Dawn Johnsen, Barack Obama’s nominee to head the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, withdrew today. She was one of Obama’s earliest nominees, in January 2009, but Harry Reid never brought her nomination to the floor because she lacked the votes to be confirmed.
We have written repeatedly about Johnsen’s radical views, which in our opinion rendered her unsuitable to head the OLC. See, for example, this post, in which Paul wrote that Johnsen “appears to stand outside the mainstream of even liberal thinking on many of the legal issues relating to the war on terrorism.” As Paul noted, her views on other issues were far to the left of the mainstream as well.
The statement that accompanied Johnsen’s withdrawal was typically classless:
In a statement released by the White House on Friday afternoon, the nominee, Dawn Johnsen, said she had come to realize that the strong Republican opposition to her nomination had undermined her own goal for the office, which was to restore its reputation for providing legal advice “unvarnished by politics or partisan ambition.”
“Restoring OLC to its best nonpartisan traditions was my primary objective for my anticipated service in this administration,” Ms. Johnsen said.
This is a bad joke. Attorney General Eric Holder has politicized the Justice Department beyond anything we have seen in modern history, and Johnsen is such a fervent partisan that even a filibuster-proof Democratic Senate could never muster the votes to confirm her.
The battle over Johnsen’s nomination was largely symbolic, but it was nevertheless important. It showed that, even at their high water mark of control over the levers of power in Washington, the Democrats were forced to temper their radicalism when it came to the attention of a significant number of Americans.