May 21, 2009
DISPUTATIONS: Stuck Between Branches
I respect the work Randy Moss did at the Clinton Office of Legal Council and my piece did not compare Moss to John Yoo. Instead, I compared him to Robert Jackson, the revered FDR legal advisor whose opinion justifying the destroyers-for-bases deal stretched the limits of existing law. There is nothing untoward about this comparison.
In arguing that the Bush Administration lawyers who authored the “torture memos” should not be subject to prosecution or disbarment (“Truth or Dare”), Jeffrey Rosen posits that “history is full of examples of White House and Justice Department lawyers offering dubious legal advice for political reasons.” Rosen attempts to buttress this claim by citing two memos--one authored by then-Attorney General Robert Jackson and the other by Randy Moss, who headed the Office of Legal Counsel during the final years of the Clinton Administration.
Obama V. Cheney
In their dueling national security speeches today, Barack Obama was all shades of grey, and Dick Cheney was a familiar black-and-white portrait. In a way reminiscent of his March 2008 speech about race in America, Obama was in fine professorial form, laying out the case for closing Guantanamo, and his recent hard decisions about declassification, in a thoughtful, elegant and nuanced way. He was inspiring about the founding American principles that guided him, but realistic about the maddening realities that may force him to compromise those principles.
According to The Washington Post, the House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a final vote on the Waxman-Markey climate bill this evening. All signs intimate that Waxman has enough votes to roll the bill out of committee.
Obama: Keeping Us "safe"
My quick take on Obama's speech today is that it was characteristically thoughtful and elegant--if anything, perhaps even too nuanced for the soundbite culture to do it justice. But I suspect if there is one core point he wanted to drive home, it was his determination to make safety and security his clear top priority. How can I be sure? Because by my count Obama repeated some variation of the word "safe" ("safety," "safer," "safeguard") sixteen times.
I was mostly impressed with Obama's speech. He really does have a unique ability to reframe (maybe even reset) any debate in which he chooses to engage in a major, sustained way. I was particularly struck by his repeated linking of his policies to those of the late Bush administration. As Ben Smith notes, this is a good way of taking on his chief critic, Dick Cheney, who's trying to relitigate a number of the battles he lost in the second half of the Bush years.
May 20, 2009
This piece is from our archives: It was published on May 20, 2009. In March, 2008, Martha Nussbaum, a law professor at the University of Chicago, traveled with Judge Diane Wood to a conference in India. The topic was affirmative action in higher education, and before the conference began, they went to Kolkata to meet women leaders who were gathered to talk about how women should claim their legal rights. "Diane borrowed half of my Indian wardrobe and came in like an Indian woman," Nussbaum recalls.
WHEN ARLEN SPECTER went to the White House the day after he announced he was leaving the Republican Party, the occasion had the feel of a wedding ceremony. President Obama pledged Specter his “full commitment,” and Vice President Biden, who rhapsodized about the many hours he'd spent riding Amtrak with the Pennsylvania senator, went even further. “Arlen Specter has been my friend and my confidant and my partner,” Biden said. “It’s just a delight to have no separation.” In a way, the matrimonial overtones were understandable. Specter’s joining the Democratic Party is a political marriage.
Pimp My Rep
OMG! Have you seen Episode 7 of CNN.com’s “Freshman Year”? Unbelievable. First, Congressman Jason Chaffetz (you know, the Utah Republican living out of his office) totally slams Nancy Pelosi at his birthday party, laughing about how he shares a birthday with “all the ugly people”: the speaker, Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler, comedian Martin Short, and that creepy old guy who played Spock in the original “Star Trek.” Meanwhile, crunchy Colorado Dem Jared Polis gets to meet Bono (!), and they bond over how much they hate wearing ties. (Funny.
School’s Out Forever
IT WOULD SEEM like a pretty good gig: About 1,400 teachers in New York City are receiving full salaries and benefits even though they don't have permanent jobs. Two hundred and five of them have been without full-time work for three years. And they can continue receiving payments indefinitely even if they never secure new positions. These educators are members of what is called the Absent Teacher Reserve (ATR), a program in which unionized teachers are placed when they don't have jobs. They end up there after being displaced by school closings, program cuts, or voluntary transfers.