Politics

Crank Up the Outrage Machine.

Steve Benen explains how absurd Republican demands are that a special prosecutor be appointed in the question of Joe Sestak 's alleged White House job offer, and this raises a rather important issue. In case you are unaware, Sestak says that someone in the White House told him that if he would shelve his primary campaign against Arlen Specter , they'd give him a job. What job it was, he won't say, and the White House doesn't want to talk about it. In any event, this is fairly standard political horse-trading, which Republicans are now expressing faux outrage over. But here's why it's important: If Republicans were in charge of Congress right now, they'd be holding endless hearings on not just this issue but a hundred other cases of alleged Obama administration malfeasance. For those of you too young to remember, the Clinton years were a parade of ridiculous "investigations" into things like whether aide Vince Foster was murdered by a nefarious conspiracy. The Republican Congress heard...

Harold Koh Defends Obama Record On Rule Of Law.

In his speech at the Alliance for Justice annual luncheon today, State Department Legal Adviser Harold Koh seemed conscious of liberal disappointments with the trajectory of the Obama administration's national-security policy. He criticized the Bush administration for having "assaulted basic principles of the rule of law" and cast the role of the Obama administration as "repair[ing] the damage." While part of Koh's speech was meant to be taken as humor, he very clearly seemed to be addressing the relative continuity of the two administrations on matters of national security: Which reminds of the tale of the two Irishmen walking down the road...And one of them asks the other, "how do you get to Dublin from here?" To which the other answers, "you know I wouldn't start from here." Given the choice, who would start with what we inherited? Guantanamo, strategic damage in global reputation, a deeply polarized Congress, the worst recession since the depression, historic fights over health...

Obama Gets the Wrong Message on Immigration.

It seems like the Obama administration got the wrong message when it came to the Arizona immigration bill. Instead of pushing back against the state's enforcement-only approach to dealing with illegal immigration, the administration has sent 1,200 National Guard troops to help "secure the border." Maybe this shouldn't be surprising given that progressives at major think tanks like the Center for American Progress have lately joined Republicans in calling for the border to be militarized, but looking at the numbers, you wonder how anyone could think we need more border enforcement. According to a recent Migration Policy Institute report , border-enforcement spending and personnel have surged in the past decade: We've basically doubled our enforcement capabilities on the border in the last five years -- even as the economic recession has eased the draw of illegal immigrants seeking U.S. jobs. But the problem isn't just that another 1,200 National Guardsmen is overkill: The huge step-up...

Koh Defends Smeared DoJ Lawyers As House GOP Targets Them.

Speaking before a liberal audience at the Alliance For Justice's annual luncheon, State Department Legal Adviser Harold Koh defended attorneys in the Justice Department who had previously done work on behalf of detainees at Guantanamo Bay. "Every day, I work with dozens of brave and selfless attorneys from my office, dedicated career lawyers and political appointees, including many of the Justice Department attorneys, who in the best traditions of our legal profession chose to advocate pro-bono for Guantanamo Detainees," Koh said. "They are heroes. They are among the finest lawyers I have ever known." Republicans in Congress however, feel differently. At Balkinization, Steve Vladeck reports on an amendment to the Defense Authorization bill that would explicitly target these attorneys for investigation: As set forth in the bill, the lawyers subject to such an investigation are military or civilian lawyers for whom there is “reasonable suspicion” to believe that they have: (A)...

More Bipartisanship.*

*Or at least, bipartisanship to the extent it means Republicans make extremely right-ist demands on President Obama and yell at him for being a radical lefty. Obama met with Senate Republicans yesterday, and though news organizations called it rare for a president to meet with the opposing party on their own turf, it seems like the kind of thing Obama does. In the meeting, Obama asked for their help passing some of the big items left on his agenda, like jobs, immigration, and passing the new START treaty. And Republicans said no. But Kansas Republican Sam Brownback had another word to describe it: "testy." Brownback reported that the president told Republicans he's under pressure from those on his left, but the Kansas Republican said that failed to mollify his GOP colleagues. "It's, you know, 'OK, we want to be bipartisan, but I want it as hard, far left as you can get it through the Senate.' And that's not a bipartisan approach," Brownback said. How long are people going to keep...

Kagan And Executive Power, Ctd.

John Yoo , giving the ultimate non-endorsement, says Elena Kagan is no John Yoo: Though Ms. Kagan’s thin record makes it difficult to draw many conclusions on her personal views, her academic work still provides hints into her thinking on this issue. In 2001, she published a 140-page article in The Harvard Law Review, “Presidential Administration,” written when she held no brief for the administration. Some have suggested that because her article looks favorably on President Bill Clinton ’s energetic use of executive orders and regulatory efforts, Ms. Kagan must agree with the Bush administration’s theories of the unitary executive. This is a mistake that could only be based on reading just the first page of her article. Choosing not to study a treatise on presidential administrative policies containing 527 footnotes is an understandable act of self-preservation. Nonetheless, those who persevere will find that her article clearly and directly rejected the theories supporting the...

Blame for the Oil Spill.

As the BP spill gets steadily worse, and the move-like methods to plug it keep failing, it's increasingly hard not to blame the administration. I've been somewhat sympathetic to the arguments that the expertise to stop it lies with BP and that figuring out how to stop it was a more pressing concern than figuring out exactly how much it was leaking . But an increasingly alarming number of facts about how dysfunctional the monitoring agency, the Minerals Management Service, is are coming to light. They were cozy with the companies, and just a few years ago they brought us a sexy drug scandal out of the Denver office. A lot of those problems began and exacerbated under the Bush administration, but the Obama administration was pretty slow-moving in dealing with them. And while it seems unclear what the administration could do, surely it could do something. At the same time, it's important to keep some things in perspective. By some estimates, the spill puts out 70,000 barrels a day, which...

DADT Repeal: Not an HRC Victory.

As Paul mentioned this morning, a "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" repeal appears imminent. In response, the media's go-to gay spokesperson Joe Solmnese of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) put out a celebratory release saying that the government is on the "brink of historic action." But the reaction among grassroots gay-rights supporters and the gay blogosphere has basically been a frustrated "finally!" -- directed both at the Obama administration and the leaders of the HRC and other established gay-rights organizations, which critics perceive as complacent, influence-peddling politicos. At the last minute, the HRC may have joined the bandwagon by calling for a DADT repeal "not tomorrow, not next year, now" and asking their members to call their representatives. But they failed to apply that same pressure last year when things were reaching a boiling point. On the eve of Obama's speech at their annual fundraising dinner, Solomnese sent out an e-mail blast admonishing the administration's...

Last Night's Action: Financial-Reform Votes.

Mixed news from Congress yesterday, as the Senate united overwhelmingly behind two non-binding provisions designed to signal its preferences to the upcoming conference committee on the financial-reform bill. First, some good news: After reading the amendment on which Sen. Kay Bailey Hutichson based her motion to instruct conferees, I wrote that it was an attempt to weaken the Volcker rule to ban risky practices at banks and was disappointed when it passed overwhelmingly . However, I've now seen the final text of the motion, and it is exceedingly straightforward. Hutchison's proposal simply asks that the conferees ensure that insurance companies can continue to do their business. Insurance companies collect premiums and invest them in order to be able to pay off obligations on their policies. Many insurance companies have or are bank subsidiaries, so the Volcker rule, which bans banks from trading their own assets, would also ban this common insurance-company practice. Like any...

The New McCarthyism: Now in Book Form.

Andy McCarthy has turned his regular columns arguing that both the White House and the president are personally sympathetic to terrorists into a book, titled The Grand Jihad: How Islam and the Left Sabotage America : For years, McCarthy warned of America’s blindness to the Islamist threat, but in The Grand Jihad McCarthy exposes a new, more insidious peril: the government’s active appeasement of the Islamist ideology. With the help of witting and unwitting accomplices in and out of government, Islamism doesn’t merely fuel terrorism but spawns America-hating Islamic enclaves in our very midst, gradually foisting Islam’s repressive law, sharia, on American life. The revolutionary doctrine has made common cause with an ascendant Left that also seeks radical transformation of our constitutional order. The prognosis for liberty could not be more dire. The Obama administration has restored the Bush -era hybrid military-commissions system for trying terrorists. It has maintained and tried to...

Goldwater, Ctd.

Conor Friedersdorf : Still, the folks at The Corner all seem to repudiate opposition to the 1964 Civil Rights Act and lionize Barry Goldwater , as does the blogospheric right generally, so while I am sure there are conservatives out there who take the contrary position, it is both possible and widely practiced to think of Barry Goldwater as an icon even while explicitly repudiating his stance on race. If only . Look, I've been pleasantly surprised by how much conservatives and libertarians have rebuked Rand Paul on this point -- Brink Lindsey 's and George Will 's comments come to mind, although Mitch McConnell 's recollection of watching his then-boss John Sherman Cooper help bring the votes together to get the 1964 Civil Rights Act passed has to be the most moving. The point that I was trying to make yesterday (and I think Dave Weigel was trying to make the same one ) is that things like FDR's internment of Japanese Americans and JFK's wiretapping of Martin Luther King Jr. are seen...

"Don't Ask, Don't Tell" On the Way Out?

Pretty big news on the military's ban on gay service members: WASHINGTON — President Obam a , the Pentagon and leading lawmakers reached agreement Monday on legislative language and a time frame for repealing the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, clearing the way for Congress to take up the measure as soon as this week. It was not clear whether the deal had secured the votes necessary to pass the House and Senate, but the agreement removed the Pentagon’s objections to having Congress vote quickly on repealing the contentious 17-year-old policy, which bars gay men and lesbians from serving openly in the armed services. House Democratic leaders were meeting Monday night and considering taking up the measure as soon as Thursday. But even if the measure passes, the policy cannot not change until after Dec. 1, when the Pentagon completes a review of its readiness to deal with the changes. Mr. Obama, his defense secretary and the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff would also be...

Was the South Post-Reconstruction a "Perfect Test" of Libertarian Philosophy?

Last week, Bruce Bartlett wrote : The libertarian philosophy of Rand Paul and the Supreme Court of the 1880s and 1890s gave us almost 100 years of segregation, white supremacy, lynchings, chain gangs, the KKK, and discrimination of African Americans for no other reason except their skin color. The gains made by the former slaves in the years after the Civil War were completely reversed once the Supreme Court effectively prevented the federal government from protecting them. Thus we have a perfect test of the libertarian philosophy and an indisputable conclusion: it didn't work. Freedom did not lead to a decline in racism; it only got worse. Jacob Sullum objects : The "perfect test" of freedom was a legal regime in which the rights of African Americans were systematically denied, murderous assaults on them went unpunished, and businesses were forced to discriminate against them? And all that was somehow the result of "libertarian philosophy"? It's hard to believe that Bartlett, a...

The Little Moving Picture: Geithner's Got Game.

Secretary of the Treasury Tim Geithner shoots hoops with Chinese high school students in Beijing. Along with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and some 200 other American officials, Geithner is in China this week for the next round of the Strategic and Economic Dialogue, an ongoing discussion between the two countries on a variety of major issues. They'll be talking about currency and North Korea this year; last year discussions concerned debt and human rights.

Do Anwar al-Awlaki's Rants Count as Incitement?

With the news of yet another tape of extremist American-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki calling for/praising the murder of American citizens, I began wondering whether these articles bolster the legal merit of the government's argument that they have the authority to kill al-Awlaki without trial, or whether this kind of news merely bolsters the administration's public case for doing so in the court of public opinion. The law is supposed to be king in America, but at the moment other nations are following our example better than we are. Matthew Waxman , a former Defense Department official during the Bush administration and currently a Council on Foreign Relations fellow, says that "as a legal matter, al-Awlaki's anti-American rhetoric alone -- no matter how nefarious -- can't justify targeting him." But the government appears to be arguing that his operational role in terrorist operations is more than just rhetorical, and his rhetoric may be an important element among others in assessing...

Pages