Well, that certainly took long enough. After languishing in appointment purgatory for over three months, former Yale Law Dean Harold Koh may finally be confirmed as legal adviser to the State Department. Sen. Harry Reid filed a petition for cloture on Koh's nomination yesterday evening, which would force a vote on the nominee's fate tomorrow. According to Dave Weigel, Reid's office is optimistic that they have the 60 votes necessary to end debate (and the 50 to actually get Koh confirmed).
Weigel has a thorough and very worthwhile take on the confirmation saga, but the gist is that Koh became the center of a conservative firestorm for holding exactly the sort of views one might hope the State Department's top lawyer would possess. His detractors call him a "radical transnationalist," which frankly seems to be a scary euphemism for someone who shows respect for international law.
Generally, Koh's a fan of things like "democracy, human rights, fair play." More specifically, he believes that the U.S. should cooperate with the United Nations and that the U.S. is not authorized to act as a unilateral aggressor in the name of preemptive self-defense. And, as Adam previously noted, Koh is very much against torture -- a point of contention for conservatives, given that the legal adviser may be able to influence detention policy and help Obama move away from the previous national-security regime.
If the Koh confirmation is successful, Republicans will have essentially lost two major legal appointee battles in the past couple of months. By most accounts, the campaign to cast Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor as a not-all-that-smart racist has been a disaster. Senate Republicans are already conceding, and a new poll shows that the GOP's approval rating among Latinos is at an abysmal 8 percent. Seriously, that's Battlefield: Earth-level popularity.
Now maybe this is pushing it, but if this streak continues, perhaps Dawn Johnsen could even take up her Office of Legal Counsel post by the end of summer.
(Photo credit: American Constitution Society)