Saturday, April 10, 2010

Farewell, Dawn, Alas we Hardly Knew Ye

This President's personnel choices have been all over the map.  From retaining Bush SecDef Bob Gates, a choice I found inexplicable, but one I have to admit has turned out better than I had hoped, to the execrable Dennis Ross to sudden, brilliant perfection, represented by Obama's nomination of Dawn Johnsen to head the DoJ Office of Legal Council.  Remember, it is that previously esoteric backwater that provided the platform for such creatures as John Yoo and Jay Bybee to provide a legal framework allowing for arbitrary torture and indefinite detention, areas of well-settled law that were so often the basis for determining who were the international "good guys" and calling out the worst of the globe's despots.  The OLC's last, best chance to regain some measure of credibility and honor was contained in the Johnsen nomination.  She was clear, articulate, powerful and unhesitatingly honest.  And now, under pressure from the minority Republicans who have resisted her nomination along with any other attempt to return to the rule of law, after a year of waiting and jockeying without a confirmation vote, she has withdrawn her name from consideration.

Mr. President, if I may address you directly, this is a resounding defeat.  Excuse me, let me be more accurate.  This is ANOTHER resounding defeat.  In your measured rhetoric and unwillingness to engage in political dogfighting you have once again allowed the discredited minority to define your Presidency and prevent you from providing the kind of governance the people desperately asked you to provide when they elected you.  I fear your legacy will be one of weakness, passivity, failure and a horrific kind of acceptance, even enablement of the Bush/Cheney administration's outlaw style of criminal overreach and unaccountability.

One last chance.  Barely a year into the Obama administration and already they are facing a kind of existential challenge.  Justice Stevens has announced his retirement, and we await President Obama's nomination with a kind of trepidation.  Will he try to appease the radicals on the right again, nominating someone 'safe', another center-right academic, another dispassionate technocrat who will weigh cost against compassion, who will consider corporate profits ahead of human suffering?  Or, in light of the Dawn Johnsen debacle, will he finally recognize that he'll have to fight no matter what, so it's time to make the fight ABOUT something?  Will this be the moment when he realizes that there's no hope of winning over the right, and repeatedly trying to do so is only losing the left?

We'll see.  From the stimulus to heath care reform to Cap and Trade to Financial Regulation to EFCA to cabinet appointments, Obama has shown a disturbing tendency to give up too much in his opening position and then give up more in return for nothing.  We don't need a 'nice, fair guy' in the White House.  And at this point, bipartisanship is stupid, clichéd joke, yet another Sunday Peanuts feature where Lucy promises that THIS time will be different, THIS time he'll really get to kick that football.  It's time for Obama to stand up and say "the doctrine espoused by the Republicans has been demonstrated to be a failure - there's no reason to compromise with a discredited ideology".  It's time to represent the best ideas from the brightest people, to do better by the American people, even at the cost of a few dollars in Corporate profits or another new strategic bomber.

But, honestly?  I am not optimistic...

1 comment:

  1. I can make myself cackle by imagining her Supreme Court nomination, but that is only me and I am alone.