Commentary Magazine


Topic: social secretary

The Last Thing This Administration Needs

Earlier this month, I commented that it was quite possible that Obama could choose a worse chief of staff to replace Rahm Emanuel — Valerie Jarrett. Her personal judgment is poor, her political instincts run far-left, and she is so cozy with the president, she’s unlikely to part with him — or deliver contrary views — and thereby curb his most self-destructive tendencies. Dana Milbank confirms my take:

As the senior adviser in charge of “public engagement,” she has been the White House official responsible for maintaining relationships with the business community and with liberal interest groups — two of the most conspicuous areas of failure for the White House during Obama’s first two years.

She’s also the one who arranged the hiring of social secretary Desiree Rogers, only to cut her friend loose when Rogers was tarnished by the party-crashing Salahis at a state dinner in November.

In addition to Jarrett’s hiring of Van Jones, support for the Ground Zero mosque, and enthusiasm for Fox News–bashing, Milbank points out that she’s ridden to the rescue of two problematic figures:

Consider the recent hiring of Harvard’s Elizabeth Warren as the White House official in charge of setting up the new Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection. Emanuel and others had opposed the appointment on grounds that Warren is difficult to work with and politically radioactive. But Jarrett, arguing for the need for more senior women in the White House, got Obama to overrule Warren’s detractors. …

Jarrett made a similar intervention months earlier, when some senior White House officials were losing confidence in Attorney General Eric Holder. His job appeared to be in jeopardy over the decision to put Khalid Sheikh Mohammad on trial in New York, but Jarrett made sure that Holder, a friend, would remain in good standing.

Her judgment is deeply flawed, and her ascension would essentially rule out any significant policy readjustment by the Obama administration.  Selecting her would confirm that Obama is not one to self-reflect, admit error, and adjust to new circumstances.

Earlier this month, I commented that it was quite possible that Obama could choose a worse chief of staff to replace Rahm Emanuel — Valerie Jarrett. Her personal judgment is poor, her political instincts run far-left, and she is so cozy with the president, she’s unlikely to part with him — or deliver contrary views — and thereby curb his most self-destructive tendencies. Dana Milbank confirms my take:

As the senior adviser in charge of “public engagement,” she has been the White House official responsible for maintaining relationships with the business community and with liberal interest groups — two of the most conspicuous areas of failure for the White House during Obama’s first two years.

She’s also the one who arranged the hiring of social secretary Desiree Rogers, only to cut her friend loose when Rogers was tarnished by the party-crashing Salahis at a state dinner in November.

In addition to Jarrett’s hiring of Van Jones, support for the Ground Zero mosque, and enthusiasm for Fox News–bashing, Milbank points out that she’s ridden to the rescue of two problematic figures:

Consider the recent hiring of Harvard’s Elizabeth Warren as the White House official in charge of setting up the new Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection. Emanuel and others had opposed the appointment on grounds that Warren is difficult to work with and politically radioactive. But Jarrett, arguing for the need for more senior women in the White House, got Obama to overrule Warren’s detractors. …

Jarrett made a similar intervention months earlier, when some senior White House officials were losing confidence in Attorney General Eric Holder. His job appeared to be in jeopardy over the decision to put Khalid Sheikh Mohammad on trial in New York, but Jarrett made sure that Holder, a friend, would remain in good standing.

Her judgment is deeply flawed, and her ascension would essentially rule out any significant policy readjustment by the Obama administration.  Selecting her would confirm that Obama is not one to self-reflect, admit error, and adjust to new circumstances.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Noemie Emery says the elite pundits blew it in hawking Obama’s candidacy: “Could it be that The One has misjudged both the times and the country?; that he made a strategic mistake in pushing for health care (and a tactical one in trusting the Congress)?; that he created a nightmare for most in his party, who face epic losses this year? … To acknowledge this is to indict their own judgment, to face the fact they themselves may be less than insightful, that ‘talking like us’ means next to nothing, and that writing for magazines doesn’t equip one for greatness, or leadership. In fact, it only equips one to write for more magazines.”

Rep. Bart Stupak is holding firm for now. He isn’t buying the Reid–Ben Nelson abortion compromise language, “arguing that the Senate bill would effectively allow millions to buy insurance plans covering abortion because of federal subsidies and break the long-standing Hyde rule preventing federal funding of abortions — even if the federal government isn’t signing the checks directly, as it would have with the now-dead public insurance option.” The Democrats claim they have enough votes even without Stupak and pro-life Democrats. Really? We’ll find out.

Talking Points Memo or American Spectator? “Most campaign-type Democrats think Coakley will pull out a victory Tuesday despite a lackluster campaign and independents and undecideds rapidly slipping from their column, but some openly warn that a close race in the Bay State is a real warning sign for November’s mid-term elections.”

Barack Obama or Newt Gingrich? “That’s what’s been lost this year … that whole sense of changing how Washington works.”

A former Justice Department official doesn’t think much of the Obama team’s flurry of excuses for not responding to discovery requests in the New Black Panther Party case: “They are relying on privileges that the Office of Legal Counsel says do not exist. … There is no privilege, for instance, saying that the Justice Department will not identify personnel working on the case. … Generally, a number of these privileges [are ones] I’ve literally never heard of.” Well, who ever heard of executive privilege for a social secretary?

New Hampshire once looked like a potential lost seat for the GOP. Not anymore. The Republican front-runner, Kelly Ayotte, leads Paul Hodes by 9 points in the latest poll.

Good for him: “The top Senate Democrat in charge of military affairs on Wednesday ended a three-day trip to Afghanistan with a message of optimism that the U.S. mission can still succeed. Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said he sees a higher confidence among U.S. military leaders and Afghan leaders that the war against insurgents can be successful.” And a lesson for Obama: if he leads on national security, his base will follow.

Politico has a forum on: “Massachusetts: Does the closer-than-anyone-expected race jeopardize the Democratic agenda?” If you have to ask, the answer is yes.

All that groveling for nothing: “Although a State Department China hand described constructive U.S.-China cooperation on Iran in Hill testimony today, there are more signs that China is trying to put the breaks on moving forward with new Iran sanctions at this time. … But a diplomatic source tells POLITICO that China is saying its political director may not necessarily be able to come to a meeting of the P5+1 — the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany — that is scheduled for next weekend in New York.”

Noemie Emery says the elite pundits blew it in hawking Obama’s candidacy: “Could it be that The One has misjudged both the times and the country?; that he made a strategic mistake in pushing for health care (and a tactical one in trusting the Congress)?; that he created a nightmare for most in his party, who face epic losses this year? … To acknowledge this is to indict their own judgment, to face the fact they themselves may be less than insightful, that ‘talking like us’ means next to nothing, and that writing for magazines doesn’t equip one for greatness, or leadership. In fact, it only equips one to write for more magazines.”

Rep. Bart Stupak is holding firm for now. He isn’t buying the Reid–Ben Nelson abortion compromise language, “arguing that the Senate bill would effectively allow millions to buy insurance plans covering abortion because of federal subsidies and break the long-standing Hyde rule preventing federal funding of abortions — even if the federal government isn’t signing the checks directly, as it would have with the now-dead public insurance option.” The Democrats claim they have enough votes even without Stupak and pro-life Democrats. Really? We’ll find out.

Talking Points Memo or American Spectator? “Most campaign-type Democrats think Coakley will pull out a victory Tuesday despite a lackluster campaign and independents and undecideds rapidly slipping from their column, but some openly warn that a close race in the Bay State is a real warning sign for November’s mid-term elections.”

Barack Obama or Newt Gingrich? “That’s what’s been lost this year … that whole sense of changing how Washington works.”

A former Justice Department official doesn’t think much of the Obama team’s flurry of excuses for not responding to discovery requests in the New Black Panther Party case: “They are relying on privileges that the Office of Legal Counsel says do not exist. … There is no privilege, for instance, saying that the Justice Department will not identify personnel working on the case. … Generally, a number of these privileges [are ones] I’ve literally never heard of.” Well, who ever heard of executive privilege for a social secretary?

New Hampshire once looked like a potential lost seat for the GOP. Not anymore. The Republican front-runner, Kelly Ayotte, leads Paul Hodes by 9 points in the latest poll.

Good for him: “The top Senate Democrat in charge of military affairs on Wednesday ended a three-day trip to Afghanistan with a message of optimism that the U.S. mission can still succeed. Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said he sees a higher confidence among U.S. military leaders and Afghan leaders that the war against insurgents can be successful.” And a lesson for Obama: if he leads on national security, his base will follow.

Politico has a forum on: “Massachusetts: Does the closer-than-anyone-expected race jeopardize the Democratic agenda?” If you have to ask, the answer is yes.

All that groveling for nothing: “Although a State Department China hand described constructive U.S.-China cooperation on Iran in Hill testimony today, there are more signs that China is trying to put the breaks on moving forward with new Iran sanctions at this time. … But a diplomatic source tells POLITICO that China is saying its political director may not necessarily be able to come to a meeting of the P5+1 — the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany — that is scheduled for next weekend in New York.”

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What’s the Basis for Holder’s Stonewall?

In the flap over the New Black Panther Party case, the Justice Department appears to be making up rules as it goes along. Back on December 18, 2009, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, in a letter from its general counsel David Blackwood to the Justice Department’s Joseph H. Hunt, wrote to explain why the commission had resorted to sending subpoenas to obtain information on the controversial dismissal of the voter-intimidation case and to try to dislodge the reason for the Justice Department’s apparent refusal to cooperate with the commission. He wrote:

To allay your concerns, the Commission requested a meeting where we would negotiate revisions to our discovery plan so as to eliminate or minimize the likelihood the Commission’s work would interfere with OPR’s pending investigation. Your refusal to schedule a meeting even to discuss the Commission’s pending discovery requests and depositions suggests that DOJ is not interested in working to develop a path that will allow each agency to fulfill its statutory obligation. As you are aware, the Commission first began requesting related information from the Department on June 16, 2009, six months ago. After six months passed without a substantive response from DOJ, the Commission felt it necessary to issue subpoenas.

Hunt wrote back on December 23, denying that the department was refusing to cooperate and asserting that it wasn’t unwilling to meet with the commission. Hunt seemed to suggest that the department wanted the chance to “set forth its position in writing,” but alas, it never consented to a meeting and still has not presented a viable legal theory for refusing to cooperate. In its blizzard of excuses in its discovery response, Eric Holder’s Justice Department asserts the attorney-client privilege. But a 1982 opinion of the Office of Legal Counsel specifically found that “the interests implicated by the attorney-client privilege generally are subsumed under a claim of executive privilege … and the considerations of separation of powers and effective performance of constitutional duties determine the validity of the claim of privilege.” A 1986 opinion similarly makes clear that the attorney-client privilege “is not usually considered to constitute a separate basis [from executive privilege] for resisting congressional demands for information.” In short, there really isn’t an attorney-client privilege, just executive privilege, but the Obami seem unwilling to use that politically charged defense. Read More

In the flap over the New Black Panther Party case, the Justice Department appears to be making up rules as it goes along. Back on December 18, 2009, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, in a letter from its general counsel David Blackwood to the Justice Department’s Joseph H. Hunt, wrote to explain why the commission had resorted to sending subpoenas to obtain information on the controversial dismissal of the voter-intimidation case and to try to dislodge the reason for the Justice Department’s apparent refusal to cooperate with the commission. He wrote:

To allay your concerns, the Commission requested a meeting where we would negotiate revisions to our discovery plan so as to eliminate or minimize the likelihood the Commission’s work would interfere with OPR’s pending investigation. Your refusal to schedule a meeting even to discuss the Commission’s pending discovery requests and depositions suggests that DOJ is not interested in working to develop a path that will allow each agency to fulfill its statutory obligation. As you are aware, the Commission first began requesting related information from the Department on June 16, 2009, six months ago. After six months passed without a substantive response from DOJ, the Commission felt it necessary to issue subpoenas.

Hunt wrote back on December 23, denying that the department was refusing to cooperate and asserting that it wasn’t unwilling to meet with the commission. Hunt seemed to suggest that the department wanted the chance to “set forth its position in writing,” but alas, it never consented to a meeting and still has not presented a viable legal theory for refusing to cooperate. In its blizzard of excuses in its discovery response, Eric Holder’s Justice Department asserts the attorney-client privilege. But a 1982 opinion of the Office of Legal Counsel specifically found that “the interests implicated by the attorney-client privilege generally are subsumed under a claim of executive privilege … and the considerations of separation of powers and effective performance of constitutional duties determine the validity of the claim of privilege.” A 1986 opinion similarly makes clear that the attorney-client privilege “is not usually considered to constitute a separate basis [from executive privilege] for resisting congressional demands for information.” In short, there really isn’t an attorney-client privilege, just executive privilege, but the Obami seem unwilling to use that politically charged defense.

So has the president or his attorney general invoked executive privilege? Commissioner Todd Gaziano told me it’s not clear. He says, “Not only has the Department refused to give us the information — the documents and answers to which we are statutorily entitled — but it still has not given us a legal argument or justification for not doing so.” He noted that this occurs “in the face of binding department authority,” which shows there is no valid attorney-client privilege.

The White House thought it appropriate to invoke executive privilege to block testimony of its social secretary, so perhaps that’s where they’re going with this. But that privilege arguably can only be invoked by the president or his department heads, in this case Holder. Maybe if Obama ever gives a press conference he can tell us. Or maybe at the upcoming confirmation hearing of the not-yet-selected No. 2 man in the Justice Department, an enterprising senator can find out why the department thinks it can make up new rules, avoid explaining what exactly they are, and refuse to permit anyone to peer into a decision that apparently is so indefensible, it requires a Nixonian-like defensive strategy.

While Holder has prevented his employees from testifying before the commission, former voting-rights section chief Chris Coates has made his views known. His rationale (which should be read in full here) for bringing the case against the New Black Panther Party is a tribute to the notions of equal protection and fairness. The Holder team won’t tell us what was wrong with that analysis and why it countermanded the decision of Coates and his team, dismissing a case as egregious as the New Black Panther Party matter. As Coates said in his goodbye remarks to his colleagues:

A lot has been said about the politization [sic] of the Civil Rights Division. I believe that one of the most detrimental ways to politicize the enforcement process in the Voting Section is to enforce the provisions of the Voting Rights Act only for the protection of certain racial or ethnic minorities; or to take the position that the Voting Section is not going to enforce certain provision [sic] of any of the voting statutes the Voting Section has the responsibility to enforce. Such decisions carry with them obvious, enormous implications for partisan political struggles.

Well that seems to be what’s going on here — made-up rules and politics run rampant in the Justice Department. Not what the Obami promised, is it?

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Not New, but Worse

Reviewing Obama’s flip-floppery on his promise to have health-care negotiations televised on CSPAN, Rich Lowry observes:

This is one of the starkest paradoxes of American politics: that George W. Bush – whatever his other flaws – was ingenuous to a fault, while the herald of a new politics, Barack Obama, was insincere to the point of cynicism, especially about the process issues that were so central to his new-politics appeal. He punked voters into believing he represented a new way of doing business, before immediately embracing the old practices on behalf of a very old agenda of state aggrandizement.

Obama’s overabundance of broken campaign promises, the hyper-partisan style of his communication, the long list of declared enemies of the administration, the incessant Bush bashing and blaming, and the penchant for secrecy (e.g., refusing to let Congress in on the details of the Fort Hood inquiry, claiming executive privilege for the White House social secretary, preventing Justice Department lawyers from testifying on the New Black Panther Party case) are a far cry from the messianic portrait his supporters painted during the campaign. He was going to be the new JFK. Then it was the new FDR. And now he’s turned out to be vaguely Nixonesque. From day one, Obama and his team asserted that they “won,” the others lost, and no explanations were needed. And the formula was the same: limit release of  the facts, don’t admit error, attack foes as being insincere or biased, and double down on the agenda, no matter how unpopular it may be with the voters.

Part of that behavior — decidedly nontransparent and contemptuous of the public – has been aided and abetted by the Democratic-controlled Congress which has no interest in exercising any oversight. That sense that there won’t be hard questions to answer in public or any requests for incriminating documents  has likely encouraged the Obami to be tight-lipped and frankly arrogant. Who’s going to make them come clean? Not Democratic committee chairman and not, at least up until now, the media which was at first syncophantic and then gentle and then distracted whenever bad news appeared on the radar screen.

But Obama’s performance in the wake of the  Christmas Day bombing has drawn catcalls and as his agenda has proven to be increasingly unpopular the Obama approach is becoming harder and harder to maintain. Everyone could see how badly he handled the terrorist attack. It isn’t merely the doing of radio talk show hosts.  And the critical news is popping up more frequently on cable news stations other than Fox. It’s one thing to launch a vendetta against Fox News; it is another to add Gallup, Rasmussen, CSPAN and every other outlet to the list. After a while, you look paranoid and a bit loony claiming all your critics are illegitimate.

None of this would rile the public or draw so much notice had not Obama run against the Clinton machine and promised to in essence re-invent Washington. We’d expect all of this — and more — had Hillary Clinton been elected. But hopes among young voters, the chattering class and much of the general public were high that Obama would at least offer some improvement over business as usual in Washington. That he has taken partisanship, cynicism and secrecy to new levels is a bitter pill to his supporters and spinners. It is small consolation to his critics that they had him pegged correctly.

Reviewing Obama’s flip-floppery on his promise to have health-care negotiations televised on CSPAN, Rich Lowry observes:

This is one of the starkest paradoxes of American politics: that George W. Bush – whatever his other flaws – was ingenuous to a fault, while the herald of a new politics, Barack Obama, was insincere to the point of cynicism, especially about the process issues that were so central to his new-politics appeal. He punked voters into believing he represented a new way of doing business, before immediately embracing the old practices on behalf of a very old agenda of state aggrandizement.

Obama’s overabundance of broken campaign promises, the hyper-partisan style of his communication, the long list of declared enemies of the administration, the incessant Bush bashing and blaming, and the penchant for secrecy (e.g., refusing to let Congress in on the details of the Fort Hood inquiry, claiming executive privilege for the White House social secretary, preventing Justice Department lawyers from testifying on the New Black Panther Party case) are a far cry from the messianic portrait his supporters painted during the campaign. He was going to be the new JFK. Then it was the new FDR. And now he’s turned out to be vaguely Nixonesque. From day one, Obama and his team asserted that they “won,” the others lost, and no explanations were needed. And the formula was the same: limit release of  the facts, don’t admit error, attack foes as being insincere or biased, and double down on the agenda, no matter how unpopular it may be with the voters.

Part of that behavior — decidedly nontransparent and contemptuous of the public – has been aided and abetted by the Democratic-controlled Congress which has no interest in exercising any oversight. That sense that there won’t be hard questions to answer in public or any requests for incriminating documents  has likely encouraged the Obami to be tight-lipped and frankly arrogant. Who’s going to make them come clean? Not Democratic committee chairman and not, at least up until now, the media which was at first syncophantic and then gentle and then distracted whenever bad news appeared on the radar screen.

But Obama’s performance in the wake of the  Christmas Day bombing has drawn catcalls and as his agenda has proven to be increasingly unpopular the Obama approach is becoming harder and harder to maintain. Everyone could see how badly he handled the terrorist attack. It isn’t merely the doing of radio talk show hosts.  And the critical news is popping up more frequently on cable news stations other than Fox. It’s one thing to launch a vendetta against Fox News; it is another to add Gallup, Rasmussen, CSPAN and every other outlet to the list. After a while, you look paranoid and a bit loony claiming all your critics are illegitimate.

None of this would rile the public or draw so much notice had not Obama run against the Clinton machine and promised to in essence re-invent Washington. We’d expect all of this — and more — had Hillary Clinton been elected. But hopes among young voters, the chattering class and much of the general public were high that Obama would at least offer some improvement over business as usual in Washington. That he has taken partisanship, cynicism and secrecy to new levels is a bitter pill to his supporters and spinners. It is small consolation to his critics that they had him pegged correctly.

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The Black Panther Cover-Up

The Justice Department has ordered its career trial lawyers who have been subpoenaed by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights not to appear to provide testimony or give documents in the investigation of DOJ’s dismissal of the New Black Panther Party voter-intimidation case. The Washington Times explains:

Joseph H. Hunt, director of the Justice Department’s Federal Programs Branch, ordered the lawyers’ silence in a letter to the attorney for J. Christian Adams, the lead attorney for the department in the New Black Panther case. The letter said “well-established” and “lawful” Justice Department guidelines prohibited Mr. Adams’ cooperation in the commission probe.

How a personnel guideline can supersede the force of a subpoena issued by the commission remains a mystery. The report notes:

Todd Gaziano, a nonpartisan member of the Civil Rights Commission, challenged the Justice Department’s ruling, saying that the regulations cited do not apply and that the commission is “duly authorized by statute to review and report on enforcement activities of the Justice Department and other similar agencies.”

“Our job places a premium on our role as a watchdog of federal and state enforcement agencies, and to that end, Congress has instructed all agencies to comply fully with our requests,” he said. … [Gaziano] said the Justice Department “had it exactly backwards” when it suggested that there could be negative consequences for those who comply with the commission’s subpoenas. He said a lawyer cannot refuse to comply with a subpoena he knows to be lawful.

A source tells me that Adams was “not quite” threatened with the loss of his job, but plainly he and his colleague, Christopher Coates, the voting rights section chief, are being strong-armed to disregard a lawful subpoena. This is abject lawlessness, the sort of executive imperiousness that, if practiced by a Republican administration, would bring howls of protest from Congress, the media, and liberal lawyers’ groups. The Obama Justice Department doesn’t want to respond to a subpoena because they have a personnel rule? Next thing you know they’ll be claiming executive privilege for a social secretary. Oh yes, that’s right …

Now as for the merits, the Justice Department spokesman continues to spew the administration line that the voter-intimidation case brought by DOJ’s career lawyers was not supported by the law and the facts. But of course the lawyers disagree, claiming that their best legal judgment was overridden by political appointees without justification. They have a story to tell, with documents, firsthand accounts of meetings and conversations and e-mails with the political appointees’ own remarks, which they say will substantiate their position. But the Justice Department won’t let any of that out, nor will it say what specifically about the case lacked factual or legal support.

It’s not clear where we go from here. The Justice Department lawyers may appear anyway, testing whether the Obama administration would go as far as to fire them for complying with a subpoena. A deal might be negotiated between DOJ (which is apparently concerned that something quite distasteful may emerge) and the commission to provide some portion of the requested information. Or Congress might wake up, fulfill its obligation to conduct some real oversight of the Obama administration (which once again is telling us that the rules that apply to everyone else don’t apply to the White House), and actually hold a hearing on the matter.

The crew that excoriated the “politicization” of justice is now in a furious fight to cover their tracks and prevent career lawyers from blowing the whistle on Obama political appointees who reached down to pull the plug on a serious case of voter intimidation. The Obami need not be accountable or “transparent” to anyone, they would have us believe. We’ll see if that proves to be a winning position.

The Justice Department has ordered its career trial lawyers who have been subpoenaed by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights not to appear to provide testimony or give documents in the investigation of DOJ’s dismissal of the New Black Panther Party voter-intimidation case. The Washington Times explains:

Joseph H. Hunt, director of the Justice Department’s Federal Programs Branch, ordered the lawyers’ silence in a letter to the attorney for J. Christian Adams, the lead attorney for the department in the New Black Panther case. The letter said “well-established” and “lawful” Justice Department guidelines prohibited Mr. Adams’ cooperation in the commission probe.

How a personnel guideline can supersede the force of a subpoena issued by the commission remains a mystery. The report notes:

Todd Gaziano, a nonpartisan member of the Civil Rights Commission, challenged the Justice Department’s ruling, saying that the regulations cited do not apply and that the commission is “duly authorized by statute to review and report on enforcement activities of the Justice Department and other similar agencies.”

“Our job places a premium on our role as a watchdog of federal and state enforcement agencies, and to that end, Congress has instructed all agencies to comply fully with our requests,” he said. … [Gaziano] said the Justice Department “had it exactly backwards” when it suggested that there could be negative consequences for those who comply with the commission’s subpoenas. He said a lawyer cannot refuse to comply with a subpoena he knows to be lawful.

A source tells me that Adams was “not quite” threatened with the loss of his job, but plainly he and his colleague, Christopher Coates, the voting rights section chief, are being strong-armed to disregard a lawful subpoena. This is abject lawlessness, the sort of executive imperiousness that, if practiced by a Republican administration, would bring howls of protest from Congress, the media, and liberal lawyers’ groups. The Obama Justice Department doesn’t want to respond to a subpoena because they have a personnel rule? Next thing you know they’ll be claiming executive privilege for a social secretary. Oh yes, that’s right …

Now as for the merits, the Justice Department spokesman continues to spew the administration line that the voter-intimidation case brought by DOJ’s career lawyers was not supported by the law and the facts. But of course the lawyers disagree, claiming that their best legal judgment was overridden by political appointees without justification. They have a story to tell, with documents, firsthand accounts of meetings and conversations and e-mails with the political appointees’ own remarks, which they say will substantiate their position. But the Justice Department won’t let any of that out, nor will it say what specifically about the case lacked factual or legal support.

It’s not clear where we go from here. The Justice Department lawyers may appear anyway, testing whether the Obama administration would go as far as to fire them for complying with a subpoena. A deal might be negotiated between DOJ (which is apparently concerned that something quite distasteful may emerge) and the commission to provide some portion of the requested information. Or Congress might wake up, fulfill its obligation to conduct some real oversight of the Obama administration (which once again is telling us that the rules that apply to everyone else don’t apply to the White House), and actually hold a hearing on the matter.

The crew that excoriated the “politicization” of justice is now in a furious fight to cover their tracks and prevent career lawyers from blowing the whistle on Obama political appointees who reached down to pull the plug on a serious case of voter intimidation. The Obami need not be accountable or “transparent” to anyone, they would have us believe. We’ll see if that proves to be a winning position.

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Not the Social Diva, But the Presidential Diva

Maureen Dowd — I know you’re shocked I’d think this — doesn’t get it remotely right in her column on the fall from grace of Tiger Woods and Desiree Rogers. (I leave the Woods episode to others, who have greater interest in golf and sports-celebrity infidelity.) As for Rogers, Dowd observes:

Even if Desiree thought Congress was grandstanding, it was goofy of her to use the Constitution to get out of a Congressional summons. The Obama White House is morphing into the Bush White House with frightening speed. Its transparency is already fogged up.

The smart thing would have been for Desiree to sail up to Congress, wearing designer sackcloth and pearls of remorse, apologize for the oversight at her first state dinner and promise it wouldn’t happen again.

It just made her look weaker that she couldn’t simply accept some blame publicly for what happened at a dinner she was in charge of, and draw the heat away from the First Family she serves. She’s no G. Gordon Liddy.

But, of course, it is the president who holds the executive privilege and who asserts it. It is the president and his enablers, not Rogers, who is treating the Constitution as though it were silly putty, stretching and bending it however it suits their fancy. When Dowd writes, “Both the golf diva and the social diva mistakenly think the rules need not apply to them, ” she’s missing — or disguising — the point. It is the president who thinks the rules don’t apply to him. And even Dowd can’t really conceal what is going on as she declares, “Never mind the White House’s absurdly asserting executive privilege to dismiss a faux pas.” Well, we should mind.

Dowd may be obsessed with the golf and social divas, but there is a real and recurring theme here that should trouble those who used to inveigh against George W. Bush for “shredding the Constitution” or restoring the “imperial presidency.” The normal rules of restraint against political opponents and critical media outlets (e.g., the Chamber of Commerce, Fox News) don’t apply to Obama and his enablers. The normal rules of Constitutional interpretation don’t apply to them, whether it concerns czar mania or executive privilege. That’s a recipe for abuse, overreach, and the political landmines, which befall a White House indifferent to advice and hostile to criticism.

The troubling trends – from czars to the war on Fox to the stunt of elastic executive privilege – flow from the mindset and prickly personality of the president, not from his social secretary. Perhaps that’s why when you Google “Obama” and “Nixon” and “arrogance,” you get 4.29 million entries. Try it.

Maureen Dowd — I know you’re shocked I’d think this — doesn’t get it remotely right in her column on the fall from grace of Tiger Woods and Desiree Rogers. (I leave the Woods episode to others, who have greater interest in golf and sports-celebrity infidelity.) As for Rogers, Dowd observes:

Even if Desiree thought Congress was grandstanding, it was goofy of her to use the Constitution to get out of a Congressional summons. The Obama White House is morphing into the Bush White House with frightening speed. Its transparency is already fogged up.

The smart thing would have been for Desiree to sail up to Congress, wearing designer sackcloth and pearls of remorse, apologize for the oversight at her first state dinner and promise it wouldn’t happen again.

It just made her look weaker that she couldn’t simply accept some blame publicly for what happened at a dinner she was in charge of, and draw the heat away from the First Family she serves. She’s no G. Gordon Liddy.

But, of course, it is the president who holds the executive privilege and who asserts it. It is the president and his enablers, not Rogers, who is treating the Constitution as though it were silly putty, stretching and bending it however it suits their fancy. When Dowd writes, “Both the golf diva and the social diva mistakenly think the rules need not apply to them, ” she’s missing — or disguising — the point. It is the president who thinks the rules don’t apply to him. And even Dowd can’t really conceal what is going on as she declares, “Never mind the White House’s absurdly asserting executive privilege to dismiss a faux pas.” Well, we should mind.

Dowd may be obsessed with the golf and social divas, but there is a real and recurring theme here that should trouble those who used to inveigh against George W. Bush for “shredding the Constitution” or restoring the “imperial presidency.” The normal rules of restraint against political opponents and critical media outlets (e.g., the Chamber of Commerce, Fox News) don’t apply to Obama and his enablers. The normal rules of Constitutional interpretation don’t apply to them, whether it concerns czar mania or executive privilege. That’s a recipe for abuse, overreach, and the political landmines, which befall a White House indifferent to advice and hostile to criticism.

The troubling trends – from czars to the war on Fox to the stunt of elastic executive privilege – flow from the mindset and prickly personality of the president, not from his social secretary. Perhaps that’s why when you Google “Obama” and “Nixon” and “arrogance,” you get 4.29 million entries. Try it.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

More doctors say “no” to Obamacare: “A coalition representing 240,000 physician specialists, like the American College of Surgeons and the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery, said it ‘must oppose the bill as currently written.’” I wonder how many doctors are going to leave the AMA over its “expressed support for the legislation’s central elements.”

There is at least one major impediment to a health-care bill: “After months of trying to craft a 60-vote coalition based on the finer points of health care policy, Senate Democrats are growing increasingly worried that abortion will upend what had become a clear path to approving the overhaul bill.”

Uh oh: “Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus’ office confirmed late Friday night that the Montana Democrat was carrying on an affair with his state office director, Melodee Hanes, when he nominated her to be U.S. attorney in Montana. According to a source familiar with their relationship, Hanes and Baucus began their relationship in the summer of 2008 – nearly a year before Baucus and his wife, Wanda, divorced in April 2009.”

Mona Charen: “Barack Obama is demonstrating bottomless reservoirs of gracelessness. A full 13 months after his election, in the course of justifying the deployment of 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan, President Obama could not spare a word of praise for George W. Bush — not even when recounting the nation’s ‘unified’ response to 9/11. To the contrary, throughout his pained recitation of the choices we face in Afghanistan, he adverted at least half a dozen times to the supposed blunders of his predecessor.”

It seems as though the envoy-itis hasn’t worked out so well for the Obami foreign policy. But this bit of super spin about George Mitchell is quite amusing: “throughout a year of exhausting shuttle diplomacy to the Middle East and European capitals, he has not been able to achieve the major task Obama assigned him: getting Israelis and Palestinians back to the peace table.” Er, that’s one way of describing the most counterproductive year in Middle East diplomacy in decades, or maybe in history.

Meanwhile, Michael Goldfarb goes after the mealy-mouthed envoy to Sudan, Scott Gration. But the president is what matters here: “He pledged to put an end to the genocide there, and in early 2007 Biden even went so far as to call for deploying American troops to the country. As Obama’s first year comes to a close, his administration is indulging an envoy whose approach is defined by his desire to engage the war criminals who rule Sudan. Gration is Obama’s guy, and ultimately, he is implementing Obama’s policy.”

Obama drops seven points in a month in the CNN/Opinion Research poll; down to a 48-to-50% approval/disapproval rating. And that is among “American adults,” not all of whom are registered voters.

Charles Krauthammer on the “executive privilege” objection to the Obami’s social secretary’s testifying before Congress: “What is comical about this is it’s being invoked for a social secretary in a circumstance where, in the original Supreme Court rulings, it was intended for high officials with important state secrets. What was the state secret here — the nature of the flower arrangements at the head table? You know, it is as if somebody is invoking the Fifth Amendment in a dispute over a parking ticket.”

Roger Pilon of CATO explains the environmentalists’ dilemma: “At bottom, the greens face three basic problems. First, by no means is the science of global warming ‘settled’ — if anything, the fraud Climategate surfaced has settled that question. Second, even if global warming were a settled science, the contribution of human activity is anything but certain. And finally, most important, even if the answers to those two questions were clear, the costs — or benefits — of global warming are unknown, but the costs of the proposals promoted by the greens are astronomical.”

More doctors say “no” to Obamacare: “A coalition representing 240,000 physician specialists, like the American College of Surgeons and the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery, said it ‘must oppose the bill as currently written.’” I wonder how many doctors are going to leave the AMA over its “expressed support for the legislation’s central elements.”

There is at least one major impediment to a health-care bill: “After months of trying to craft a 60-vote coalition based on the finer points of health care policy, Senate Democrats are growing increasingly worried that abortion will upend what had become a clear path to approving the overhaul bill.”

Uh oh: “Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus’ office confirmed late Friday night that the Montana Democrat was carrying on an affair with his state office director, Melodee Hanes, when he nominated her to be U.S. attorney in Montana. According to a source familiar with their relationship, Hanes and Baucus began their relationship in the summer of 2008 – nearly a year before Baucus and his wife, Wanda, divorced in April 2009.”

Mona Charen: “Barack Obama is demonstrating bottomless reservoirs of gracelessness. A full 13 months after his election, in the course of justifying the deployment of 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan, President Obama could not spare a word of praise for George W. Bush — not even when recounting the nation’s ‘unified’ response to 9/11. To the contrary, throughout his pained recitation of the choices we face in Afghanistan, he adverted at least half a dozen times to the supposed blunders of his predecessor.”

It seems as though the envoy-itis hasn’t worked out so well for the Obami foreign policy. But this bit of super spin about George Mitchell is quite amusing: “throughout a year of exhausting shuttle diplomacy to the Middle East and European capitals, he has not been able to achieve the major task Obama assigned him: getting Israelis and Palestinians back to the peace table.” Er, that’s one way of describing the most counterproductive year in Middle East diplomacy in decades, or maybe in history.

Meanwhile, Michael Goldfarb goes after the mealy-mouthed envoy to Sudan, Scott Gration. But the president is what matters here: “He pledged to put an end to the genocide there, and in early 2007 Biden even went so far as to call for deploying American troops to the country. As Obama’s first year comes to a close, his administration is indulging an envoy whose approach is defined by his desire to engage the war criminals who rule Sudan. Gration is Obama’s guy, and ultimately, he is implementing Obama’s policy.”

Obama drops seven points in a month in the CNN/Opinion Research poll; down to a 48-to-50% approval/disapproval rating. And that is among “American adults,” not all of whom are registered voters.

Charles Krauthammer on the “executive privilege” objection to the Obami’s social secretary’s testifying before Congress: “What is comical about this is it’s being invoked for a social secretary in a circumstance where, in the original Supreme Court rulings, it was intended for high officials with important state secrets. What was the state secret here — the nature of the flower arrangements at the head table? You know, it is as if somebody is invoking the Fifth Amendment in a dispute over a parking ticket.”

Roger Pilon of CATO explains the environmentalists’ dilemma: “At bottom, the greens face three basic problems. First, by no means is the science of global warming ‘settled’ — if anything, the fraud Climategate surfaced has settled that question. Second, even if global warming were a settled science, the contribution of human activity is anything but certain. And finally, most important, even if the answers to those two questions were clear, the costs — or benefits — of global warming are unknown, but the costs of the proposals promoted by the greens are astronomical.”

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Privileged, Indeed

The Obami are pulling out all the stops to protect their social secretary and Chicago pal from further scrutiny about the lapse in security over what is now the most infamous state dinner in recent memory. Didn’t you hear, sniffs, Valerie Jarrett, who doesn’t want her confidante and Chicago pal going anywhere near a congressional hearing: Case closed! Move along. Desiree is not going to testify, the Obami say. What!? Something about the Constitution, you say? Hmm.

Bill Burck and Dan Perino dissect the Obami’s claim that they needn’t provide Desiree Rogers to testify over the party-crashing incident because of the “separation of powers.” That’s “executive privilege,” by the way, but they don’t want to say that because people would laugh. Well, more people would laugh than are already. Rogers is not exactly a close adviser, of course. But no matter:

Lest there be any doubt on this front, the White House made it clear that “staff here don’t go to testify in front of Congress.” There is no qualifier of any sort in that statement. At face value, this is a breathtaking assertion that all White House staff — everyone from the chief of staff to the 22-year-old assistant just out of college — are absolutely immune from appearing before Congress to give testimony. This jaw-dropper makes the prior administration, vilified by so many Democrats in Congress as imperious and dismissive of congressional prerogatives, look positively weak-kneed and lap-doggish.

This is all quite at odds with the Democrats’ past eight years of foot-stomping and insistence that the Bush White House had to provide advisers (real ones, who advised on more than menus and guest lists) for testimony. (“Speaker Pelosi and Chairman Conyers must feel particularly double-crossed because they were the principal sponsors of a lawsuit filed in an effort to compel testimony and documents from Ms. Miers, Mr. Rove, and others concerning the U.S. attorney controversy.”)

Congress may be inclined to let this slide. But they do so at their institutional peril. The Obami are apparently serious, and Congress, unless it wants to set some new precedent, should be wary about letting the White House get away with a stunt like this. “We don’t want to embarrass our Chicago friend” simply isn’t a good enough reason to stiff Congress.

The Obami are pulling out all the stops to protect their social secretary and Chicago pal from further scrutiny about the lapse in security over what is now the most infamous state dinner in recent memory. Didn’t you hear, sniffs, Valerie Jarrett, who doesn’t want her confidante and Chicago pal going anywhere near a congressional hearing: Case closed! Move along. Desiree is not going to testify, the Obami say. What!? Something about the Constitution, you say? Hmm.

Bill Burck and Dan Perino dissect the Obami’s claim that they needn’t provide Desiree Rogers to testify over the party-crashing incident because of the “separation of powers.” That’s “executive privilege,” by the way, but they don’t want to say that because people would laugh. Well, more people would laugh than are already. Rogers is not exactly a close adviser, of course. But no matter:

Lest there be any doubt on this front, the White House made it clear that “staff here don’t go to testify in front of Congress.” There is no qualifier of any sort in that statement. At face value, this is a breathtaking assertion that all White House staff — everyone from the chief of staff to the 22-year-old assistant just out of college — are absolutely immune from appearing before Congress to give testimony. This jaw-dropper makes the prior administration, vilified by so many Democrats in Congress as imperious and dismissive of congressional prerogatives, look positively weak-kneed and lap-doggish.

This is all quite at odds with the Democrats’ past eight years of foot-stomping and insistence that the Bush White House had to provide advisers (real ones, who advised on more than menus and guest lists) for testimony. (“Speaker Pelosi and Chairman Conyers must feel particularly double-crossed because they were the principal sponsors of a lawsuit filed in an effort to compel testimony and documents from Ms. Miers, Mr. Rove, and others concerning the U.S. attorney controversy.”)

Congress may be inclined to let this slide. But they do so at their institutional peril. The Obami are apparently serious, and Congress, unless it wants to set some new precedent, should be wary about letting the White House get away with a stunt like this. “We don’t want to embarrass our Chicago friend” simply isn’t a good enough reason to stiff Congress.

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Nah! Really?

The New York Times, not the Onion, reports:

The White House on Wednesday invoked the separation of powers to keep Desiree Rogers, President Obama’s social secretary, from testifying on Capitol Hill about how a couple of aspiring reality television show celebrities crashed a state dinner for the prime minister of India last week. “I think you know that, based on separation of powers, staff here don’t go to testify in front of Congress,’’ Mr. Obama’s press secretary, Robert Gibbs, told reporters during his regular briefing. “She won’t — she will not be testifying in front of Congress.’’

They are kidding, right? Nope. Dead serious. Even the usually supportive media and law-professor contingent is gobsmacked by this hooey:

“I’d completely fall out of my chair if they invoked Executive privilege with regards to a social secretary arranging a party,” said Mark J. Rozell, a public-policy professor at George Mason who recently wrote a book on Executive privilege. “There is no prohibition under separation of powers against White House staff going to Capitol Hill to talk about what they know.”

You recall how loudly Democrats squawked when Karl Rove and other Bush advisers involved in real matters of executive deliberation balked at testifying before Congress. Now the most transparent administration in history is invoking executive privilege (which, according to my former Justice Department gurus, doesn’t “count” unless the president invokes it himself) to prevent the social secretary from testifying about a security breach at the White House. The arrogance and, yes, lack of transparency over an issue that has no policy implications (but that may prove embarrassing for a pal of White House honcho Valerie Jarrett) is remarkable, even for the Obami.

The New York Times, not the Onion, reports:

The White House on Wednesday invoked the separation of powers to keep Desiree Rogers, President Obama’s social secretary, from testifying on Capitol Hill about how a couple of aspiring reality television show celebrities crashed a state dinner for the prime minister of India last week. “I think you know that, based on separation of powers, staff here don’t go to testify in front of Congress,’’ Mr. Obama’s press secretary, Robert Gibbs, told reporters during his regular briefing. “She won’t — she will not be testifying in front of Congress.’’

They are kidding, right? Nope. Dead serious. Even the usually supportive media and law-professor contingent is gobsmacked by this hooey:

“I’d completely fall out of my chair if they invoked Executive privilege with regards to a social secretary arranging a party,” said Mark J. Rozell, a public-policy professor at George Mason who recently wrote a book on Executive privilege. “There is no prohibition under separation of powers against White House staff going to Capitol Hill to talk about what they know.”

You recall how loudly Democrats squawked when Karl Rove and other Bush advisers involved in real matters of executive deliberation balked at testifying before Congress. Now the most transparent administration in history is invoking executive privilege (which, according to my former Justice Department gurus, doesn’t “count” unless the president invokes it himself) to prevent the social secretary from testifying about a security breach at the White House. The arrogance and, yes, lack of transparency over an issue that has no policy implications (but that may prove embarrassing for a pal of White House honcho Valerie Jarrett) is remarkable, even for the Obami.

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