The current GOP strategy is about as effective as prior editions. Now, however, at least a majority of the electorate is onto their games. The elections of 2006 an 2008 made that clear, yet the Republicans keep on keeping on, convinced that their base (the base-base) will return them to power. Any day now. Or at least soon.
One of the features of that strategy is to deny confirmation of President Obama's nominees to key government positions. A pretty good example of that is his nomination of Kathleen Sebelius as Secretary of Health and Human Services. The former governor of Kansas has a good track record in terms of dealing with bureaucracies and untangling difficult issues. She had, however, some tax difficulties (unlike any Republicans or their corporate overlords--who pay little if any taxes), so her confirmation is being held up.
In the mean time, the world's airwaves are being filled with wall-to-wall coverage of the outbreak of a particularly virulent influenza which some epidemiologists liken to the Spanish Flu of 1918. Mexico, the US, and the World Health Organization have declared a state of emergency with respect to the outbreak. Unfortunately, we don't have an HHS Secretary. We do, however, have an "Acting Secretary": a Bush appointee whose experience is as an accountant, which is, I suppose, better than having a FEMA head whose experience is running Arabian horse shows, but not by much.
OK, the timing is unfortunate, but perhaps not deliberate. I'll try to be fair because I'd hate to think there are any humans, including Americans, who would wish death on anyone.
So let's move on to another Obama appointee whose confirmation is being held up: Harold Koh as legal advisor to the State Department. Mr. Koh is the dean of Yale Law School and has served with distinction in the Clinton and Reagan administrations. Republicans are unhappy with this nomination as well, even though a couple of non-DFHs, Kenneth Starr and Theodore Olson, have endorsed Koh's appointment because they consider him a brilliant scholar and a man of integrity.
So what's the problem? Well, a recent editorial
in the Boston Globe
gives an ostensible reason and the real reason. First, the ostensible reason:Right-leaning Internet sites have promoted several outlandish claims against Koh, including that he opposes Mother's Day. But the one charge worth engaging is that Koh harbors a dangerous legal philosophy that they dub transnationalism: the application of international law in deciding US cases. "Once we sign our rights over to international law, the Constitution is officially dead," fulminated Fox News host Glenn Beck this month.
Koh is hardly the first legal scholar to invoke international treaties or institutions in making legal arguments, especially as they relate to human rights. The Guantanamo rulings are a case in point.
OK, this is silly. Once we sign an international treaty and that treaty is approved by Congress, it's the law of the land. We signed and approved the Geneva Conventions on treatment of prisoners of war. That's why the currently constituted Supreme Court, much against the wishes of some of its more trogladytic members, ruled as they did on the right to habeas corpus for Gitmo detainees.
That, however, is clearly not what's going on here. The pusillanimous Republicans have their Depends in a bunch for less honorable reasons, as the editorial points out.The animus toward Koh may be partial payback: he spoke against Alberto Gonzales for attorney general because of his justifications for harsh interrogation techniques that Koh correctly defined as torture. Koh opposes the death penalty, and, like other opponents on the Supreme Court, he cites the bans against capital punishment by most other countries. Opponents say this proves he would allow foreign laws to trump the Constitution. Koh himself has been mentioned as a candidate for the Supreme Court, which only raises the stakes.
I suppose we could give points to the Republicans for not being concerned about keeping their powder dry at this point in history (unlike congressional Democrats the past six years), but it's hard to justify this kind of game playing when so very much is at stake in the real world (not the "created world" of the last administration). Harold Koh is the real deal, qualified for the post at State, and certainly qualified as a Supreme Court Justice (even Kenneth Starr attests to his qualfications).
This recalcitrance would be amusing if we were talking about the distribution of cookies at preschool, but the stakes are much higher. Much, much higher.
Very few media outlets are pointing this out, preferring instead to go with the GOP faux tears of Glenn Beck and his ilk. What is so heartbreaking is that a paper facing a forced shut-down by a corporate owner is still trying to do its job. I suppose all that we can do is what we've always supposed to have been doing, which is to raise our voices in all the various ways available to us in this brave new world and to let Congress and everyone else who claims to control the discourse know that we've had enough and we're not going to put up with it anymore.
And if that doesn't work, we can always get the steel wool out to polish up our pitchforks.
Labels: Change, Interactive Government