarily — almost artistically — careful” avoidance of public positions on any matters she might face as a Justice. “I don’t know anyone who has had a conversation with her in which she expressed a personal conviction on a question of constitutional law in the past decade,” Goldstein wrote.

And even if she did have well-established positions, they’d be nothing compared to Kennedy’s. “Justice Kennedy has been on the bench for 40-some years now, including his time on the Ninth Circuit,” says the former clerk. “It’s particularly unlikely that he’s going to fall under the sway of a new judge who’s never been on the court.”

This convoluted argument suggests just how farcical the notion is that a pleasing personality is a satisfactory substitute for developed legal scholarship and brilliant writing (neither of which Kagan has yet demonstrated):

Kagan supporters point to the fact that she convinced some hard-line Republicans to vote for her when she was nominated to be Solicitor General, most notably Jon Kyl of Arizona, the behind-the-scenes GOP power on the Judiciary Committee. Though he’s unlikely to vote for her for the Supreme Court, her ability to win him over, which she did in the course of a lengthy conversation in his office during the nomination process, counts for something.

Huh? So getting Kyl to vote for her once — but not for the Supreme Court — shows she can lure Kennedy into the liberal camp on knotty issues of constitutional and statutory interpretation, and do so better than did Justice Stevens, a man who had been on the bench for decades? It’s a bit absurd. If the Obama team wanted a smart, accomplished jurist who has shown the ability to go toe-to-toe with and persuade conservative judges, Diane Wood might have been a more apt pick. But instead Obama went with someone much like himself, who, come to think of it, hasn’t really been able to persuade conservatives or moderates about the wisdom of his positions.

This report repeats the idea that Elena Kagan was nominated primarily to sway Justice Kennedy to the liberal side of those tricky 5-4 decisions. But if so, does this make any sense? That notion assumes that the Court operates like the Harvard Law School faculty, where nice words, dinner parties, back-slapping, and not revealing her own views served Kagan well. But that’s not how the Court operates:

Tom Goldstein, a Supreme Court lawyer at Akin Gump and author of the widely read SCOTUS Blog, says she has exhibited an “extraordinarily — almost artistically — careful” avoidance of public positions on any matters she might face as a Justice. “I don’t know anyone who has had a conversation with her in which she expressed a personal conviction on a question of constitutional law in the past decade,” Goldstein wrote.

And even if she did have well-established positions, they’d be nothing compared to Kennedy’s. “Justice Kennedy has been on the bench for 40-some years now, including his time on the Ninth Circuit,” says the former clerk. “It’s particularly unlikely that he’s going to fall under the sway of a new judge who’s never been on the court.”

This convoluted argument suggests just how farcical the notion is that a pleasing personality is a satisfactory substitute for developed legal scholarship and brilliant writing (neither of which Kagan has yet demonstrated):

Kagan supporters point to the fact that she convinced some hard-line Republicans to vote for her when she was nominated to be Solicitor General, most notably Jon Kyl of Arizona, the behind-the-scenes GOP power on the Judiciary Committee. Though he’s unlikely to vote for her for the Supreme Court, her ability to win him over, which she did in the course of a lengthy conversation in his office during the nomination process, counts for something.

Huh? So getting Kyl to vote for her once — but not for the Supreme Court — shows she can lure Kennedy into the liberal camp on knotty issues of constitutional and statutory interpretation, and do so better than did Justice Stevens, a man who had been on the bench for decades? It’s a bit absurd. If the Obama team wanted a smart, accomplished jurist who has shown the ability to go toe-to-toe with and persuade conservative judges, Diane Wood might have been a more apt pick. But instead Obama went with someone much like himself, who, come to think of it, hasn’t really been able to persuade conservatives or moderates about the wisdom of his positions.

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The Un-Goldstone

Richard Goldstone, the former judge for apartheid South Africa (should that not be his lifelong description?), pleads that he was simply following the law when he handed out death sentences and orders to whip blacks. He had no choice, you see. What was a lawyer to do? Well, we are presented with the alternative today. A sharp-eyed reader spots an obituary for Sheena Duncan that explains her role in the South African legal system:

Sheena Duncan, who led the Black Sash, a group of middle-class white women in South Africa who protested against apartheid and counseled blacks victimized by the racist laws of that era, died Tuesday at her home in Johannesburg. She was 77. …

Over decades of volunteer work — counseling thousands of black South Africans, plotting legal strategy, writing pamphlets, holding silent vigils and speaking out in churches and at universities — Mrs. Duncan moved far beyond the traditional sphere reserved for white women of her day.

She helped people whose families were being torn apart by laws that kept black workers in the cities to serve whites while exiling their kin to impoverished rural “bantustans,” or homelands. She invited those who sought her advice to sit on the same side of the desk with her as she pored over their identity documents, especially the books blacks were required to carry to prove they were authorized to be where they were. With no formal legal training, Mrs. Duncan became an authority on the notorious pass laws, which governed the movement of blacks. She sent people with a chance of successfully challenging them to the Legal Resources Center, a human rights organization that took on such cases with financial support from American foundations and South African corporations.

So a housewife with no legal training managed to do heroic work, combating rather than facilitating the apartheid regime’s legal structure. How much more could a trained jurist like Goldstone have done? We don’t know, for he chose a different course, one of sniveling servility to a noxious legal system. That he now seeks to serve new masters at the UN – equally noxious and devoted to the delegitimization of the Jewish state — should therefore not surprise us. Goldstone is not one to buck the system. He has been and remains a self-promoter whose career advancement depends on victimizing others, be they South African blacks or Jews. You’d have to go back to the 1930s to find a more venal example of the misuse of legal training.

Richard Goldstone, the former judge for apartheid South Africa (should that not be his lifelong description?), pleads that he was simply following the law when he handed out death sentences and orders to whip blacks. He had no choice, you see. What was a lawyer to do? Well, we are presented with the alternative today. A sharp-eyed reader spots an obituary for Sheena Duncan that explains her role in the South African legal system:

Sheena Duncan, who led the Black Sash, a group of middle-class white women in South Africa who protested against apartheid and counseled blacks victimized by the racist laws of that era, died Tuesday at her home in Johannesburg. She was 77. …

Over decades of volunteer work — counseling thousands of black South Africans, plotting legal strategy, writing pamphlets, holding silent vigils and speaking out in churches and at universities — Mrs. Duncan moved far beyond the traditional sphere reserved for white women of her day.

She helped people whose families were being torn apart by laws that kept black workers in the cities to serve whites while exiling their kin to impoverished rural “bantustans,” or homelands. She invited those who sought her advice to sit on the same side of the desk with her as she pored over their identity documents, especially the books blacks were required to carry to prove they were authorized to be where they were. With no formal legal training, Mrs. Duncan became an authority on the notorious pass laws, which governed the movement of blacks. She sent people with a chance of successfully challenging them to the Legal Resources Center, a human rights organization that took on such cases with financial support from American foundations and South African corporations.

So a housewife with no legal training managed to do heroic work, combating rather than facilitating the apartheid regime’s legal structure. How much more could a trained jurist like Goldstone have done? We don’t know, for he chose a different course, one of sniveling servility to a noxious legal system. That he now seeks to serve new masters at the UN – equally noxious and devoted to the delegitimization of the Jewish state — should therefore not surprise us. Goldstone is not one to buck the system. He has been and remains a self-promoter whose career advancement depends on victimizing others, be they South African blacks or Jews. You’d have to go back to the 1930s to find a more venal example of the misuse of legal training.

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Next Up: Reality-Show Politicians

The news that David Obey, the longtime Democratic House member from Wisconsin, is going to retire from his seat rather than attempt to secure reelection against a surging Republican named Sean Duffy is fascinating in many ways, particularly how, in this year, Obey’s seniority and chairmanship of the Budget Committee are clearly liabilities with voters rather than positives. But culturally, there’s something more telling. Duffy is a county district attorney in Wisconsin. Before he became a lawyer, he first came to prominence as a member of the cast of “The Real World,” the pioneering MTV reality series. (His wife Rachel Campos is also a veteran of “The Real World,” though they were not on the show together; they met as part of a reunion show, and they have six children.) If Duffy wins, he will be the first person to emerge in politics from reality television. That may sound like something silly, but there was a time when people scoffed at actors getting involved in politics (“Imagine Broadway Melody of 1984,” sang Tom Lehrer when the second-rank hoofer George Murphy made it into the Senate as a California Republican in 1962). Indeed, people still scoff, which led a great many people to smile dismissively at the possibility of Al Franken winning the Minnesota Senate seat. And yet there Franken is. The Duffy example, if he’s successful, may even incline some young go-getters to do whatever they can to get onto a reality show to launch a political career. You heard it here first.

The news that David Obey, the longtime Democratic House member from Wisconsin, is going to retire from his seat rather than attempt to secure reelection against a surging Republican named Sean Duffy is fascinating in many ways, particularly how, in this year, Obey’s seniority and chairmanship of the Budget Committee are clearly liabilities with voters rather than positives. But culturally, there’s something more telling. Duffy is a county district attorney in Wisconsin. Before he became a lawyer, he first came to prominence as a member of the cast of “The Real World,” the pioneering MTV reality series. (His wife Rachel Campos is also a veteran of “The Real World,” though they were not on the show together; they met as part of a reunion show, and they have six children.) If Duffy wins, he will be the first person to emerge in politics from reality television. That may sound like something silly, but there was a time when people scoffed at actors getting involved in politics (“Imagine Broadway Melody of 1984,” sang Tom Lehrer when the second-rank hoofer George Murphy made it into the Senate as a California Republican in 1962). Indeed, people still scoff, which led a great many people to smile dismissively at the possibility of Al Franken winning the Minnesota Senate seat. And yet there Franken is. The Duffy example, if he’s successful, may even incline some young go-getters to do whatever they can to get onto a reality show to launch a political career. You heard it here first.

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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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Obama’s Strategy Is to Weaken or Remove Bibi

The Obama administration seeks to recover from the stagnation it imposed on the peace process a year ago by doubling down on its strategy of making impossible demands on the Israelis, hoping that this time they will cave.

The administration thought it had discovered a way forward in the form of proximity talks, in which the U.S. would serve as mediator in indirect negotiations between the two sides, being that the Palestinians are refusing direct talks (this ongoing Palestinian refusal, of course, earns zero criticism from the White House).

But now the administration is attaching new demands to the commencement of the talks:

to reverse last week’s approval of 1,600 housing units in a disputed area of Jerusalem, make a substantial gesture toward the Palestinians, and publicly declare that all of the “core issues” in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including the status of Jerusalem, be included in upcoming talks.

It should be obvious, at this point, that Obama is trying to manufacture an immense political dilemma for Netanyahu by forcing him to choose between two crises — one with the United States should he accept the demands, the other with his coalition partners and the Israeli public should he reject them. For Netanyahu, this is a no-win situation. The only choice is between less damaging options.

Netanyahu should reject the new demands, because they are not made in good faith, they are a reversal of previous Obama commitments, and, most important, the proximity talks themselves are a trap.

Obama has demonstrated very clearly that he is not an “honest broker” — he is instead behaving as a lawyer for the Palestinians. The danger of proximity talks in which all the “core issues” of the conflict would be on the table is that the U.S. would act not as mediator but in tandem with the Palestinians to pressure Israel into making dangerous and unprecedented concessions. As Haaretz reported two weeks ago,

According to a senior official in the Palestinian Authority, the Obama administration has promised Abbas that if either side fails to live up to expectations, the United States will not conceal its disappointment, nor will it hesitate to take steps to remove the obstacle. In addition, the PA was promised that the United States would not be satisfied with playing the role of messenger. According to what the official read to me, the Obama administration will present its own proposals in an effort to bridge the gaps.

Obama has shown very clearly that, as on health care, he is personally passionate, emotionally invested, and possessed of the belief that he has the power to push through sweeping changes. The proximity talks would give Obama just the opening he needs to subject Netanyahu to an escalating series of demands and punishments — confronting him with the same dilemma he faces right now, only even more severe. Danger lies ahead.

The Obama administration seeks to recover from the stagnation it imposed on the peace process a year ago by doubling down on its strategy of making impossible demands on the Israelis, hoping that this time they will cave.

The administration thought it had discovered a way forward in the form of proximity talks, in which the U.S. would serve as mediator in indirect negotiations between the two sides, being that the Palestinians are refusing direct talks (this ongoing Palestinian refusal, of course, earns zero criticism from the White House).

But now the administration is attaching new demands to the commencement of the talks:

to reverse last week’s approval of 1,600 housing units in a disputed area of Jerusalem, make a substantial gesture toward the Palestinians, and publicly declare that all of the “core issues” in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including the status of Jerusalem, be included in upcoming talks.

It should be obvious, at this point, that Obama is trying to manufacture an immense political dilemma for Netanyahu by forcing him to choose between two crises — one with the United States should he accept the demands, the other with his coalition partners and the Israeli public should he reject them. For Netanyahu, this is a no-win situation. The only choice is between less damaging options.

Netanyahu should reject the new demands, because they are not made in good faith, they are a reversal of previous Obama commitments, and, most important, the proximity talks themselves are a trap.

Obama has demonstrated very clearly that he is not an “honest broker” — he is instead behaving as a lawyer for the Palestinians. The danger of proximity talks in which all the “core issues” of the conflict would be on the table is that the U.S. would act not as mediator but in tandem with the Palestinians to pressure Israel into making dangerous and unprecedented concessions. As Haaretz reported two weeks ago,

According to a senior official in the Palestinian Authority, the Obama administration has promised Abbas that if either side fails to live up to expectations, the United States will not conceal its disappointment, nor will it hesitate to take steps to remove the obstacle. In addition, the PA was promised that the United States would not be satisfied with playing the role of messenger. According to what the official read to me, the Obama administration will present its own proposals in an effort to bridge the gaps.

Obama has shown very clearly that, as on health care, he is personally passionate, emotionally invested, and possessed of the belief that he has the power to push through sweeping changes. The proximity talks would give Obama just the opening he needs to subject Netanyahu to an escalating series of demands and punishments — confronting him with the same dilemma he faces right now, only even more severe. Danger lies ahead.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Another conservative woman drives the media elite around the bend: “Like father, like daughter, it seems. Much as Dick Cheney staked out the far right wing of the Bush administration, winning the respect and gratitude of GOP hawks despite his low popularity nationwide, Liz seems eager to make her reputation by unnerving her party’s moderates.”

Another reminder from James Capretta and Yuval Levin on the dangers of ObamaCare: “The heart of the Democratic plan is a promise to provide subsidized insurance coverage to some 35 to 40 million people. This will cost about $200 billion per year by 2019. And despite all of the talk of bending the cost curve, the Congressional Budget Office says the price will grow by 8 percent per year every year thereafter—which parallels the rapid cost growth of Medicare and Medicaid over the last four decades. In other words, the White House and congressional Democrats want to create another runaway entitlement program, piled on top of the unaffordable ones that are already slated to bankrupt the government.”

Another smart point by COMMENTARY contributor Tevi Troy: “Contrary to the conventional wisdom, health care has been a poor issue for the Democrats. A step by step approach works far better politically than attempting to redo the whole system. Given this history, Democrats interested in their political survival, not to mention the state of our health care system, should be very wary of voting yes.” And yet so many seem intent on committing political suicide.

Another way of looking at the Democratic civil war on health care, from CATO’s Michael Cannon: “The Democrats’ dogged, bloodthirsty crusade for universal coverage has been possible only because the wonks have seduced or silenced the hacks within the Democratic party. It appears the hacks may be ready to launch a rebellion.” By “hacks” he means the poor shlubs who run for office or help others to.

Another questionable Obama nominee: “Senate Republicans are preparing to challenge President Obama’s nominee for ambassador to El Salvador over her previous ties to an alleged asset of Cuban intelligence. Lawyer Mari Carmen Aponte was previously nominated to be an ambassador under President Bill Clinton, but withdrew her name from consideration after reports of her relationship with Cuban national Roberto Tamayo surfaced. … Tamayo, with whom she co-habitated for eight years starting in 1986, was an asset to the Cuban intelligence agency DGI. Former Cuban intelligence agent and defector Florentino Aspillaga also alleged Tamayo tried to recruit Aponte.” There was no other qualified nominee?

Another report suggesting that ObamaCare is a tough sell with wary Democrats: “House Democratic leaders don’t have the votes to pass healthcare reform. At least not yet. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has expressed confidence that when push comes to shove, healthcare reform will pass Congress. But there will be plenty of pushing in the days ahead. Pelosi is clearly down in the vote count. Thirty-four House Democrats are either firm no votes or leaning no, according to The Hill’s whip list. Dozens more are undecided. Pelosi is clearly down in the vote count. Thirty-four House Democrats are either firm no votes or leaning no, according to The Hill’s whip list. Dozens more are undecided.”

Another foolish thing the Obami could do on Iran: send another New Year’s greeting to the mullahs!

Another example of what passes for “transparency” in this administration: “At Friday’s White House briefing, press secretary Robert Gibbs was asked, for the fifth time in less than three weeks, about Democratic Rep. Joe Sestak’s charge that the White House offered Sestak a high-ranking job if Sestak would drop his challenge to Democratic Sen. Arlen Specter in Pennsylvania. And for the fifth time, Gibbs refused to answer the question of whether the White House offered a bribe to protect the fortunes of a key political ally.”

Another conservative woman drives the media elite around the bend: “Like father, like daughter, it seems. Much as Dick Cheney staked out the far right wing of the Bush administration, winning the respect and gratitude of GOP hawks despite his low popularity nationwide, Liz seems eager to make her reputation by unnerving her party’s moderates.”

Another reminder from James Capretta and Yuval Levin on the dangers of ObamaCare: “The heart of the Democratic plan is a promise to provide subsidized insurance coverage to some 35 to 40 million people. This will cost about $200 billion per year by 2019. And despite all of the talk of bending the cost curve, the Congressional Budget Office says the price will grow by 8 percent per year every year thereafter—which parallels the rapid cost growth of Medicare and Medicaid over the last four decades. In other words, the White House and congressional Democrats want to create another runaway entitlement program, piled on top of the unaffordable ones that are already slated to bankrupt the government.”

Another smart point by COMMENTARY contributor Tevi Troy: “Contrary to the conventional wisdom, health care has been a poor issue for the Democrats. A step by step approach works far better politically than attempting to redo the whole system. Given this history, Democrats interested in their political survival, not to mention the state of our health care system, should be very wary of voting yes.” And yet so many seem intent on committing political suicide.

Another way of looking at the Democratic civil war on health care, from CATO’s Michael Cannon: “The Democrats’ dogged, bloodthirsty crusade for universal coverage has been possible only because the wonks have seduced or silenced the hacks within the Democratic party. It appears the hacks may be ready to launch a rebellion.” By “hacks” he means the poor shlubs who run for office or help others to.

Another questionable Obama nominee: “Senate Republicans are preparing to challenge President Obama’s nominee for ambassador to El Salvador over her previous ties to an alleged asset of Cuban intelligence. Lawyer Mari Carmen Aponte was previously nominated to be an ambassador under President Bill Clinton, but withdrew her name from consideration after reports of her relationship with Cuban national Roberto Tamayo surfaced. … Tamayo, with whom she co-habitated for eight years starting in 1986, was an asset to the Cuban intelligence agency DGI. Former Cuban intelligence agent and defector Florentino Aspillaga also alleged Tamayo tried to recruit Aponte.” There was no other qualified nominee?

Another report suggesting that ObamaCare is a tough sell with wary Democrats: “House Democratic leaders don’t have the votes to pass healthcare reform. At least not yet. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has expressed confidence that when push comes to shove, healthcare reform will pass Congress. But there will be plenty of pushing in the days ahead. Pelosi is clearly down in the vote count. Thirty-four House Democrats are either firm no votes or leaning no, according to The Hill’s whip list. Dozens more are undecided. Pelosi is clearly down in the vote count. Thirty-four House Democrats are either firm no votes or leaning no, according to The Hill’s whip list. Dozens more are undecided.”

Another foolish thing the Obami could do on Iran: send another New Year’s greeting to the mullahs!

Another example of what passes for “transparency” in this administration: “At Friday’s White House briefing, press secretary Robert Gibbs was asked, for the fifth time in less than three weeks, about Democratic Rep. Joe Sestak’s charge that the White House offered Sestak a high-ranking job if Sestak would drop his challenge to Democratic Sen. Arlen Specter in Pennsylvania. And for the fifth time, Gibbs refused to answer the question of whether the White House offered a bribe to protect the fortunes of a key political ally.”

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Marc Thiessen on Keep America Safe

Marc Thiessen makes a valiant attempt in his Washington Post column to defend the campaign mounted by the group Keep America Safe, led by Liz Cheney, against the hyperbolically dubbed “al-Qaeda Seven” — seven Justice Department lawyers who, prior to entering government service, defended detainees accused of working for al-Qaeda. He writes:

Would most Americans want to know if the Justice Department had hired a bunch of mob lawyers and put them in charge of mob cases? Or a group of drug cartel lawyers and put them in charge of drug cases? Would they want their elected representatives to find out who these lawyers were, which mob bosses and drug lords they had worked for, and what roles they were now playing at the Justice Department? Of course they would — and rightly so.

But the situation is hardly analogous. The pejorative phrases “mob lawyers” and “drug cartel lawyers” refer to attorneys whose practices are consist either solely or mainly of working for rich gangsters. In many cases these lawyers became more or less a part of the criminal enterprise themselves, often taking illegal actions such as carrying a mob boss’s orders to his underlings from jail.

There are in fact “terrorist lawyers” in this sense. For example Lynne Stewart, who was sentenced to 28 months in prison for passing messages from the “blind sheikh,” Omar Abdel Rahman, to his fellow terrorists. Or the French lawyer Isabelle Coutant-Peyre, who is engaged to marry Carlos the Jackal, and has compared the French police to the Gestapo.

If Stewart or Coutant-Peyre had been hired by the Department of Justice, I could see legitimate grounds for outrage. But the lawyers singled out by Keep America Safe are hardly in the same category. All they did was challenge the rules governing terrorist detainees or provide some representation to terrorist defendants. There is no suggestion that they favor terrorism or support al-Qaeda; all they did was what lawyers are supposed to do. As a group of Republican attorneys note:

Whether one believes in trial by military commission or in federal court, detainees will have access to counsel. … Good defense counsel is … key to ensuring that military commissions, federal juries, and federal judges have access to the best arguments and most rigorous factual presentations before making crucial decisions that affect both national security and paramount liberty interests.

Thiessen has a better point when he bemoans the double standard at work here. Many of those now outraged by the attacks on the Justice Department lawyers kept silent or applauded when John Yoo, Jay Bybee, and other honorable Bush administration lawyers were accused of being “war criminals” and threatened with prosecution for advocating a vigorous prosecution of the war against al-Qaeda. Perhaps this controversy will prove salutary if it will lead the Left to call off their attack dogs.

But there is an overriding cost that should be kept in mind: By focusing so much on the lower-level lawyers, Keep America Safe is missing the real problem. That starts at the top with Attorney General Eric Holder and President Obama, who seem willing to give terrorist defendants more rights than they received under the Bush administration — and more rights than most Americans think they deserve. I would suggest keeping the focus on Obama and Holder, not on underlings who are not the ultimate decision-makers here.

Marc Thiessen makes a valiant attempt in his Washington Post column to defend the campaign mounted by the group Keep America Safe, led by Liz Cheney, against the hyperbolically dubbed “al-Qaeda Seven” — seven Justice Department lawyers who, prior to entering government service, defended detainees accused of working for al-Qaeda. He writes:

Would most Americans want to know if the Justice Department had hired a bunch of mob lawyers and put them in charge of mob cases? Or a group of drug cartel lawyers and put them in charge of drug cases? Would they want their elected representatives to find out who these lawyers were, which mob bosses and drug lords they had worked for, and what roles they were now playing at the Justice Department? Of course they would — and rightly so.

But the situation is hardly analogous. The pejorative phrases “mob lawyers” and “drug cartel lawyers” refer to attorneys whose practices are consist either solely or mainly of working for rich gangsters. In many cases these lawyers became more or less a part of the criminal enterprise themselves, often taking illegal actions such as carrying a mob boss’s orders to his underlings from jail.

There are in fact “terrorist lawyers” in this sense. For example Lynne Stewart, who was sentenced to 28 months in prison for passing messages from the “blind sheikh,” Omar Abdel Rahman, to his fellow terrorists. Or the French lawyer Isabelle Coutant-Peyre, who is engaged to marry Carlos the Jackal, and has compared the French police to the Gestapo.

If Stewart or Coutant-Peyre had been hired by the Department of Justice, I could see legitimate grounds for outrage. But the lawyers singled out by Keep America Safe are hardly in the same category. All they did was challenge the rules governing terrorist detainees or provide some representation to terrorist defendants. There is no suggestion that they favor terrorism or support al-Qaeda; all they did was what lawyers are supposed to do. As a group of Republican attorneys note:

Whether one believes in trial by military commission or in federal court, detainees will have access to counsel. … Good defense counsel is … key to ensuring that military commissions, federal juries, and federal judges have access to the best arguments and most rigorous factual presentations before making crucial decisions that affect both national security and paramount liberty interests.

Thiessen has a better point when he bemoans the double standard at work here. Many of those now outraged by the attacks on the Justice Department lawyers kept silent or applauded when John Yoo, Jay Bybee, and other honorable Bush administration lawyers were accused of being “war criminals” and threatened with prosecution for advocating a vigorous prosecution of the war against al-Qaeda. Perhaps this controversy will prove salutary if it will lead the Left to call off their attack dogs.

But there is an overriding cost that should be kept in mind: By focusing so much on the lower-level lawyers, Keep America Safe is missing the real problem. That starts at the top with Attorney General Eric Holder and President Obama, who seem willing to give terrorist defendants more rights than they received under the Bush administration — and more rights than most Americans think they deserve. I would suggest keeping the focus on Obama and Holder, not on underlings who are not the ultimate decision-makers here.

Read Less




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