Under The Rock
Dahlia Lithwick wonders why liberal bloggers haven't been beating back the rightwing on the Harold Koh nomination and I can only admit to ignorance of the controversy. (I will say in my own defense that if I addressed every batshit insane right wing controversy I literally would do nothing else.)
This one is really absurd, however, and Lithwick is right that it deserves some attention:
[B]y my most recent tally, every one of the anti-Koh rants dutifully repeats a canard that first appeared in a hatchet piece in the New York Post by former Bush administration speechwriter Meghan Clyne. She asserts that Koh believes "Sharia law could apply to disputes in US courts." The evidence for her claim? "A New York lawyer, Steven Stein, says that, in addressing the Yale Club of Greenwich in 2007, Koh claimed that 'in an appropriate case, he didn't see any reason why Sharia law would not be applied to govern a case in the United States.' "
Needless to say, if the future lawyer for the State Department wanted to apply sharia law willy-nilly in American courtrooms, it would be a terrifying prospect. And so Daniel Pipes can title his post "Obama's Harold Koh, Promoter of Shari'a?" … OMG, people! Dean Koh wants to see women executed in the middle of the town square for wearing the wrong color burkha.
Yes, it's really that stupid.
Lithwick clears up these ridiculous claims and explains how it all got started, (it's the usual Malkin-style wingnut nonsense) and brings up the similar case of Dawn Johnson, Obama's choice for the OLC, and how she is being slandered by the right wing noise machine.
It's outrageous. But I have to confess that I'm a little bit surprised that Lithwick thinks something new is happening with this and that the left is somehow unaware of this. The fact is that the right always targets certain appointees and liberal voices for character assassination. That this now starts on certain well-chosen blogs rather than only on the radio or through their direct mail networks or (back in the day) at their John Birch Society kaffe klatches is only a matter of form. This has been one of their methods for more than 40 years. They do it to keep the troops engaged and to to symbolically draw lines in the sand.
Johnson has ostensibly been chosen for her abortion views, but the real agenda is, of course, to punish her for her stand on torture. And the rightwing hit squad is aided in her case by the serious village people who believe she was a little bit too honest about torture and detention policies and worry that it sends a bad message to validate her position. Koh has been the chosen target for the 9/11 hysteria/anti-state department crowd, for comments he didn't even make. (This tells you haw deeply they are having to dig.)
But from what I gather, both people will be confirmed and whatever damage their reputations have born is the price that anyone can pay if they take a big job in a Democratic administration. That's how the right wing rolls.
If there were any chance that Johnson and Koh could actually be denied their places, I would guess that the liberal blogosphere would be intensely engaged. But from what I understand, the filibuster threat on Johnson is just hot air and that nobody takes the nutty Koh critics seriously. There is a certain amount of procedural kabuki that these targets have to undergo, but in the end they'll be confirmed.
It's horrible that people have to put up with this, of course. But the modern conservative movement has a malignant, destructive impulse at its very core that will persist in doing this no matter what. It works for them. Right now, out of power, they don't have the capacity to really affect the outcome but they do it anyway to keep their paranoid loathing simmering until they can once again get traction.
I wish I thought this could be changed in some way. But I don't. This aspect of politics, particularly American politics, is always going to be with us in some form or another. It's how (some) humans roll.