I heard a soundbite from UC-Irvine law dean Erwin Chemerinksy this morning about Kagan, in which he speculated that Kagan’s warmth and personal charm would endear her to senators during the confirmation process. I’ve never met Kagan but I wouldn’t be surprised if she could charm rust off a pipe — that would certainly help explain her otherwise somewhat inexplicable career.
Personally I think we should try to draw as sharp a distinction as possible between the Supreme Court nomination process and a sorority rush, but obviously a lot of Very Important People disagree.
In some respects this reminds me the ongoing one-sided love affair various progressive types have with Obama. I still like Obama just fine, probably because I’m suffering from Battered Liberal Syndrome, but he doesn’t make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside, dreamy though he admittedly is.
Update: I’ll be doing an interview regarding this topic on the Michel Martin’s NPR show Tell Me More at 11 AM EDT tomorrow. The other guest will be conservative law professor Stephen Bainbridge.
I’ll be arguing that Kagan’s nomination should be opposed because she’s a blank slate who could well move the court to the right, while Bainbridge will be arguing in favor of the nomination because she’s a blank slate who could well move the court to the right.
If Rahm Emanuel is actually deciding what sort of trial KSM et. al. should get on the basis of what he calculates would be most politically convenient for the Obama administration, then the only honorable thing for Eric Holder to do is to resign. It’s every bit as illegitmate for the White House to order Holder what to do in this matter as it was for Richard Nixon to order Elliott Richardson to fire Archibald Cox. Barack Obama (let alone his messenger boy Emanuel — or is the other way around?) is not the nation’s chief law enforcement officer: Eric Holder is. Holder has spent the last three months telling everyone that considerations of basic justice argued for trying KSM in our regular courts, rather than in military tribunals set up for the purpose of disposing of particularly troublesome criminal cases.
When Richardson and his deputy William Ruckelshaus were ordered to do something perfectly legal but also perfectly disgraceful, they resigned (their underling Robert Bork had no such scruples).
It’s simply outrageous for White House officials to make prosecutorial decisions of this sort, and in this manner. It’s essentially no different than having Rahm Emanuel order the DOJ to indict certain persons, against the better judgment of government’s top lawyers, because such indictments are calculated to improve his boss’s political fortunes. Or is that the next step in the administration’s ongoing “pragmatic” accomodation to the worst impulses of the American political system?
See also Scott Horton:
In sharp violation of rules of prosecutorial conduct and ethics, political figures in the White House are engaged in the micromanagement of decisions concerning the prosecution of individual criminal defendants. Rahm Emanuel is a political figure, without any serious legal expertise or abilities. He openly presented the question as a matter of political opportunity—thereby infecting the criminal justice system with political horse-trading. This is more than just unseemly. It presents a direct affront to the integrity of the criminal justice system. After eight years in which Karl Rove manipulated essential prosecutorial decisions at Justice, now his successor is engaged in the same type of misconduct. But unlike Rove, Emanuel does it openly.
Thoughts on Obama getting uppity with the SCOTUS.
Last night, I diavlogged with Matt Duss on the subject of the Obama speech:
As this suggests, I’m pretty ambivalent about the escalation.
Mr. Trend mounts a defense:
And while you can and should argue that in many ways, Obama’s policies reflect a return to Bill Clinton’s, I don’t think that holds in the case of international relations. Obama has proven himself much more open and reasoned in his policy making than even Clinton did. It’s about more than just being willing to talk to Chavez face-to-face at a meeting of the OAS, or have Bill Clinton pull some tricky negotiations to release hostages in North Korea, or find a path that the entire international community is willing to follow in dealing with Iran. Indeed, one simply has to look at Honduras since June. Obama has taken an approach to Latin American coups that the U.S. has never seen before – an open, non-partisan condemnation of what was clearly an illegal removal of a president, combined with a refusal to get directly involved by sending troops in. The U.S. had done this any number of times before, and every time, it was wrong to do so. For once, Obama relied on diplomacy, and even while condemning the actions, has refused to directly interfere in Honduras. Sure, he’s had the State department take measures to restrict the aid and cash flow to Honduras from the U.S., but that’s within his prerogative as president, all the while respecting Honduran sovereignty.
That sounds simple, unimportant; but from a history where the U.S. basically took every opportunity to meddle in, interfere with, and even directly undo democratic processes in Latin America from 1846 to 2002, this is a major, major shift. And it’s representative of Obama’s policies thus far – respect, doing what’s within his power without overstepping the sovereignty of others, all the while working to maintain global relations. Honduras isn’t the reason; it’s symptomatic of the broader, subtle, but major shifts in how the U.S. is forging a new path in its diplomatic history under Obama.
Say what now?
In a stunning surprise, the Nobel Committee announced Friday that it had awarded its annual peace prize to President Obama “for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.”
Less than nine months after he took office, the committee said, Mr. Obama “has created a new international climate.”
With American forces deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan, President Obama’s name had not figured in speculation about the winner until minutes before the prize was announced here.
Next: Barack Obama, AL Cy Young winner?
….You know, if Obama were the anti-christ, he’d probably be winning a Nobel Peace Prize about right now. I’m just sayin’…
…obviously missed Dave’s post on the same subject.
What the hell? I seriously thought it was a joke when I got back from teaching International Relations 503 for two hours to read this. He’s been President for five minutes, and he is sort of more or less administering a couple of wars (which admittedly he inherited).
I’m sure the others will offer more in-depth observations in the coming hours for which I currently do not have the time to do, but I wanted to flag this to get the ball rolling.
I seriously look forward to the wingnuts going fantastically mental over this.
(NB: we don’t have a Nobel Peace Prize tag, so I went with the closest thing below . . . )
In trying to break down the “Obama Should Denounce!” crowd into some subsets, I came up with the following five groups:
- Obama is being quiet because he thinks that US intervention would cause the situation in Iran to deteriorate; he’s wrong about that.
- Obama is being quiet because he thinks that the US can still win concessions from Iran on the nuclear program, and doesn’t want to endanger that possibility; he’s either a) wrong about the possibility of winning concessions, or b)the game isn’t worth the candle.
- Obama is weak, indecisive, and objectively pro-Ahmadinejad.
- Obama is pro-Ahmadinejad.
- I don’t really know anything about this, but any opportunity to criticize the Obama administration is worth taking.
These groups are not mutually exclusive. Daniel “Go Ahmadinejad!” Pipes probably fits most comfortably into Group 5. Group 4 includes such luminaries of American punditry as Andy McCarthy and Victor Davis Hanson. Group 3 is a touch harder to categorize, because it overlaps a lot with #2, but I’d say it’s a view that’s broadly shared across the wingnutosphere. Group 2, I think, includes Charles Krauthammer, Paul Wolfowitz, and some of the smarter folks at the Corner. Group 1 includes, once you cut through the manifest crazy, Christopher Hitchens.
I think, thus far, that Obama has handled the situation fabulously well. I’m guessing that he believes that any US intervention will backfire, and that the US will need to talk to Iran in the future, whether or not Ahmadinejad remains President. I think he’s definitely correct about the first. I also suspect that it is going to be extremely difficult to carry out any engagement strategy with Iran going forward. If the regime survives, it will be because of the loyalty and brutality of its security forces. With that brutality on display on US televisions (if only rarely) it will be much more difficult for Obama to build any domestic support for talks. Moreover, it’s not clear that he should; knowing that the Iranian regime was repressive before these latest incidents, and acknowledging that many US allies in the region don’t even bother with the fiction of elections doesn’t change the fact that it’s an ugly bit of business. I’d rather, other things being equal, not have my President engage with Iran while the current group of thugs is in power. Finally, I do think that the repression has opened greater opportunity for what might be termed a non-interventionist coercive strategy; this is to say that more and tougher sanctions against the regime are on the table now than was the case two weeks ago.
I was impressed and was thinking about writing about it, and I may do so at some point, but not today. Some recommended thoughtful commentary:
Hugo Schwyzer sees Isiah Berlin and likes it.
Russell Arben Fox sees Rousseau and likes it.
Mahablog sees Reinhold Neihbur and smart politics.
OK, I’m officially disappointed in my President.
It was bad enough that he failed to decisively end Bush’s extraordinary rendition program (claiming he’ll only make sure it’s no longer abused); and that he blocked prosecutions for top-level officials who authorized torture. Now, Obama has decided to block the release photos depicting US troops engaging in brutal acts against detainees:
President Obama said on Wednesday that he is seeking to block the release of photographs that depict American military personnel abusing captives in Iraq and Afghanistan, worrying that the images could “further inflame anti-American opinion.”
Look, it’s not pictures that inflame anti-American opinion. Brutality has done that already. And trying to cover up that bad behavior only makes it look as if the new Administration is complicit. In short, this is the worst tactical decision I’ve seen Obama make so far, and I fear the grave consequences of associating his administration with the worst excesses of the past eight years.
The explanation given by the White House is no better than the decision itself:
Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary, said that the president met last week “with his legal team and told them that he did not feel comfortable with the release of the D.O.D. photos because he believes their release would endanger our troops.”
This logic makes so little sense I cannot believe it is the genuine rationale. First of all, as Gary Bass has exhaustively documented, the appearance of punishing those who are actually guilty is the best way to forestall collective punishment: it’s doing the reverse, obstructing genuine justice, that encourages vigilantism against all US soldiers. Second of all, even if they are put in even greater danger by their comrades’ ill-deeds, won’t this be the best possible deterrent for war crimes in the future? Studies of variation in war crimes demonstrate that militaries who commit the fewest abuses are those where there is strong peer pressure within fighting units to behave properly, and the best way I can think of to create this kind of culture is to allow all US troops to worry about the indirect consequences of being associated with those “few bad apples.”
So what is the actual logic here? Someone, enlighten me, because apparently our “rule of law” President would like to keep us all in the dark.