Dawn Johnsen — “prepared for political power”

I’ll continue commenting about Dawn Johnsen’s positions on legal issues relating to the war on terror as the week goes on. Tonight, though, let’s consider another primary objection to confirming Johnsen as head of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel — the likelihood that, as a general matter, she will use that office to promote her “progressive” political agenda.

That likelihood is established by her own statements. In October 2006, Johnsen spoke at a conference organized by the leftist Center for American Progress. The starting point for the discussion was a film called Quiet Revolution. The thesis of the film, in which Johnsen appeared, is that judicial conservatives years ago developed a “blueprint” in furtherance of what Johnsen calls “a stealth attempt to remake constitutional law.” They then systematically sought to implement that blueprint.

This is a recurring song at leftist “campfires,” and it typically elicits a mixture of disgust and envy. In Johnsen’s case, envy seems to predominate. For example, in her remarks at the October 2006 conference, she described the judicial conservatives as “incredibly effective.”

Indeed, Johnsen sees the forces of legal darkness as so effective in single-mindedly imposing their agenda that the left should emulate them. She stated:

The other thing we haven’t talked about very much is that in the meantime, before we achieve that kind of political power, we need to be working on developing what it is we think the vision of the country should be. We need our own well-developed progressive vision of the whole range of constitutional issues.

We have much of that work done, and I think a lot of the building blocks are here, but I do think we have more work to do through organizations like — Nan [Aron] has been working on this for decades. When I was at NARAL [the abortion rights group] back in the 80s, we worked together on some of these issues. But I think now in the 21st century, now we have the Center for American Progress, American Constitution Society, other organizations, more money I think coming in, so that we are thinking about these issues in a more deliberate way.

And you have to be prepared for political power with the ideas, and conservatives have, I think, had a leg up on us for the last several decades on that score.

(emphasis added)

Johnsen, then, has been at the forefront of a movement whose purpose she sees as “prepar[ing] for political power” by developing “the vision of what the country should be.”

Now that Johnsen and her fellow “progressives” have political power, it seems virtually inconceivable that she will not use whatever office she obtains to promote her painstakingly developed vision, as she believes the conservatives have done to get “a leg up.” Johnsen could hardly have been more clear — the political vision she has been helping to work out since her days as an advocate of abortion rights in the 1980s is not an academic exercise; it’s a blueprint for the changes to be made when political is obtained.

The problem is so obvious that Sen. Feinstein asked Johnsen about it rather pointedly during her confirmation hearing. Citing Johnsen’s activism, Feinstein asked her whether she can “give it all up” when she goes into government. Johnsen acknowledged, as she had to, that political neutrality is “the most important thing to look for” in a nominee and then assured Feinstein, as she had to, that she will be politically neutral.

But I don’t see how anyone can read Johnsen’s statement at the October 2006 conference and be confident that, when she gains political power, Johnsen will say goodbye to a political agenda developed precisely in order to be ready for the day when she and her fellow left-wing activists gain political power.

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