I was disappointed to hear that two of President Obama’s finest nominees, Prof. Dawn Johnsen and Dean Harold Koh, have recently been under attack by Republicans in Congress and their allies in the media. As I earlier commented on the page, Dawn Johnsen is a highly respected law professor who is an expert on executive power and mechanisms for ensuring that members of the executive branch comply with their ethical responsibilities. It would be difficult to imagine a person who is better qualified to head the Office of Legal Counsel, which was plagued by questionable ethical practices during the Bush presidency. Dean Koh is also a highly respected law professor, a towering intellect who awed me and my fellow students when he was a young new professor at Yale Law School. Now Dean of that school, Koh also has served in both the Bush and Clinton administration and he is an internationally known expert on human rights and international law. As with Johnsen it is impossible to imagine a person who is better qualified for the position in the State Department to which Koh has been nominated. Yet Koh has come under attack in the media, and Republicans are threatening to filibuster Johnsen’s nomination. What’s all the fuss about?
As Dahlia Lithwack has observed, “President Obama could have named a pair of mild-mannered tax attorneys to these high government positions. Instead, he opted to pick precisely the sorts of people we most need there: fierce advocates who care deeply about these agencies and the law as it applies to them.”