Change at Justice?

Posted by Katherine | January 8, 2009 – 2:05 pm
[thephotoholic / Flickr]

Obama fleshed out his Justice Department team on Monday: David Ogden for deputy AG, Elena Kagan for solicitor general, Thomas Perrelli for associate AG, and Dawn Johnsen for head of OLC. They suggest a sharp turn away from President Bush’s view of executive power and the kinds of actions that followed from John Yoo’s “torture memos.”

There must be lots of Americans who are unhappy with Obama’s choices, but they don’t seem to be vocal online outside the high-profile political blogosphere; Google Blog Search isn’t turning up much. (Send links if you find good posts!) So here’s opinion from happy citizens.

Jake of Jake Today is wondering, with a dash of hope, whether a 180-degree turn might actually be in the works.

With Obama’s nominations to Justice and White House Counsel, maybe we can hope for a sharp break with Bush. A return to the Constitution? I hope he gets all the Bush out of Justice and the White House.

A nation of law? Is it possible? Is it too late? For eight years we forgot that the ends never justify the means.

Michael L. Westmoreland-White, former soldier turned peace activist in Louisville, Kentucky, believes the nominees epitomize the “change” Obama has promised.

The part of the last 8 years I hated the most was the absolute disregard for the rule of law (domestic, Constitutional, and International) by the Bush administration. […]

Obama made several key appointments (some requiring Senate confirmation) yesterday that show what a dramatic break with the last 8 years Obama will be in this key area […] They are all on record opposing the Bush administration’s torture policies and violations of the rule of law. Some, like Dawn Johnson, have been very public in their opposition and have demanded public outrage […] Progressives–we need to have Obama’s back on this. We may criticize him elsewhere (and should), but this was some of what we wanted most.

Douglas Berman, a law professor at Ohio State University, also feels the “‘change’ mantra” may be poised to become reality — but for a different reason. He’s interested in solutions to the exploded prison population and notes that Dawn Johnsen is on record saying “incarceration in the United States is an issue crying out for DOJ attention.”

I sincerely hope that AAG-nominee Johnsen sustains a fierce commitment to deal with mass incarceration in the new Administration, and I also hope these other nominees share this perspective.

[…] I am starting to become (dangerously?) optimistic that we could be on the verge of a new criminal justice era in the United States.

Lawyer Terry Klein from Boston mentions two articles written by Johnsen that criticize Bush-administration views on executive power. Then, Jeopardy-style, s/he offers several relevant questions.

Acceptable Question No. 2: What is yet another ex post rejoinder to all the people (including some pretty smart folks) who said that there wasn’t a big difference between Al Gore and George W. Bush. One hopes that commentators will now keep in mind that regardless of how moderate a candidate for president may seem, he or she’s going to be appointing people to a lot of momentous positions a couple of steps down the ladder. That is, the people who actually govern and do things like write torture memos.

Terry makes it clear in his/her third possible question that s/he’s not sorry to say goodbye to the John Yoo era.


  1. 2 Responses to “Change at Justice?”

  2. Thanks for the link and shout-out. I’m also concerned for prison reform and the huge prison population, and there is more reason to hope than just Dawn Johnson. VA Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA) is planning on introducing major prison reform legislation in this legislative session. Webb is conservative on some issues, but a real progressive on others and this is one of his passions. He has written on it extensively and is willing to expend political capital to get it done. I hope the netroots will support Webb not only in getting a good bill passed, but then in helping him survive the backlash from conservative parts of VA.

    By Michael Westmoreland-White on Jan 8, 2009

  3. Great article.
    He better stick to change!!!

    By Buck on Jan 8, 2009

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