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This blog is the work of an educated civilian, not of an expert in the fields discussed.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Confirm Dawn Johnsen

The proper role for presidential lawyers is actually quite clear, although more nuanced than either zealous advocate or neutral arbiter. The Constitution explicitly commands the president to "take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed," and it is up to the attorney general and, under his direction, DoJ's Office of Legal Counsel to provide the analytical expertise the president needs to ensure the legality of his administration's actions. Presidential lawyers should operate first and foremost as stewards of the rule of law and our constitutional democracy. Their legal advice must reflect an accurate and principled view of the law, not just plausible, ends-driven rationalizations. And in order to do that with any effectiveness, they must be allowed to tell the president "no."

-- Dawn Johnsen, nominated as head of the Office of Legal Counsel

Various moves have some real significance, both symbolic and otherwise. Confirmation of Dawn Johnsen (she already has one or more Republican votes on her side) would be one of them. Holding up her nomination is one of those moves that really rankles. People are led to believe that there really are no standards here. Yoo/Bybee were just doing their jobs, as if they were but speechwriters or writing a law review article.

Even strong critics of the report are left citing "limits of what we can expect from law and from rules of professional responsibility." The hell with that. Dawn Johnsen and others do expect more. Of course, CYA jobs like this report and not fully investigating torture or having a truth commission promotes such low standards.

Aim low ...