Why Did Obama Kill The Dawn Johnsen Nomination?

imagesYesterday, when I wrote about 34 Obama Nominees Not Named Dawn Johnsen being confirmed by the Senate on the heels of the healthcare vote, and before they left town, I was not aware, in addition (h/t earlofhuntingdon), the nomination was now completely dead. From Main Justice:

The Senate approved a unanimous consent request today to hold over several nominees for the second session of the 111th Congress, which begins in January.

But nominees to head three DOJ offices: Dawn Johnsen, for the Office of Legal Counsel, Mary L. Smith, for the Tax Division, and Christopher Schroeder, for the Office of Legal Policy, were returned to the White House before the Senate recessed for the holidays.

Johnsen, who was nominated in February, was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee in March on a party line vote.

Several Senate Republicans, joined by Democratic Sens. Arlen Specter (Pa.) and Ben Nelson (Neb.), have voiced concerns about Johnsen’s vocal opposition to the Bush administration’s national security policies and her past work for an abortion rights group.

The nomination of Dawn Johnsen to be the head of the Office of Legal Counsel at DOJ, a critical post, is now truly dead. If Ms. Johnsen is to serve, she will have to be renominated by Barack Obama and start over. She never got the up or down vote promised as soon as the Senate had done healthcare, she never got an ounce of support from the Administration that nominated her, and a year of her life was taken in what certainly appears to be a cowardly and demeaning political ploy.

There is a bit more than meets the eye to unpack here. Harry Reid held over several nominations for the return to session in January, but Dawn Johnsen was not one of them. The implication is that he could only do so by a “unanimous consent” approval by the Senate and that, golly gosh, he just could not get it. That does indeed appear to be the case from the Senate Rules on Nominations. Rule XXXI(6) provides:

Nominations neither confirmed nor rejected during the session at which they are made shall not be acted upon at any succeeding session without being again made to the Senate by the President; and if the Senate shall adjourn or take a recess for more than thirty days, all nominations pending and not finally acted upon at the time of taking such adjournment or recess shall be returned by the Secretary to the President, and shall not again be considered unless they shall again be made to the Senate by the President.

Even assuming Harry Reid had no alternative but to return the nomination, the better question is how did it get to this point, and why has the White House and Senate been so disingenuous about it? The only rational conclusion at this point is that killing Johnsen’s nomination is precisely what the Obama White House desired. The White House intentionally left to rot, and then outright killed, their own nominee.

The evidence of this is pretty damning. Dawn Johnsen’s nomination had languished, twisting in the wind, for 280 days as of the time her nomination was killed by Harry Reid, far longer than any other Obama nominee. The only notable recent support for Johnsen from the White House came in a statement by White House Counsel Greg Craig on October 11, 2009, a weak statement saying only that the White House “would not withdraw” her nomination. Craig was subsequently fired and, hilariously, attempted to be scapegoated by Rahm Emanuel for – wait for it – not getting nominations like Johnsen’s confirmed.

A typical Rahm Emanuel backhanded opaque play; blame someone (Craig) interested in governmental transparency for not getting another official who favors openness and transparency (Johnsen) confirmed, and all the while Rahm and Obama are choking off openness and transparency. Use the Johnsen nomination as a bone to the liberals and simultaneously use it as cover to betray them with the opposite of what Dawn Johnsen stands for. A perfect political scam on the liberal base who was so thrilled with the nomination of a honest rule of law advocate for the Constitution like Dawn Johnsen. Liberals should have known better, but that is just not who Barack Obama and Rahm Emanuel are.

Moreover, the bleating by Harry Reid and the Obama Administration that it is all the fault of mean old Republican obstructionism simply does not hold water. The Democrats hold a 60 seat caucus block, sufficient to overcome Republican obstruction. Of those, the Main Justice article is quite clear there were only two Democratic problem children, former Republican Arlen Specter and the ever whiny Ben Nelson, who never passes up an opportunity to betray his party. That means there were potentially only 58 Democratic votes for Johnsen’s nomination. But Republican Richard Lugar firmly supported Dawn Johnsen, so that makes 59 votes, only one shy of confirmation.

In addition to Lugar, both Republican Senators from Maine, Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, have refused to rule out voting for Johnsen and were being lobbied hard by extremely influential women’s groups and liberal constituents. Both Collins and Snowe have a history of agreeing, when pressured, to allow up or down votes on Presidential nominees, even from Democrats.

Barack Obama and Rahm Emanuel had 59 votes in favor of Dawn Johnsen’s nomination, a distinct possibility of picking up Collins, Snowe or both, and are more than aware Arlen Specter needs big help in his reelection campaign in Pennsylvania and that Ben Nelson can always be bought. And despite all of the above, the Obama White House did not ever request Harry Reid to call a vote. The only rational conclusion from this is the Obama White House did not want Dawn Johnsen, their own nominee, to be confirmed.

In the end, it is likely Barack Obama, Rahm Emanuel and the servants of the status quo simply did not really want a true advocate for governmental transparency, a critic who excoriated Bush/Cheney policies on warrantless wiretapping, torture, indefinite detention, ignoring international treaties and conventions, and concentration of power in a unitary executive; all policies the Obama Administration has substantially co-opted as its own. So Dawn Johnsen was a pawn, a shiny object, catnip for a desperate liberal base; but in the end, as always, Barack Obama and Rahm Emanuel just didn’t really care about their liberal base who put them in office.

There is a lot of detritus in the wake of the Obama White House duplicity on the Dawn Johnsen nomination. They humiliated Dawn Johnsen by letting her twist in the wind, wasted a year of her life, disrupted the faculty and student body of the Indiana University School of Law and sold out a huge block of liberal and progressive voters who were the very voters and ground organizers carrying Obama to election in the first place.

Barack Obama and Harry Reid owe an explanation to both Dawn Johnsen, and the voters who worked so hard to elect them, as to why they intentionally left Johnsen’s critical nomination out in the cold so long, and then killed it outright. The main media in the United States owe their readers the duty to ask the questions and demand answers. That much, at a minimum, is owed to the citizens.

149 replies
  1. bobschacht says:

    OK, bmaz, I accept your explanation.

    What I’m wondering is whether this weasel-out by Reid was part of the price for Ben Nelson’s support for the Health Insurance Industry Protection and Boondoggle Act recently approved by the Senate.

    I agree that Johnson’s treatment has been execrable and deserves censure.

    Is there any way the Progressives can demand Johnson’s re-appointment? Or would that be a disservice to her?

    Bob in AZ

    • bmaz says:

      Sure, but if the Administration is not going to fight for her, what good will it do? Maybe Obama will surprise us and renominate her with a concurrent recess appointment in the meantime; but you have to wonder what the odds are of that at this point. That is why I want to force their hand by demanding an explanation.

      I also left another response to your last question on the previous Johnsen thread.

  2. zapkitty says:

    The only debt Obama is willing to acknowledge is his debt to the corporations for propping up his administration.

    Of course that sort of corporate propping up actually depends on looting the American public but, hey, you can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs.

    • solerso says:

      theres not much left to loot. i dont know what they think this will accomplish in the long run. I dont know what they know about polling and demographics but it better be good. In order for your crack, secret team of behavior science experts to come up with BS that moves large numbers of voters,those voters have to be unaware your lying to them. i think thats all shot to hell now.

  3. Jeff Kaye says:

    I’ve been pretty out of it the past few weeks, and not much better these last few days. But it seems to me, besides the pyrotechnics of the FDL/DKos wars (fighting neo-Stalinism is such a chore), that this “holiday” season has seen the turning of a corner, of sorts, and not a happy one.

    Ever since the decision to escalate the Afghan war was sealed in executive stone, it feels like there is a closing of the ranks around the wartime state and its leadership that is redolent of how things turn harshly reactionary going into an intense period of warfare. Hence, the need to have a victory — the greatest since the New Deal, no less, if one believes Obama — the need to close ranks, the hapless solidarity of the majority party, the failure to prosecute or pursue investigation of the worst war crimes, the open appreciation in the press of outright assassination, the calling for more wars and bombings, e.g. of Iran, the bringing of indefinite detention prisons to U.S. shores, and the acceleration of suddenly exposed or manifest plots or “terrorist” incidents, as causes d’guerre — and accelerated repression at home.

    Dawn Johnsen’s nomination was a cynical ploy, made by a bunch of politicians who know how to play hardball for real (need I remind anyone: they torture and bomb and assassinate human beings… regularly). The liberals are fools. They think Jane is playing too hard? That’s a real laugh.

    I don’t look for the media to give two hoots about Dawn’s ignominious dumping. They’ve got some new “terrorist” plots to “investigate”. And a glorious presidential victory to celebrate. And then, there’s always that fateful watching of the Dow… it’s down, no, it’s up, down, up, down, up, up, up. What? The Afghan war is officially expanded into Pakistan? (They’ve been calling it the Af-Pak War for some time now at Foreign Policy.) Soon, America and its glorious allies will be in theater from Mogadishu to Peshawar. God bless this glorious empire.

    • bmaz says:

      Yeah, there is that kind of undercurrent coursing through the veins of the domain. May not be limited to what you describe though, the same rhetoric and palpable feel about Iran has been ratcheting up too. With Netanyahu suddenly and surprisingly asking Livni to join his government, there may be a consolidation underway to gird for a strike on Iran.

      • Jeff Kaye says:

        IMHO, they cannot go to war right now in Iran. The situation is vaguely reminiscent to the stalemate in 1956. When Stalin invaded Hungary, to put down a genuinely popular uprising (one which the West had encouraged, but did not have complete control over), they lost their freedom to intervene as they were otherwise occupied with the Suez crisis (and note, here the U.S. lost control of their erstwhile allies, who were invading Egypt; and then the Soviets got into the act, Eisenhower had to talk big and position the fleet, and the Canadians got to do the diplomacy).

        Here, the role of Egypt is being played by Pakistan. The country is terribly polarized, and centrifugal forces are pulling at it every which way. The U.S. would like to broker the ultimate settlement, and may find it necessary to use troops (once, as in Suez, there would have been the option of sending in United Nations troops, but now, with the apotheosis of NATO, that’s never going to happen).

        The U.S. and its erstwhile allies (and Britain may be playing their own game here, as are the Israelis) have a tiger by the tail, as the decomposition of the British Raj enters a new and dangerous stage. In its lumbering quest to control the world, the U.S. is destablizing things wherever it goes. The problem is, they first eliminate anyone progressive (by literally destroying the left, which by U.S. standards were merely secular), and are left only with corrupt politicians, military strongmen, tribal leaders, and reactionary mullahs, who may hate imperialism and get the ear of the plebian “street”, but also want to enslave women and imprison society under sharia law.

        Bad times. No leadership. The only good thing is that out of such chaos, new leadership and organizations are sure to arise.

        Forgive the typing/thinking out loud. These are all things I’d rather not make my concern. But you can’t help but notice and care about what is going on around one. Thanks for the link to the Times piece. I rule out seriousness on Netanyahu’s part. When the time comes (if it comes), the Israeli’s will cobble together the “national unity” government they need.

        A nation state putting itself on war footing is a fearful thing to experience. I’ve seen it twice in my life now, and fear I’m experiencing it for the third time. (It may have felt that way during the Vietnam War, but I was too young to feel it directly, or understand, as a young teen, what was going on… though I was viscerally antiwar, and went to demonstrations with my friends older brothers and sisters.)

  4. hary3hve says:

    The really hilarious thing is that Obamapologists still contend we have to support this admin and the party in 2010 & beyond because if we don’t the next admin might pick undesirable nominees for the fed and supreme courts.

    • mamazboy says:

      Can you imagine who our next Supreme Court nominee will be, given the shameful treatment of Johnsen? Given Obama and the WH’s (and the Congress’s) behavior over the last year, I’m frankly dreading it. Our “progressive” president and his minions will never nominate a progressive to the court. That would be “too risky” and “not bipartisan.”

      • JaneaneTheAcerbicGoblin says:

        Obama and Rahm are seriously considering the following nominees for the next Supreme Court pick…

        Ken Starr
        Sarah Palin
        Joe Lieberman
        Ben Nelson
        John Birch

        Have to be bipartisan, you know…

        • bmaz says:

          Lest anybody be deceived, that is a joke (I think anyway); however, there was, at least at one point, talk by Obama and his insiders of considering conservative legal gadfly (and Ken Starr protege) Douglas Kmiec for inclusion on the short list for appointment. And that is not a joke.

        • Teddy Partridge says:

          My prediction is that Stevens and Ginsberg will retire at the end of this term, setting up a battle royal over the TWO nominees Obama will be able to appoint in their stead. And I fully expect the battle royal to be on OUR side. We need to go all ‘Harriet’ on his ass, because he’ll go all ‘fair and balanced’ on ours.

  5. MrWhy says:

    The only mechanism more effective than a sternly worded blog post in garnering a timely response from the administration is a sternly worded letter from the chairs of the congressional judiciary committees, Conyers and Leahy. /s

  6. earlofhuntingdon says:

    As I said in the earlier, Obama and Reid’s gutless act was to vote down Johnsen and five others – at least four of whom would have been top DoJ and Labor Dept. legal officers – via a procedural move. While 30 nominees were approved, six were “objected” to and Reid characterized that as a “No” vote on those six. I think bobschacht is correct that no roll call or voice vote was taken, but Harry and Barry came to the same end without it. Those six nominations are off the table. Karl Rove could not have abandoned them and what they stand for more quietly or more effectively.

    It would have been Reid’s choice – though almost certainly not one he came to by himself – to include those six nominees in this UC procedural vote. He’s the president’s man and of his party. He could just as easily have held those six nominees back and treated them as “not voted on and still pending”, so long as the Senate were not in formal recess for 30 days or longer. That was Reid’s call too. In fact, some of Bush’s probable recess appointments were nixed by the Senate remaining in formal session with virtually no one there, so as to avoid there being the prerequisite “recess”.

    Another president would regroup and force a vote on his team another way. Bush, for example (well, his handlers who knew how to do such things), would have added several more extreme nominees to the pile, procedurally attached them to some must have cause or legislation, and rammed them through. Some of his most extreme nominees were voted down twice; Bush rammed them through as recess appointments anyway.

    Bush was incompetent, but his team was relentless. Obama is stealthy and Janus-headed, which allows him two answers to the same question: which way is he headed?

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      I misspoke, in that each Congress, currently this is the 111th, is divided into two legislative “sessions” of approximately one year each. This is the end of the first session of the 111th Congress, which would mean that the 30 day rule regarding pending nominations requiring the Senate’s advice and consent would not apply. All nominations pending but not acted upon by the end of this first session would have to be resubmitted.

      It remains true that Reid and Obama structured this outcome for Prof. Johnsen and others. They used, in effect, a Congressional “pocket veto” as a way to kill these nominations without it appearing that that was the desired outcome. They avoided having an earlier vote, indeed, any vote at all. Expect the WH to brag about the 30, and blame a sad lack of bipartisanship for the six.

      True, the nominations of Ms. Johnsen and others are not the most important items on the legislative agenda. But they are highly important to fulfilling the president’s agenda and restoring the rule of law.

      Moreover, the Village is obsessed with testosterone tests. The president’s handling of the Senate confirmation process is a test of his party, his strategy and his testosterone. If his intention was to successfully appoint these people and take serious steps to properly staff his legal team, Mr. Obama has embarrassed himself. If he chose this outcome, there will be sniggers about DFH’s in the smoking rooms because of it. I suspect Gregg Craig has already heard them.

      • bmaz says:

        There you go, now you got it (took me a while to sort through too). Per the Senate Rule XXXI, it does seem that, absent unanimous consent to hold the nomination over, which of course Reid could not get either, the nomination was doomed to extinguish and be returned to the WH. But the WH knew this would be the case, and they never, ever, requested Reid to call the vote which, since it would be subject to the contested process of a normal floor vote, would have had to be scheduled with enought time to allow the debate and cloture process. It sure looks to me like they have had 59 votes in the bag for months, probably since Franken was seated in the first week of July. The twins in Maine would not want to anger their caucus by saying so ahead of time, but were very possible votes if it got down to it because the women’s groups pushing them could threaten to “score” the vote. Also, you just cannot tell me that Specter could not be brought around, he needs help too bad; heck considering his leftward tilt from the Sestak challenge, he should not have been hard to lean on at all. The votes were there for the taking; ObamaRahma just did not want them.

  7. earlofhuntingdon says:

    It bears repeating that at least four of the six nominees who were not appointed via the UC process would have been top lawyers at the DoJ and the Labor Department. Those key offices remain understaffed and under-led.

    Obama has also created a vacuum in the process of appointing new USA’s, as well as the federal judges that were the subject of an earlier post. Bush, for all his limitations, knew that staffing was key and was much more forceful in getting his team onboard.

    For such a brilliant, multi-talented graduate of Columbia and Harvard Law, that smacks of strategy, not lethargy or incompetence.

  8. wigwam says:

    Do you really think that Obama cynically nominated Johnsen simply to distract liberals?

    I’d prefer to think that the Johnsen advocates held some early sway, as did the advocates for closing Gitmo, and they lost out in early power struggles. But, I have no basis for arguing against the possibility that Obama did this absolutely cynically.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Your view would be that the dominant faction did not nominate Johnsen and others, that a liberal faction did, but that the conservative faction won out and forced the administration to let these nominations wither. It seems possible, but unlikely.

      The voices for inaction have removed Greg Craig, for example (hardly a flaming liberal), so yes, they may be stronger now than before. But they were always among those closest to the president. They could have succeeded in appointing less progressive/competent nominees. Their play from the start seems to have been “to cave” on these nominations by not pursuing them. Meanwhile, they fed a little liberal milk to the veal pen. That may seem cynical, but this is Rahm Emanuel we’re talking about. The cynicism is his, not those observing him.

      The GOP and the Dems characterize these nominations as “controversial” while avoiding a discussion of why. Objectively, that’s a deliberate misdescription by the Right and ConservaDems, in that these appointments are “controversial” because they are lawyers committed to the rule of law and more effective regulation of business. Those are valid, indeed, essential functions of a modern government.

      The GOP, to protect its own survival, would attempt to block or delay their appointment for ideological and selfish reasons. They wouldn’t want an effective DoJ, for example, because it could well come after them or their party’s leaders. A less effective DoJ also helps Rahm, if his concern is Rove-like control rather than restoring the rule of law. Since signs of criminal behavior in the Bush administration litter DC like the homeless on a cold night, I would say his concern was control.

      The conflict averse Mr. Obama has consistently shied away from investigating and prosecuting those possible crimes. He has shied away even from threatening to do it in order to achieve other ends, voluntarily throwing away an ace in the hole. All of which suggests that the failure of these “liberal” or “controversial” appointments was greeted with cheers all round.

      • Jeff Kaye says:

        If one wishes to consider “controversial” appointments under the Obama administration, one should review the career of John O. Brennan. The appointment of Brennan as Deputy National Security Advisor in March 2009, completing his rehabilitation from attacks by those who tagged him with complicity in torture, demonstrated all you needed to know, back then, about the Obama administrations and its putative appointments.

        I had some back and forth with those who led the campaign against Brennan for CIA director. I asked later if for the same reasons they would oppose Brennan in this new “Homeland Security”/counterterrorism role. The silence was deafening.

    • bmaz says:

      I don’t know; it is pretty much one or the other though it seems. For what it is worth, I am not adverse to the thought it was in good faith at first, the announcement was quite early – more than two weeks prior to inauguration – and then turned south from there at some point, probably pretty early when Rahm and the security minders really started asserting themselves. I dunno, but either way it clearly turned into what I described in the post.

      • wigwam says:

        … and then turned south from there at some point, probably pretty early when Rahm and the security minders really started asserting themselves.

        That’s my best bet. I long ago wearied of giving Obama the benefit of the doubt, but to appoint her knowing that he had no intention of supporting her nomination seems …

        Never mind.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          I know. My heart says one thing, my brain another.

          It’s doubly hard in that this is not a game or about individual or even party ambition. America is at a cross roads. The people, jobs, education and health that make America what it is are being abandoned by their government, one that is also abandoning the rule of law as if it were one more vehicle in its “Cash for Clunkers” program.

        • wigwam says:

          OT: I’m really getting fed up with Obama and his Duck Soup defense.

          In the Marx Brothers’ movie Duck Soup, Chico delivers the line, “Who are you going to believe, me or your lyin’ eyes?” to convince Groucho to accept a visibly untrue explanation for something.

          Last week Obama insisted that he had never campaigned on the public option in spite of the fact that CountDown was about to present ten-minutes worth of such campaigning.

          And, before that, he had insisted that he had not changed his stand on FISA in spite of a 180 degree flip on it.

          I’m now starting to doubt both his character and his sanity.

        • wigwam says:

          I’m now starting to doubt both his character and his sanity.

          Oops. That’s not accurate. My doubts started 18 months ago with the FISA flip. But my doubts are now intensifying.

        • Teddy Partridge says:

          The word you are seeking to describe how Obama may have acted in announcing Dawn Johnsen’s appointment with full knowledge of this intended outcome is… Obama-ish.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          Good, but Teddy-ish. *g*

          Thank Gawd someone has insight and a sense of humor to leaven the loaf that is Obama, Rahm and dysfunctional Washington.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          Not bad. I wonder what Eliot Spitzer would have to say about the SEC and the DoJ’s peculiar arrangement, and the odd things it considers “criminal” and those it doesn’t.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        I’d like to think so. But the search-vetting-appointment process was always a key aspect of taking the reins of government, especially after the eight-year debacle that was George Bush. Team Obama would have made such things a top priority.

        For all its failures of law, morality and leadership, Team Bush knew the value of getting as many of its players in immediately, and it relentlessly pushed for them until its waning few days. Team Obama isn’t quite sure it wants to do any such thing – a lack of competence, drive and leadership – or it is quite happy with empty seats, a partial leadership vacuum, and a DoJ and wider government staffed in large measure by Bush holdovers. After the campaign Obama ran, the latter would require Rovian levels of arrogance and cynicism. Which better describes Rahm Emanuel?

    • anga19 says:

      I see Obama as being a mixture of liberal (social value wise), a neo-con (imperialist, exceptionalist and intervention wise) and neo-liberal (on the economic front).

      Obvioulsly his liberal persona was the one he presented during campaining, very appropriate to generate emotions, enthousiasm and votes. But I am still not clear on what appears like a big gap between the people he gathered around him before election and the nomitions that followed his accession to the throne.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        Matt Taibbi explored that in his most recent Rolling Stone article and on Bill Moyers two weeks ago. He suggests that it was a good, ole-fashioned bait and switch. It was certainly dramatic and swift and, therefore for Obama, well-planned.

      • anga19 says:

        By the way our liberal opposition chief at our canadian parliament Michael Ignatieff is of the same mixture (pro Afghanistan war, pro right to protect and was against the previous chief Stephane Dion’s proporal to tax the gaz companies).

        I guess if he becomes the Prime Minister he will use the same arguments your President used that Insurance companies have to make profit.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          Only in America – and perhaps in the odd dictatorship – would the government refuse to consider how much profit should insurance companies be allowed to make on the backs of taxpayers and those denied basic medical services because their insurance won’t pay for it or they haven’t any.

  9. skdadl says:

    I’m very sorry to read this news and these reflections.

    A couple of threads back, Loo Hoo and bmaz were remembering Marie Roget, who loved “Si se puede cambiar” so much (and who was so kind to me when I first stumbled in here — we used to have coffee together first thing, which was kind of amazing given that I was usually three time zones ahead of her and I get up early). Marie would not have been happy to see Johnsen treated this way, or to see Obama take this turn (if it even is a turn).

    The release of the OLC memos — the more I think of it, the more surprising and lucky that act was. Watching Michael Hayden sputter over that decision was a high point of my video-watching career this year. But it has been all downhill since then.

    Was it then, though, that Emanuel lowered the boom? Too much information for the masses, too much response from the masses, too much liberation, too much change?

    • bmaz says:

      By the way, I sent off a message after that to Kiwi to let him know that people here were thinking of Marie; will advise if I hear back.

  10. zapkitty says:

    I suspect that any recess appointments would turn out about the same way as the hypothetical Senate reconciliation on health care… in this case with corporatists being seated throughout the remainder of the government and the administration smirking at the dirty fucking hippies afterwards and saying “You expected us to give you a bone or something?

    • slyshakle says:

      You guys want us to believe that Obama nominated Johnson just to wait for almost a year to kill the nomination? We are also to believe that an intelligent woman like Johnson couldn’t tel that she was being toyed with throughout the year? Seriously, WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE?

      • zapkitty says:

        Actually bmaz asked why Obama let Johnsen twist in the wind sans support for a year before deliberately shooting down his own nominee.

        However, there is reason to believe that this was part of what has become a very consistent pattern with Obama: throw the liberals a bone to gain their support at the outset of an endeavor… and then toss the bone aside and kick the liberals for the benefit of the cameras. There’s more than enough evidence of that pattern to warrant discussion.

        You asked the wrong question, you see… the correct question is this

        What is wrong with Obama’s administration that such questions arise not as isolated incidents but as responses to a nonstop stream of outright duplicity by the administration?

        • skdadl says:

          I keep meaning to ask: has Joe Biden been heard from recently? I’m beginning to have memories of Tom Lehrer’s song about Hubert Humphrey.

    • wigwam says:

      But each time he renegs he claims never to have taken his prior position. He claims that he has been consistent all along, regardless of how much footage their is documenting the fact that he’s a lying sack of shit.

      • anga19 says:

        That is the thing with him. It stroke me during the campaign how he would inserts here and there words that he could use later to protect himself from the flipflop accusation. I cannot believe these insertions were innocent.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          Something of a pun, given that GM’s Delphi spent nearly five years in bankruptcy, is a shell of its former self, and may re-enter bankruptcy if its now private management and global automotive don’t improve.

    • slyshakle says:

      Thank God for that. With political allies like you guys, who needs enemies? No wonder “liberalism” has become a dirty word in American politics in the past 30 years. You guys must totally have your way or you take your ball and go home.

  11. tsuki says:

    Weak, you can appear anything but weak to the public. His weakness will be exploited in 2012, probably in a primary which will feed the GOP campaign.

  12. Jim White says:

    Dawn Johnsen had come to represent, for me, the potential for our country to return to the rule of law. I realize she couldn’t have done it on her own, but I really felt that she would have been the one leading the charge. Allowing her nomination to die, then, is literally allowing the rule of law to die.

    Perhaps even more distressing is that this is happening almost completely without note (present company excepted). I maintain Yahoo newsbots that give me daily emails with links to news stories on a number of topics. My “Dawn Johnsen” bot has found only Fox News carrying a triumphant story about a “controversial” nomination dying. She never really existed for the Village and her disappearance was not even noted.

  13. belewlaw says:

    Sorry to get into this discussion so late –

    I appreciate the efforts of bmaz & others to untangle this. But I still don’t quit get what happened to Johnsen. Arlen Specter is pro-choice, so the abortion issue shouldn’t have been a killer. Maybe the national security stuff was problematic but – as has been pointed out – Specter is tacking quickly to the left. I have heard almost no public comment about the reasons for opposing Johnsen.

    Whatever the internal politics, DoJ is ill-served by having such gaps in its top leadership. My impression from friends who work there and who work with Justice on national security matters is that they are overwhelmed and daunted by the task of untangling the mess left by Bush.

    • oldoilfieldhand says:

      “My impression from friends who work there and who work with Justice on national security matters is that they are overwhelmed and daunted by the task of untangling the mess left by Bush.”

      All the more reason to have someone like Dawn Johnsen confirmed and at work untangling the mess left behind in the DOJ.

      • belewlaw says:

        It’s really puzzling why they have moved so slowly on appointments, including judges and USAs. While this has impacted other departments, Justice seems to have particular problems. You don’t see many vacancies at DoD or State (with the exception of USAID until recently). Perhaps the heads of those departments are more skillful or persistent in getting things done. While Holder is not the complete answer here, I believe that he is part of the problem.

        • fatster says:

          “You don’t see many vacancies at DoD or State . . . ”

          War is a top priority. All the rest? Not so much.

        • Mary says:

          This had been in my older comment, but they could let Koh go forward at State bc they were basically putting him in the old Taft seat and we’ve already seen how easily disenfranchised from any real power that seat is. I don’t know anything about Taft other than his writings on all this and I don’t agree with the powers he thought could be asserted, but he was analytically sounds and ready for a fight to keep things from slipping into the cesspool of depravity where they ended up, but what came through was how basically powerless he were to achieve those goals.

          Then Obama puts in a Gen Counsel at CIA who won’t truly disavow torture powers – and with Taguba we’ve also seen how basically powerless all the lawyers at DoD were – unless they were active in the torture planning (like a Haynes).

        • fatster says:

          You are, as always, quite correct. Evokes a sense of bitter shame that torture is not officially condemned by our government and decisive steps taken to ensure it never is again used. Instead . . .

    • Jeff Kaye says:

      I think you should ask John Brennan, or the CIA.

      I also strongly believe we should consider that at this point, the CIA has suborned the Department of Justice, and most particularly, the Office of Legal Counsel. The torture memos are, among other things, a record of this profanation.

      They might have been willing to see if Johnsen could be controlled. This could have been undertaken in any number of ways. Or perhaps, they knew they’d never countenance it from the beginning, when the “liberals” in the transition team proposed it. But no one anymore will be given run of OLC without “advise and consent” from the new fourth branch, the CIA.

  14. oldoilfieldhand says:


    Thanks for your insightful and poignant posts. Maybe Jane Hamsher has enough influence over Rham to have Dawn Johnson renominated and confirmed?

  15. emal says:

    Thanks for the update on this. Interesting to note how the two administrations handled their nominees (even more controversial ones). That said, I’m really thinking that liberals and progressives need to just stfu and hide their enthusiasm when Obama Rahma or the Dem Leadership pretends to make makes any overtures toward them only to play Lucy and snatch the football away before those dfh’s think they might get something truly progressive. Atrios was right on this I think. (hello Joebama Lieberturd said that’s just one of the reasons he turned on the medicare buy in)I think that calculating Rahma in his own sadistic sordid way, gets himself a bona fide Tweety-tingle-running-up-his- leg moment punching dfh’s like this.

  16. Mary says:

    Well, I just finished a longish comment on why I kept saying over the months that Obama wasn’t going to let the nomination go anywhere and it is caught in a loading loading loading loop and will go away when I refresh – and I still have family xmas stuff today so I don’t have time to repost it. We’ll see if this post goes through.

  17. earlofhuntingdon says:

    There’s no question that Republican opposition to new appointments, while generalized and obstructionist, would be most intense regarding top legal appointments – to save their own asses by continuing a lack of leadership and staff – and the appointments of top business regulators, like Ms. Smith at the Dept. of Labor – to save their having tilted government so far toward big bidness and away from protecting its customers, suppliers and competitors.

    That, int turn, would play to Mr. Obama’s weakness for avoiding conflict and his attachment to the status quo (regardless of the need for change). But he’s not a passive vessel and he can draw on whatever top talent the Democrats have on offer. He’s a complicated guy, but fundamentally quite conservative. The straight A’s he earned included Marketing 101 and Marketing 606.

  18. Mary says:

    Well, since that one went through, a quick and dirty (that will probably only make sense if you have context from my prior comment and some legal background) recap on what I’d tried to do with more detail before.

    Obamaco did have a gameplan and hit the ground running on all the torture and Executive power cases. As courts begged lawyers to get extensions, and as those same courts incredulously asked “are you SURE that’s the NEW administration’s position?!?” anyone with a legal background knew that Obama was not suffering from not having “his guys’ in place, but rather was trying to push things through asap.

    IOW, I think he nominated Johnsen, put her on aback burner, then tried to push the Exec power to torture innocents and call it a “secret” and engage in massive unconstitutional surveillance cases that had the best facts and/or most favorable judges. If he got some quick rulings in his favor, he might be able to let Johnsen in as she would be bound by precedent at that point, but he could also sit back and gauge response to what he was doing. If there was a lack of outrage over his failure to obey court orders to preserve and produce docs (and persons) and the DOJ/media reshaping of America over the last 8 years had succeeded in a real public embrace of evil, despite his “change” campaign, then he could quietly drop her. If the political calculation changed with any real public or court backlash, he could shift gears, push her through, then claim that what had been happening was bc of a rudderless OLC and him being busy with mass legislation and of course he was always on the side of the angels.

    As soon as the cases started being pushed by his DOJ in ways that went even beyond what Bush had asserted, there was writing on the wall that Johnsen wasn’t going to get through unless and until Obamaco got what they wanted out of those cases first.

    • bobschacht says:

      This is depressing. I belong to several groups that have been trying to get the DOJ attention re: FISA and prosecution of Bush officials without any success whatsoever. It seems like we need to have a Grover Norquist moment. Maybe then we’ll get some attention.

      Bob in AZ

    • bmaz says:

      Agreed for the most part. There is still an open question whether he picked Johnsen in good faith though I think – he named her over twoweeks before inauguration – and then things changed fast, or whether it was cynical from the start. I am willing to give that small amount of possibility; but it is really an illusory distinction in the long run.

  19. klynn says:


    Is there anything “sitting” in the hands of OLC which may be running the clock on SOL? Is this perhaps a “running down the clock” move?

    • bmaz says:

      No, OLC doesn’t do prosecutions. However, there are a lot of fronts ObamaDOJ is fighting in court still al-Haramain, Jeppesen, Padilla, habeas cases etc. that could be profoundly affected by Johnsen getting in and pulling or modifying OLC opinions etc. Picture the consternation that Goldsmith caused multiplied geometrically.

      • klynn says:

        Thanks. I knew they didn’t do prosecutions. It was more a question of investigative material or other material on hold for opinions which could trigger SOL clock.

        Nonetheless, you answered my question. Thank you.

  20. mattcarmody says:

    I think more than anything Obama didn’t want opinions issuing from OLC that would tie his hands in his Afghan adventure or further restrict the executive in the domestic surveillance area, as if there’s any curtailing occurring at all.

    From her writing prior to the nomination Johnsen was not going to sit in a corner and churn out boilerplate opinions affirming the status quo post-Bush. DoJ is broken. There are moles in there who will be damaging our legal system for decades just as there are Federalist Society judges on the bench throughout the system who will gladly turn back the clock on civil rights, voting issues, and antitrust/corporate accountability cases.

    It hasn’t been easy watching this whole thing play out especially the escalation of the occupation of Afghanistan. I don’t see how anyone can support what is going on in this administration at all. Everything has to be seen as its mirror image in order to make sense of it. Personally, my brain is getting tired from jumping through all the hoops trying to discern who’s more responsible for the train wreck that is this administration.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      I think your and Mary’s comments are spot on.

      Pity that Ms. Johnsen’s position and writings were so well known when she was first nominated. That would make it easier to believe that Obama changed his mind – after seeing what he was confronted with first hand – rather than the he hasn’t. This guy considers himself a chess master. After eight years of Bush, his top legal picks had to be among his most well considered and strategized.

      Mr. Obama seems most likely to be getting what he wants, in health care and in his missing top legal staffers. Considering the latter, I guess that leaves Fred Fielding Greg Craig Bob Bauer in command. Eric Holder is obviously just holding things together for him.

    • bmaz says:

      I have one caveat to that. Just so it is clear, the OLC and its head do not just issue opinions on whatever they see and think ought to be addressed as the first part of your comment could be read to imply. Instead, they only issue opinions on specific questions and factual scenarios as formally requested by the President and Executive Department Heads. They can, also, review and either pull or modify prior opinions on record if determined necessary; and it is here where I think the fear of Johnsen comes into play. There are many OLC opinions, and some key ones, that are still in place (some secret) from Bush. It is quite possible Obama and his team did not understand the severity of what was lurking there as there is clear evidence they were not read in and cooperated with on this front during transition, which as I noted above , was when he named Johnsen. Once they got in and saw the lay of the land and had the riot act read to them by the Mikey Haydens and Skeletor Chertoffs of the world, the change could have been immediate in light of Obama’s determination to not “look back”

      • mattcarmody says:

        I know the OLC doesn’t just write unsolicited opinions, I just think that in light of where the Afghanistan mess is going and how we still have black sites in other countries, Johnsen wasn’t going to give Obama the decisions he might have preferred. I also don’t think she would be too happy to leave prior opinions in place which I think is something Obama is determined to do.

        As much as I want to believe that the person we voted into office was actually sincere in wanting change, I don’t think he wants any change at the expense of the executive branch’s exercise of power. I don’t think any president would willingly cede power to the other branches which is why Johnsen’s position as head of OLC would kind of force such change once she saw which opinions were extant and the degree to which some of them needed to be rescinded.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        Well, that still requires that Obama’s top staff were willing to let Dawn Johnsen frame the limits of their president’s legal authority, but just didn’t know how much of it they would need. Harrumph.

        I agree that Team Bush probably provided few if any briefings, let alone competent ones, to their successors in any department. They didn’t believe in government, let alone one run by their political opponents, who would have the power to imprison them or prohibit their friends from contracting with the government or who might actually look at those tens of thousands or more of outsourced contracts and the “value” the government and taxpayers received from them in exchange. Cheney’s alone would probably merit a Ph.D. thesis. (As for the number, the bits of GM that remain in bankruptcy include 500,000 contracts, so lord knows how many the government has with its outsourcers.)

        That would have been most true inside the DoJ. The OLC was the epicenter of the legal riddles, wrapped in Cheney mysteries, inside the enigma that was the Bush administration. What was and is inside its vaults – its opinions and the factual scenarios, conflicting in time and circumstance, presented to obtain them – was always going to be an unexploded legal IED for Bush’s successor.

        The OLC was never just another DoJ department, to be given to the next Rhodes Scholar-Harvard lawyer on the short list. That’s why it’s so hard to believe that Dawn Johnsen was ever considered to run it.

      • Jeff Kaye says:

        Agreed. And I tag this date of “realization” as March 1, 2009, when Brennan had secured his statutory seat in the WH’s Homeland Security Council. It didn’t take long to roll back whatever initial impulses were there to “reform” the Bushite state.

        The final act was the revolt against Craig, whose last decent impulse, backed by Obama, was to release the torture memos. I don’t think we have yet the full story on how that decision was made, and I believe there was pressure from some of the allies on this. Now we are still waiting for the OPR report on OLC. It is likely to be heavily redacted, assuming it’s ever released. As for Johnsen’s untimely abandonment, the departure of Phillip Carter was a harbinger of things to come.

        What is the state apparatus, I ask you? Is it not a group of men and women organized around some leadership, pursuing some common set of goals, and dedicated, among other things, to holding on to the institutional levers of power? The president of the United States is not necessarily at the head of such an apparatus, though by Constitutional law, he or she should be. Oddly, it was the Nixon adventure (and arguably, the Kennedy assassination) that demonstrated that, when pressure was brought to bear (by whom?) for Nixon to resign.

        So, who runs the Obama administration now? As in former times, it is the military and intelligence agencies, Wall Street, major corporations (and in particular those who serve the military and intelligence apparat). Everything else appears to be kabuki.

        The only thing that keeps this from entering the world of nightmare is the fact these people are not omnipotent, and in many cases, not even that intelligent. (Power can give the impression of intelligence, and that misleads many.) The recent economic panic (if indeed one can say we have not exited the panic of 2008-09) shows how greed, gullibility, groupthink, and a poor sense of history, and a fair amount of hubris assures us that this current clique in power will falter and stumble, and do so badly. Their belief, for instance, that they can intervene and control the fractious era of emerging nation states in Southern Asia (from the subcontinent and Silk Road to the Red Sea), is probably the best example of their suicidal overestimation of their power.

        The tragedy is that an untold amount of lives will be sacrificed for their blindness, hubris, and lust for power.

        Dawn Johnsen was a minor pebble on the grand highway of imperial hauteur.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          John Brennan has such continuing reach, authority and influence because he’s the visible tip of a much longer spear? It begins to sound like a Bourne novel, but then so does much of what Bush the Younger did under Cheney the Elder.

        • wigwam says:

          But why does this president give John Brennan such continuing reach, authority and influence

          I have a conjecture on that. Per Marcy:

          Did Obama Flip-Flop on FISA to Protect John Brennan?

          By: emptywheel Saturday July 11, 2009 12:04 pm

          Aside from his career of moderate political stances, the earliest clue that progressives were going to be disappointed with Barack Obama came last July, when he flip-flopped on his previous promises to oppose retroactive immunity on FISA. Yesterday’s IG Report may reveal the source of Obama’s flip-flop and subsequent reversal of his stance that Bush’s domestic surveillance program was illegal: John Brennan.

          Brennan, you see, appears to have been a key figure in the illegal surveillance program from at least May 2003 through December 2005–precisely the period when the program was such an object of controversy internally.

          While it was apparent from the Scope of the IG Report released in March and the various declarations in support of State Secrets that the Intelligence Community provided threat assessments that were used in the program, the IG Report provides a great deal of new detail on this process and–more importantly–a chronology describing which element of the IC conducted the threat assessments.


          While Spencer is right that John Brennan was not the guy who compiled these assessments when the program first began (that is, John Brennan was no longer DCI COS), Brennan appears to have overseen the units that conducted the threat assessments that were a key part of the illegal program from May 2003 at least until August 2004, and possibly up until he left ODNI in December 2005, just days before the NYT broke this story.

          For at least a year and possibly two, John Brennan appears to have been the guy inventing “reasonable cause” to wiretap people in the United States. John Brennan was also likely the guy who put together the list of groups considered al Qaeda affiliates (including al-Haramain) that could be wiretapped.

          And John Brennan was consulting with candidate Obama last year when Obama flip-flopped.

          And John Brennan remains a key national security advisor for Obama as the President has cowardly refused to prosecute a program he himself once called illegal.

          Are Obama and Eric Holder refusing to prosecute illegal domestic surveillance because they’re protecting a key member of Obama’s Administration? Are they sustaining Bush’s State Secrets invocations to protect one of their own?

          Update: Here’s John Brennan in March 2008, aggressively pushing for telecom immunity.


          My theory is that while pursuing domestic surveillance, Mr. Brennan availed himself of NSA facilities to get some dirt on various candidates, sort of like the stuff J. Edgar did. That would explain a lot.

        • Jeff Kaye says:

          Brennan’s power derives from his loyal association with the Agency. This is not a Bourne-like scenario where one bad guy is in control, and he simply needs to be outed or “burned”. This is about who really controls the levers of power, and without a doubt such power is vested in the Pentagon and intelligence agencies. One could surmise that the least accountable or those with least oversight, especially financial, have the most power. But most likely that is too simplistic, although not a bad initial place to start when analyzing such things.

          Agreed with earlofhuntington that Brennan is a “made man”. But no one is trusted forever and implicitly. The CIA hates when it finds a Colby in its ranks. The Rockefeller Commission in the 1970s tried to cover up CIA crimes, but was forced to say more than it wished, because Colby kept giving more info than the commissioners wanted. Colby didn’t last long, kicked out and replaced by (who else) Bush I. (Later, Colby died accidently [?] after being asked to be interviewed by the New York DA’s office on the Frank Olson case…. bad timing, that…)

        • skdadl says:

          … but then so does much of what Bush the Younger did under Cheney the Elder.

          Speaking of Gore Vidal, how is he these days? *wink* He must sometimes be aghast, but then sometimes happily confirmed in his views.

          Whenever you’re feeling really down about your republic — and I can’t say I blame you; some of the rest of us are pretty down about it too — you can remember that you have had great people among you, and still do.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          Extracted from his interview’s acidic wit is this gem:

          So what policies of Roosevelt do you most admire?

          I had supper with Mrs. Roosevelt at Hyde Park, and she said (imitating Eleanor Roosevelt’s voice), “My Franklin and I were very impressed with something our son James did when he got back from serving in the war.” Mrs. Roosevelt said (imitating Eleanor Roosevelt’s voice), “You know, it was James who convinced the President to create the G.I. Bill of Rights.” That policy changed the whole class system in the United States. Before it, you had to be a doctor’s son to go to college. After that bill, everybody could go.

          We’re rapidly going back to pre-FDR, pre-TR Robber Baron days, aren’t we.

  21. belewlaw says:

    It will be interesting to see who the administration puts up as their new OLC nominee and what the reaction from SJC Democrats will be.

  22. allan says:

    Future political scientists will have the opportunity to argue over which Barack Obama fought less for:
    Dawn Johnsen’s nomination or the public option.

  23. earlofhuntingdon says:

    As you see, I modified my comment after thinking through Jeff’s a bit more.

    I agree, John Brennan is a made man, a protected person, and a Bush holdover – the oddest cut of all. The question is still why, and your conjecture that he has amassed Hoover-like files of dirty secrets in Washington is certainly possible. I can’t imagine he’s alone in doing that. Cheney and Rove, too, for example, had motive, means and opportunity to amass similar files.

    DC is packed with so many mutual threats and opportunities, it makes me think of a circular line of pachyderms, trunk to tail. Or of a snake swallowing its own tail. Now we are into Millenium and Ninth Gate territory.

  24. wigwam says:

    In response to earlofhuntingdon @ 82

    Now we are into Millenium and Ninth Gate territory.

    I’ve not given up looking for other plausible explanations.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      There could well be many, but it would seem foolish to deny the power and goals of those who have made torture official US government policy and who prevent, indeed, deligitimize, those who demand that government see and address it.

  25. fatster says:

    O/T At least, in Argentina, they are not trying to “move forward” into forgetfulness, but to bring some closure with dignity on the atrocities of the past.

    Va. lab IDs Argentine ‘dirty war’ victims by DNA

    Link. And link.

  26. earlofhuntingdon says:

    I meant that it involved Bourne-like layers of conspiracy, and that it involved concerted – at least, concurrent – action by many players holding levers of national power, not that it involved a lone wolf with a bad memory or that such concerns were fantasies. They are credible scenarios that explain increasingly intolerable actions and hypocrisies in Washington that threaten the livelihoods, health, finances, education and welfare of millions.

  27. allan says:

    OT. Does anyone know about the legality(sic) of revealing whether someone is on the no-fly list?

    The official told The Associated Press that the suspect, Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab, has been on a list that includes people with known or suspected contact or ties to a terrorist or terrorist organization. … People on that list are not necessarily on the no-fly list.
    Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., said Mutallab was not on the no-fly list.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      I don’t know, but the list is a false one. Based on published reports, it contains so many names, so much uncorroborated, unverified and incorrect information as to be a hindrance rather than a help.

      That the list continues to be used despite those material failings suggests that it is helpful to those in power because it legitimates a generalized, more intrusive police presence in our daily lives. That neither the list nor that intrusive presence increases our security at a reasonable cost in lost liberty is a given among many who comment here.

  28. Hugh says:

    I will be amending item 30 of my Obama scandals list with the following:

    After having let her nomination slowly twist in the wind for 11 1/2 months, on December 24, 2009, the Senate recessed for the year. It passed a unanimous consent resolution to carry over nominations to its session next year. Johnsen’s name was not part of the consent agreement. In other words, her nomination has been returned to the White House without any action taken. Unless the White House re-submits her name, her nomination is dead. This illustrates how conservative and unliberal the Obama Administration is. There are now virtually no liberals or progressives in it or slated to join it. The failure of the Johnsen nomination, in conjunction with the removal of Craig Gregg as White House counsel (item 102) and his failure to close Guantanamo (item 11), is further evidence of Obama’s retreat from and repeal of what minor efforts and gestures he made in the early days of his Administration to restore the rule of law.

  29. Mary says:

    I can see her being especially problematic on the cases re: transfers of non-combatant GITMO detainees. If Koh expresses reservations on whether State (Clinton) could/should sign off on transfers or push them – just like CIA used OLC to paper over authorizations to torture and engage in human experimentation, Koh could pose queries to Johnsen on transfers implicating torture conventions that could have tied Obama’s hands.

    If CIA officers engaging in civilian killings in Pakistan and other countries via Obama’s drone bombings wanted opinions (as I’m guessing they have wanted and pushed for) then you could have either Johnsen issuing something they didn’t like or reviewing something issued by an interim acting head and possibly withdrawing it.

    Then you have all kinds of things that OPR might refer as questions to OLC re: what they could/should do with substantial lawyer misconduct (lies about declarations, evidence, mischaracterizations, failures to correct the record, deliberatl losses of evidence, etc.) that also involve states secrets.

    Then – remember how there was supposed to be a new states secrets policy? Obama couldn’t hardly spit that out without being able to say that it was run by OLC first and yet, from the positions he’s taken – how likely is it that he would want Johnsen involved in that process? With her nomination on hold he has two outs – on excuse for not proceeding with that policy bc of the flux in OLC/DOJ and the other that he won’t be having her do the review.

    Not a good man.

  30. FromCt says:

    I stopped promoting a demand for opening an impeachment investigation of Obama on these EW threads, months ago. There were no takers. I wasn’t wrong, I just lost all hope sooner than those who clung to it longer and or accepted that all they can or are willing to do is to post their objections on blogs.

    You got what amounts to a more deceptive version of Bush/Cheney now as president. You got to react to that the same way you reacted to the open criminality and crimes against humanity of Bush/Cheney I.

    So far, you aren’t reacting; unless exhibiting shock, passes for a reaction.

    • bmaz says:

      Impeach Obama? On what grounds? Seriously. First off, many of the areas seen with Bush/Cheney such as the US Attorney firings and other blatant politicizations of the government are not present with Obama, or at least not to nearly the degree as the previous administration. Congress has ratified and codified most of the war on terror abuses still going on, and as to those it has not, it effectively has by refusing to prosecute (impeach) on the same conduct with Bush/Cheney. I have come to be very disenchanted with much of what is going on with the current administration, but a movement for impeachment – in light of the above, and with this Congress?? – is delusional at best. So, no, you will not find any discussion of that here and I thank you for not injecting it here.

  31. allan says:

    Since Lieberman has now decreed that the Senate doesn’t have the stomach for anymore controversy,
    Obama will, after consulting Orrin Hatch and Lindsey Graham, undoubtedly nominate in Johnsen’s place a sensible centrist with impeccable Federalist Society credentials. And Ezra Klein will applaud.

  32. eCAHNomics says:

    The only rational conclusion at this point is that killing Johnsen’s nomination is precisely what the Obama White House desired.

    Haven’t read the comments, but that’s exactly what I figured from the getgo. Throw a bone to the progressives, then snatch it away. The tell was that O can’t look forward, not backward, with Johnson in that office.

    • allan says:

      Speaking of looking forward, not backward, Her Fiscally Conservative Royal Highness Olympia I of Maine,
      has gone all hopey changey in order to dodge accountability on budgetary hypocrisy:

      Democrats are troubled by the inconsistency of Republican lawmakers who approved a major Medicare expansion six years ago that has added tens of billions of dollars to federal deficits, but oppose current health overhaul plans.

      All current GOP senators, including the 24 who voted for the 2003 Medicare expansion, oppose the health care bill that’s backed by President Barack Obama and most congressional Democrats.

      Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, said simply: “Dredging up history is not the way to move forward.” She noted that she fought unsuccessfully to offset some of President George W. Bush’s deep tax cuts at the time.

  33. KayInMaine says:

    Maybe President Obama is in bed with Grover Norquist too? Apparently this is the only way to kill the Democratic Party for good. We should be commending him!

  34. chicagojack says:

    The Dawn Johnsen screw-job is just another part of an increasingly clear pattern. To elaborate, I’ll just cut/paste a comment I left on a Seminal post last night:

    I think Jane’s tactical alliance with Nordquist is less significant than her direct attack on Rahm. She has been the one shining the brightest light on his role as architect of Obama’s entire HCR strategy, both the content of the bills, and the process of getting HCR where it currently stands. I believe she has effectively helped many Obama supporters realize something quite disturbing: Obama is a great orator, but Rahm is leading him around by the nose. By shining some light on Rahm’s past activities she’s helping to illuminate just what this means for Obama’s presidency.

    • allan says:

      No one is leading Obama around by the nose.
      Rahm is there because Obama wants him to be there,
      not because he’s Obama’s Brain.

      • chicagojack says:

        I certainly do not mean to absolve Obama–he is 100% responsible for everything that happens during his presidency. He knew Rahm well prior to appointing him, obviously. I do believe that since Rahm has all of the back channel experience, he is leading Obama–with the full consent of Obama.

    • wigwam says:

      Obama supporters realize something quite disturbing: Obama is a great orator, but Rahm is leading him around by the nose.

      The question is: “How is Rahm leading Obama around?”

      My best conjecture is that in his capacity as one of the key people in domestic surveillance, Brennan got the dirt on Obama and they (Brennan and Emmanuel) are using that. But that’s by no means the only possible explanation.

      • Hugh says:

        I think allan at #113 has it right:

        No one is leading Obama around by the nose.
        Rahm is there because Obama wants him to be there,
        not because he’s Obama’s Brain.

  35. romo2austin says:

    Remember it is the Obama administration who nominated her in the first place, LOL. She was another political battle he thought wasn’t worth fighting, and she is easily replaceable. He has bigger things on his place he has to worry about. Simple as that.

    • zapkitty says:

      Hmmm… did you actually read what you wrote before posting it?

      Hint: you didn’t do your case for Obama, such as it is, any favors.

    • dick c says:

      I wouldn’t call getting her confirmed much of a battle. The only thing actually controversial about her is her connection to abortion advocacy. Pushing policy in that area wouldn’t be her job anyway, would it?

      For me, this quickly boils down to the administration not wanting someone who is a stickler for the rule of law because either they are lawbreakers, or they are protecting lawbreakers–which should make them complicit in whatever they’re covering up.

      • bmaz says:

        Pushing policy in that area wouldn’t be her job anyway, would it?

        No, not in the least. And, as you state, and I demonstrate in the post, the votes are absolutely there if Obama and Reid cared about getting her confirmed. There are almost unquestionably 59 votes since Lugar will vote for her, including on cloture. That means you have to find one more vote from among Specter, Nelson, Collins and Snowe. If the President and Majority leader cannot pull that off, they are too feckless and weak to be holding the positions they do.

        • Hugh says:

          As Reid showed with the healthcare vote, he can orchestrate action in the Senate when he wants to. But most of the time, he and Obama don’t want to so he hides behind the lie, that it is out of his hands, the votes aren’t there, somebody is obstructing something somewhere, etc.

        • dick c says:

          If the President and Majority leader cannot pull that off, they are too feckless and weak to be holding the positions they do.

          Perhaps Reid’s reelection troubles a result of him having to play “feckless and weak” too often. More than once I’ve thought his primary job is to not advance popular legislation.

    • Hugh says:

      Remember it is the Obama administration who nominated her in the first place

      Yes, this Blue Dog Administration quickly realized it should never pay attention to its base or progressives anytime on any issue. So why should we support them? Oh that’s right, we shouldn’t.

    • dick c says:

      Did you really drink that Kool-Aid? I preferred him to Clinton, and now believe there wouldn’t have been any difference at all between their actual policies except perhaps the phrasing of the BS. In the end it was McCain or Obama.

      • solerso says:

        Your right i think given the information I made the right choice.Now Im acting on the information I have, and its telling me I made a mistake in not voting for Mcain. If Mcain had won there would be no “health care reform”, and as it stands, that would have been a good thing. Thats how we make informaed descisions right?

      • Mary says:

        You know, for all that Obamaco argues that no one should worry his pretty little head over anything else bc he’s so busy with the hugely important healthcare, the truth is that for anyone to whom healthcare REALLY was the most important issue, Hillary was the better candidate. She was more truthful and up to speed on issues like mandates and she’s a better, toughter negotiator who could have sent Bill around doing sales pitches as well. You’d have very likely been looking at shoving through a tougher bill now – sure, she’d still have been shot in the foot by all the coporate interests and she’d have made some of the same calculations – but she’d have made sure Lieberman had his apparatus firmly in wringer if he wanted his chairmanship.

        I tried to have this kind of conversation early on with cyberfriends who were pretty firmly in Obama’s camp from the get go and they were adamant that he was The Guy bc on so many OTHER things, like the Afghan war, torture, etc., he was going to be so much better than neocon Hillary. I didn’t really beleive it then and tried to point out his “I’m a conservative compassionate” stylings, but in the end I did think that they were the best thing Obama had going for him – good solid people who were really committed to him. I thought if people like that were really that committed to him, then maybe I was missing something.

        What’s happened instead is that he’s used his cult effect to not only betray those people, but to also make them lose sight of WHY they backed him (to hell with war and torture now). Worse yet, he’s made them take anger that they would otherwise have directed at his betrayals and instead direct it at the people who haven’t lost sight.

        Not a good man.

  36. glennmcgahee says:

    Impeach Obama?
    You are not paying attention.
    Obama is the most intelligent President ever.
    Obama has opened gov’t to transparency and change.
    Obama is historic.
    Obama does not allow lobbyists.
    Obama will make sure you never have to worry about gas prices or mrtgage payments.
    Obama is from Chicago but was raised in Nebraska.
    Obama’s mother was on Food Stamps.
    Obama did not listen to Rev. Wright.
    But most important.
    Obama is NOT Hillary.

  37. sagesse says:

    The same thing (more of Bush policies of land destruction and no real change) has happened with the Bush Interior (BLM, FWS) and Ag (Forest Service). No fundamental changes. The Bush people took over those agencies with ruthless efficiency. I don’t think the Obama admin wants any changes – and really wants to open up public lands to the maximum extent possible for all manner of development. And, with the U.S. in economic ruin, those who will be benefiting the most will be the big corporations and increasingly foreign entities who seek easy access to minerals, places to put industrial facilities that no one wants in their back yards (giant wind/solar). Harry Reid’s Nevada is the model for this – most all the big mines are foreign-owned and are reaping billions upon billions – and depleting aquifers and poisoning the air with mercury releases. Now new players for other minerals like molybdenum that China/Korea need to make stuff for Walmart and all manner of other obscure minerals. The Obama admin is going to be far worse for the whole concept of “public lands” and the public domain than the Bushies ever were. I also think they are going to try to gut the ESA big time, and may succeed with the gutless Dems leading the charge.

  38. gnomedigest says:

    Obombya: Master of the PR Scam.

    Here is a rule of thumb that seems to work when trying to decipher if a given Obama position is just for PR or for real.

    If the rhetoric seems to support a position he campaigned on to gain progressive support, its a PR Scam.

    If the rhetoric seems to support Bush positions, its for real.

  39. ondelette says:

    Then Senator Sheldon Whitehouse is a liar. He told us, right here at Emptywheel at FDL, that there wouldn’t be a need for any special measures (we had asked him about a hold to force the Senate to act on her nomination) to get her nomination confirmed.

    I plan to help Chairman Leahy on the floor with the confirmation of Dawn Johnsen. I think it’s a fight we can win directly without other holds. Moreover, because it allows us to discuss the misdeeds at OLC, the torture memos, the OPR report – if it’s out by then – I think it’s a good fight to have.


    It’s high time to start calling senators whose liberal politics we agree with on their inability to deliver. Especially when they indicate that delivery is something they know how to do.

  40. Hugh says:

    Well with Johnsen gone, maybe Obama can get someone more in agreement with his views. I hear John Yoo is available, Addington too.

  41. tinman1967 says:

    Isn’t Cass Sunstein that nutjob that believes animals have the right to sue in court? I suspect lots of trial lawyers would gladly take such cases for a piece of the action.

    • Leen says:

      I have heard Cass Sunstein repeat the our nation needs to “move forward, turn the page, next chapter, we don’t want to be about witch hunts,don’t be about revenge or retribution” line in regard to holding people accountable for the serious crimes committed during the Bush administration. If his views are “fair and balanced”, our nation is in even deeper criminal doo doo than one wants to really believe.

      Just not sure at one point holding people accountable for serious crimes started being defined as “retribution or a witch hunt” instead of justice and accountability. You know the horseshit line “no one is above the law” that Obama, Holder, Pelosi, Whitehouse, Leahy, Feingold etc etc are always repeating. They either mean what they say or they don’t. Looking like they do not. The peasants are watching, learning and following their lead.

      The problem is the peasants have their asses thrown in prison and our alleged leaders walk free when they commit outrageous crimes.

      The whole world is watching and knows our laws are a bunch of bunk

  42. temptingfate says:

    Why did the centrist cross the reformer? Wait, I’ve heard this one before.
    Because she was there.


    The shock doctrine applied to the troublesome left.

    • solerso says:

      the “shock doctrine” is going to cost the democrats dearly next couple of electrion cycles. But what do axl rod and obama care? obama got his “historic” presidency and axl rod will get all the plum jobbies he cares to take.

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