May 07, 2009
So Many Secrets
At a press conference last week, President Obama announced that his administration intends to engage in an “overarching reform” of the state secrets privilege, a legal tool exploited during the Bush era to shut down lawsuits that challenged warrantless wiretapping, extraordinary rendition, and other unlawful government practices. This was a welcome announcement from the president, but also a puzzling one.
My colleague Richard Just presents a provocative case not only for why President Obama should appoint an openly gay Supreme Court Justice, but also how such a move would be a political point-scorer for Democrats. I respect Richard's argument and agree that an openly-gay appointee would do wonders for the visibility of gay people in America. But I want to use the opportunity to make a broader, related point.
Understanding Jeff Sessions
I'm trying to figure out what exactly Jeff Sessions meant when he said he could support a Supreme Court justice who had "gay tendencies." Clearly he is making a concession of sorts. But precisely what he is conceding is not clear. Here is Sessions' exact formulation: "I don't think a person who acknowledges that they have gay tendencies is disqualified per se for the job.” It's as if Sessions wandered into his answer intending at first to say that a justice's sexual orientation shouldn't matter, but then thought better of it and tried to walk back the sentiment in mid-sentence.
I've just returned from London to find that my piece on Sonia Sotomayor has provoked an energetic response in the blogosphere. Many people have mischaracterized my argument, and I can understand why. The headline--"The Case Against Sotomayor"--promised something much stronger than I intended to deliver. As soon as the piece was published, I regretted the headline, which I hadn't seen in advance. The piece was not meant to be a definitive "case against" Judge Sotomayor's candidacy.
Jake Siewert Reports To Treasury
I missed this nice scoop from Mike Allen Tuesday: Former White House press secretary Jake Siewert is preparing for a return to government as a top counselor to Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, Democratic sources said. According to the sources, Siewert has been in talks with White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel about joining the Treasury staff, and an agreement is nearly complete.
More On Jim Jones
I totally sympathize with the idea, as expressed by the newly-spotlighted NSC advisor, that in years past he "sacrificed my family life for my career," and therefore doesn't want to work the hours you see from White House national security staffers who sometimes return phone calls well after 9pm. But with all due respect to the general, isn't that a better argument for not being national security advisor than for working short hours?
...and the Journal blesses the stress tests. PR-wise, this strikes me as the most important line written about the whole exercise so far: The stress tests -- designed to examine individual banks' ability to withstand future losses -- helped alleviate the near-panic that investors felt at the beginning of the year as many worried some banks might have to be nationalized. There are qualifications in the piece, to be sure. But I can't imagine Treasury and the White House are displeased with this sort of coverage.
May 06, 2009
A New Kind of Adviser
Last week, when stories about Obama’s first 100 days, the Specter switch, and the Souter resignation dominated the news cycle, the Senate confirmation hearing of Harold Koh wasn’t able to squeeze into the spotlight. That’s a shame, because Koh, who was tapped in March to direct the Legal Adviser’s Office in the State Department, could end up being one of Obama’s most significant appointments. A prominent lawyer and legal scholar, he would bring a range and intensity of positions and opinions on international law that the Legal Adviser’s Office has not seen for some time, if ever.
Night of the Living Bushies
The depiction of Barack Obama that has emerged from some quarters of the American right is that of a Bush-like figure. He is irresponsibly running up deficits and covering them up with budgetary gimmickry. Under the guise of healing rhetoric, he ruthlessly pressures fellow partisans in Congress to toe the line. He is "filling White House ranks with former lobbyists," and his administration is devolving into general incompetence. And he has given unprecedented, Rove-like power to his political Svengali, David Axelrod.