In her first public statement since she withdrew her nomination to head the Office of Legal Counsel, Dawn Johnsen briefly discusses the reason her nomination foundered in the middle of her Washington Post op-ed today, entitled "Restoring leadership and integrity to the Office of Legal Counsel."
There is no simple answer to why my nomination failed. But I have no doubt that the OLC torture memo -- and my profoundly negative reaction to it -- was a critical factor behind the substantial Republican opposition that sustained a filibuster threat. Paradoxically, prominent Republicans earlier had offered criticisms strikingly similar to my own. A bipartisan acceptance of those criticisms is key to moving forward. The Senate should not confirm anyone who defends that memo as acceptable legal advice.
It seems like a pretty obvious statement, but it's worth underscoring, for reasons elucidated by Adam Serwer, back in April:
The sad thing isn't that Johnsen would have made a fine head of OLC, which she would have. It's that being critical of former OLC attorney John Yoo is now an adverse career move for someone who wants to work at the Justice Department. (Even his apologists have to admit that Yoo exercised "poor judgment" in approving torture!) Now, believing that there are legal limits to what the president can do during wartime -- that the president can't, say, legalize torture -- is "controversial."
This may not be enough for Johnsen's most ardent backers in the liberal community, who would have liked for President Barack Obama to have installed Johnsen by recess appointment. Unnamed "White House officials" told Time's Theo Emery that such a move was "out of the question":
Such an appointment sidestepping an up-or-down floor vote would have made Johnsen's goal to depoliticize the Office of Legal Counsel impossible "and would have led to partisan debates over its legal opinions regardless of their quality," the official says.
Additionally, one wonders how Johnsen would have reconciled the Obama administration's decision to accord himself the right to assassinate a U.S. citizen, which was a step too far for torture enthusiast John Yoo.
Restoring leadership and integrity to the Office of Legal Counsel [Washington Post]
Why Obama Backed Down on an Embattled Nominee [Time]
PREVIOUSLY, on the HUFFINGTON POST:
Dawn Johnsen's Usefulness As A Stalking Horse For Principles Is Apparently Over